Our projects restore our community watersheds for steelhead trout and other species for today and future generations




Crowd hydrology, in partnership with the University of Buffalo, empowers the public to be citizen scientists—to read water depth and collect data as they’re walking by streams and estuaries. CCSE staff installs the signs that measure water depth in different sites throughout the county, along with instructions. You text the data and it gets added automatically to an online database. It’s that easy!

Want to see our local data and sites?


Central Coast Watershed

Arroyo Grande Stream Gauge Modification

This project removes and reconstructs the existing concrete platform that currently spans the main creek channel and lowers the stream bed so migrating adult and juvenile steelhead can once again swim upstream to more than three miles of critical habitat. CCSE is currently evaluating alternatives at this site in partnership with the County of San Luis Obispo.


Carmel River Lagoon Project 

In this project our goal is to enhance the habitat and create better shetler for steelhead trout in the Carmel River Lagoon. By placing large rock structures to anchor down root wads, what we call “large woody debris,” we can help the steelhead trout. The root-wads were a donation from Santa Rosa, Ca.  To move these structures without damaging the habitat we contracted with a helicopter to fly in the large woody debris. The helicopter creates less damage than heavy equipment would in the sensitive habitat along the lagoon. We are still monitoring this project to evaluate the results.

To make all this happen we partnered up with Carmel River Steelhead Association, California Conservation Corps, Stillwater Sciences, NOAA Veterans and MEarth. The project is funded by the CA State Coastal Conservancy.


Lower San Luis Obispo Creek Fish Passage and Seawater Barrier Study

This project is designed to improve the largest resource for the Southern Central California steelhead from Santa Cruz to Santa Maria.

At the south end of San Luis Obispo Creek, located near southern half of the Bob Jones trail, is the “Marre Weir.” Marre, the name of the old landowner who paid for this project, installed a weir, a low dam that extends underground. The Marre Weir was built in the 1960’s with one modification in 2006 which gave it a low-flow notch. It was designed to keep the saltwater from the fresh water of the creek. The design consisted of steel sheets driven into the ground with about seven feet above. In our study, we will look at alternatives to modify or replace the weir.

Our goals and the creek’s long term benefits

1. Improves Water Supply Reliability

By improving the Marre Weir, it ensures the resistance against seawater intrusion to keep the freshwater supply level high.

2. Increases the Environmental Benefits

This enhances the migration of the Southern Central California Coast Steelhead. This is important because the fish are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

3. Improves Groundwater Management

The Marre Weir is essential to protecting the groundwater from being mixed with the seawater. By improving it we can ensure the freshwater stays fresh.

4. Addresses Climate Change Concerns

The study will evaluate the probably impacts of climate change, focusing on the sea level rise that can impact the weir. The top notch of is located about one foot above the current high tide line.

5. Improves Water Resources Management and Outreach

This study will bring local communities together to help determine how to improve the fish passage while keeping the protective benefits to the groundwater and freshwater resources for the present and future years.

Landowners and conservation partners tour an example of how growers can slow and store groundwater runoff to let it seep into the aquifer.

Landowners and conservation partners tour an example of how growers can slow and store groundwater runoff to let it seep into the aquifer.

Santa Rosa Creek Flow Enhancement

Working cooperatively with stakeholders including landowners and other community members, this project takes an integrative approach to develop ways to improve steelhead spawning habitat through additional in-stream flow during dry times. The team is exploring different approaches to enhance dry season flows, such as pulling water out of the creek when it rains and letting it to sink into the ground through recharge basins. Raising groundwater levels keeps creek levels up during the summer and dry seasons, which is good for trout. Another method to recharge groundwater is to restore connections between the creek and fallow “dried” creek land so peak flood waters are allowed to once again spread across historic floodplains. Methods to reduce groundwater consumption through water conservation and rainwater storage will also be explored.

Groundwater is vital for people and wildlife. Rainwater recharges groundwater aquifers, and we can help by slowing it, sinking it, and spreading it. Projects like this one help develop best practices that will ensure healthy creeks and groundwater — so we can share it.


Salinas River Watershed Management Coordinator

We partnered with Stillwater Sciences to be the Salinas Watershed Management Coordinator with the Upper Salinas-Las Tablas Resource Conservation District.

The Salinas River starts at the mountains above Lake Santa Margarita in San Luis Obispo Country and ends at Monterey Bay, in the city of Seaside. The 174-mile Salinas River corridor and the 4,200 square-mile watershed is home to South Central California Coast Steelhead and other species.

Our goal is to develop watershed management plans that will incorporate all of the Salinas River. These plans will identify keys issues, connect stakeholders, and recommend solutions for the Salinas River.

This deals with the damming of its tributaries, groundwater pumping and the lack of water at the end that has caused salt-water intrusion problems. There is also extensive sand and gravel mining that has caused the river to carve new borders, asphalt recycling plants and human activity that affects them.

According the Resource Conservation District of Monterey County, the watershed includes 200,000 acres of irrigated agriculture and supplies what is referred to as the “salad bowl of the nation.” The NAtional Marine Fisheries Service as designated the Salinas River and its tributaries as critical habitat for steelhead.


Monitoring Micro-Flows and Tracking Ecologically Significant Dry Season Creeks 

This study aims to strengthen flow monitoring and tracking methods in areas with micro-flow conditions. The standard method of flow monitoring is very difficult to apply to micro-flows. By studying new ways to track and monitor, we can provide data that will be the foundation for flow enhancement efforts of micro and low flows. This will help us work effectively in restoring dry season creeks that are significant to the steelhead trout population.


ASSESSING fire damaged environments and designing fish-friendly roads (title is wip)

In the Manzana subwatershed, in the southern part of the Sisquoc Watershed, we partner up with CCC, NOAA Veterans and Pacific Watershed Associates, to asses the forest service roads and fuel breaks that extend 60 miles on the Los Padres National Forest. This will encompass an area burnt by fire and asses the sediments that have the potential to go into the Manzana creek.

Our goal is to design fish friendly roads that will keep sediment out of the creek and understand how burnt land interacts with the watershed. These plans will be for the forest service to use to recover the roads and maintain a healthy creek.


San Luis Obispo Creek Flow Enhancement

This project is designed to keep San Luis Obispo Creek wet during dry-season by collecting water during peak flows. The stored water will be in Fox Hollow Reservoir. 

Fox Hollow Reservior, owned by the city of San Luis Obispo, was built in the 1940’s. The initial purpose was to collect water from the mountains for the city’s water supply. However, it is currently out of commission. Our project aims to restore the reservoir enough to collect water and store water during peak flows. After collecting the water, it can be metered out in the low flow time to keep the it wet so the fish can continue their journey upstream.