Throughout the United States, the week starting on the third Monday of September is recognized as National Pollution Prevention Week. In much of California, including the Russian River watershed, cities, counties, and other stewardship organizations are recognizing the fourth week of September as Creek Week. Russian River Watershed Stewards can participate in events September 16-23, 2023! Visit www.rrwatershed.org/project/creek-week for event opportunities in your area.
Each of us can do our part to maintain clean and healthy waterways all year-round. If you live adjacent to a creek or waterway you may have additional responsibilities.
Why is it important to keep yard waste out of creeks, waterways, and storm drains?
Yard waste (lawn clippings, leaves, and branches) that is intentionally thrown into the creek can smother and kill the existing vegetation protecting the creek bank. Over time, as vegetation on creek banks is lost, erosion of the creek bank may occur. Creek bank erosion is never a good thing for an adjacent property owner since permitted repairs are more often than not costly. Tree branches which are thrown into creeks have the potential to cause blockages at bridges and culverts along the creek channel.
Yard waste, such as lawn clippings and leaves, which is intentionally thrown into a flowing creek will decompose thereby reducing the amount of dissolved oxygen in the creek. A creek with decreased levels of dissolved oxygen will have a difficult time supporting aquatic life such as fish and amphibians. Yard waste which may contain fertilizer and/or pesticides should never be thrown in a creek since the chemicals in the fertilizer/pesticides would have a direct connection to aquatic life supported by the creek.
Yard waste such as lawn clippings and leaves should never be intentionally placed on the street. Anything left on the street has the potential to enter the storm drain system which is connected directly to creeks and waterways. Yard debris on streets may clog drainage grates and cause localized flooding requiring extra maintenance efforts.
What can you do to keep our creeks clean?
The first and most important step you can take is to never throw anything into a creek (unless it’s a fishing line in season!) Yard waste (lawn clippings, leaves, and branches) should be placed in your green yard waste bin and placed at the street on your regular collection day. You can reduce the amount of yard waste by composting lawn clippings and leaves. An added benefit will be compost to use in your garden. An alternative to composting is to use a mulching mower and mulch the lawn clippings in place for a healthier lawn. Lastly, never place yard waste on the street since it has the potential to enter the creek/waterway through a storm drain.
Who maintains the creeks?
In most locations, property lines extend to the center line of the creek. When this is the case, the adjacent property owner shares responsibility for maintaining the creek bank. In some cases, the City, or respective governing agency, may have a maintenance easement along sections of the creek. When a maintenance easement is in place, then the respective agency bears the responsibility for maintaining the creek or waterway in accordance with the maintenance easement. Where creeks or waterways cross public streets and roads, the agency responsible for maintaining the street or road is also responsible for maintaining the area around the bridge and or culvert.
Remember, the ultimate responsibility for creeks starts with the adjacent landowner. Please do your part to keep our creeks clean so that we can all enjoy clean and healthy waterways.
This article was authored by Andrew Stricklin, City of Ukiah – Public Works, on behalf of RRWA. RRWA is an association of local public agencies in the Russian River Watershed that have come together to coordinate regional programs for clean water, habitat restoration, and watershed enhancement.