In the throes of drought in the summer of 1989, Putah Creek dried up and drained like a bathtub as water flowed to farms in Solano County, leaving behind a stinking mess of mud and fish carcasses.
In the 1990s, the Putah Creek Council took Solano water interests to court under the public trust doctrine. In 2000, they settled the case, ensuring water for the creek and water for the farmers.
Since then, at least $10 million in restoration efforts along the creek, including a massive overhaul near Winters, have successfully restored habitat and fish populations and are serving as examples for larger projects like the San Joaquin River restoration.
Now, salmon are spawning in Putah Creek in the winter, and native birds nest in willow, oak and elder.
The Davis Enterprise will retrace the story of Putah Creek’s demise and revival with the help of Climate Confidential, a group of environmentally focused journalists who are partnering with local papers like The Enterprise to produce stories that speak to human impact on regional ecosystems.
Climate Confidential will help with technology, production, funding and story guidance, while The Enterprise’s Elizabeth Case will take a lead role on reporting.
Because this story spans 25 years, depends on thousands of litigation documents, and involves dozens of people, it will take months to produce. The Enterprise plans to publish a series of stories in December.
Local residents who are interested in helping support Climate Confidential in its quest to promote environmental journalism in community newspapers may visit http://www.beaconreader.com/projects/local-edition.