John Nystrom (Sept. 22) gives a visitor’s impression of Putah Creek, expressing disappointment in the way the lower creek looks and in the fishery in the interdam reach below Monticello Dam. He questions why his son, a fly fisherman, would want to attend UC Davis as a consequence.
I don’t disagree with his impression of the creek. It is, after all, a stream with highly regulated flows that supports a narrow ribbon of habitat through a largely agricultural landscape. But there is, in fact, a good reason for his son to attend UCD: Putah Creek is a learning laboratory on how to manage a stream in the modern era of high water and recreational demand. It is used for both teaching and research.
When I first arrived on campus in 1972, the lower creek was dry in summer and the university was mining gravel from the stream bed. Switch to the present day, and you see a creek with year-round flows that support abundant fish, especially California native fishes. There is even small run of Chinook salmon in most years.
The university has been active partner in this restoration, establishing riparian reserves on campus land and working with the Putah Creek Council, the cities of Davis and Winters, the Solano County Water Agency, and other organizations to make the stream a poster child for recovery of both fish and wildlife. There is even a student organization on campus, Wild Campus, that works to improve fish habitat in the creek.
Sure, there is plenty of room for improvement of the creek and there always will be. That is exactly why we need involved citizens and students, like Nystrom’s son, to be involved with creek conservation projects and to provide new energy for restoration.
I hope Nystrom’s son will give the interdam reach another chance for fly fishing. He will find that it supports a colorful population of wild rainbow trout. But these fish are highly educated from numerous attempts to catch them by sophisticated anglers. He can get tips from our active local groups, such as the Fly Fishers of Davis and Putah Creek Trout.
So there are many reasons to be optimistic about Putah Creek. In a state full of controversy over the use of its limited water, Putah Creek stands out as a positive example of how to make things work. It is only going to get better.