Volunteers Clear 18 Tons of Garbage From County Creeks

by Alta Tura


Creek Week Volunteers

April 28th dawned clear, and an estimated 1,400 volunteers
turned out to clean a creek on Clean-Up Day.

Moderate flows in our region's watershed this spring made
the creeks more accessible than last year. Because there
were no extreme high water events in the rainy season, less
debris than usual was washed up on the banks. Even so,
about 18 tons of garbage were removed from creeks in Sacramento,
Citrus Heights, Folsom, Rancho Cordova and unincorporated
Sacramento County. Specially trained volunteers also removed
invasive red sesbania plants from 1,000 feet along both sides
of Steelhead Creek near Dry Creek. Thousands of seedlings
were uprooted and an estimated 3 million seeds were disposed.

In addition to the usual tires, shopping carts, and general
garbage, there were items fished out of creeks that mystified
the finders: a bed frame, water heater, bowling ball, fire
extinguisher, fax machine, waffle iron, motorcycle frame,
cage trap, washing machine and public telephones. Our volunteers
suspect that garbage gets in the creeks in a variety of ways.
The big items are illegally dumped; some are stolen property.
Homeless encampments account for much of the garbage. Many
smaller items have been tossed out of car windows or blown out
of trucks and find their way to the creek by way of gutters and
storm drains. Every item has its own untold story.

Many wildlife sightings were reported by creek cleanup volunteers.
Introduced or nuisance species such as opossum, turkeys, peacocks,
pheasants, and mosquitoes were spotted. Creek cleaners saw robins,
raccoons, grey squirrels, garter snakes, jack rabbits, western
fence lizards, and mallards - all native residents. Volunteers
were careful to avoid poison oak, a native plant found in abundance
along many of Sacramento's creeks. Poison oak is one of many native
plants that provide food and cover for urban wildlife. Since ninety
percent of urban wildlife depends on creeks, it is not surprising
that eggs and young were reported by volunteers.

The afternoon Celebration at the Discovery Museum Science Center
gave volunteers the opportunity to celebrate their accomplishments.
Great live music, fun activities, barbeque, free museum admission
and earth-friendly exhibits were enjoyed by all. Many were
impressed and inspired by the imaginative Junk & Gunk sculptures
on display.

Thank you to all who helped with the cleanup. You helped us in
our mission to preserve and protect an important urban natural
resource - creeks!

This article originally appeared in our 2007 Summer Newsletter

Posted in Author: Alta Tura | Comments Off on Volunteers Clear 18 Tons of Garbage From County Creeks

Cleaning Steelhead Creek

by Libby Harmor

Steelhead Creek Volunteers

Valley View Acres is a rural neighborhood in North Natomas bordered on two sides by Steelhead Creek and the Ueda Parkway. The east levee of the creek is a front or back fence for many residents. The parkway and creek are used year round for bike riding, horseback riding, dog walking, hiking, jogging, bird watching, fishing and general nature enjoyment. There are others who use the area for car dumping, trash dumping, unwanted pet dumping, drinking and other less desirable activities. The neighbors police the creek on a regular basis and keep an eye out for dumpers.

On April 28th, residents of Valley View Acres were joined by a bus load of Center High School students and other Creek Week volunteers to clean Steelhead Creek. The students working with the Weed Warriors concentrated on the eradication of red sesbania, a pretty but incredibly invasive plant/weed. The other folks spent time pulling trash out of the creek to make it safer for wildlife, horseback riding, fishing, and other recreational use.

Four sites along the creek were manned by volunteers from the neighborhood. Trash was placed in bags and hauled to the top of the levee where city, county or special district employees loaded it into trucks to be hauled to the landfill. The red sesbania trimmings were pulled to the levee top and put in a dumpster. Some of the larger items, like a camper shell, tires and shopping carts were dragged up the levee and left for the dump trucks. Although regretful that muddy banks prevented the hauling out of an engine, volunteers headed for the Celebration at noon, satisfied with the morning effort.

Libby has been a Creek Week volunteer for many years. We thank her for her hard work and leadership on the Steelhead Creek cleanup.

This article originally appeared in our Summer 2007 Newsletter

Posted in Author Libby Harmor, Creek Info | Comments Off on Cleaning Steelhead Creek

Is Your Garden Creek Friendly?

by Betty Cooper

2007 Creek Week Volunteers

It’s a great feeling to see all that trash piled up after a Creek Week Cleanup. But what can we do to help creeks every day, around our own homes? The choices we make in our gardens and home landscaping can contribute to the long-term health of our creeks, even if we don’t happen to live very close to one. That’s because rain and sprinkler water runs drains from our yards into storm drains, carrying many things along with it. The storm drains funnel all that water into creeks and rivers without any processing or filtering, and the runoff contains chemicals and invasive plant seeds that come from our yards. If you are reading this newsletter, you probably already know that you shouldn’t pour anything down the storm drains. You may also know about some of the alternatives to pesticides and herbicides that are safer for the environment. You can get great information about those alternatives at UCDavis Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Program and also at City of Sacramento’s Storm Water Pest Control Program. Another solution to creek pollution is to replace large lawn areas and fussy hybrid plants with native plants.

Native plant landscaping is great for the health of creeks because:

  • Native plants are more drought tolerant so less watering is necessary; less watering means less run-off.
  • They have fewer pest problems so pesticides aren’t necessary.
  • They don’t spread invasive seeds that wind up sprouting along the creeks and crowding out natives.
  • They are well-adapted to the area and thrive with little or no additional fertilizing.

You can also find excellent plant choices at nurseries such as Corn Flower Farms or California Gardens. Or visit local native gardens like the one at Sacramento’s Historic City Cemetery and the Effie Yeaw Nature Center. Visit the gardens during different seasons, and watch for native plant sales. The California Native Plant Society is holding a sale on Saturday, September 22nd, 9 a.m – 3 p.m. at the Shepard Garden and Arts Center in McKinley Park, Sacramento. Come see some beautiful plants and meet folks who love native plant gardens.

This article originally appeared in our Summer 2007 Newsletter

Posted in Author: Betty Cooper, Creek Info | Comments Off on Is Your Garden Creek Friendly?

Mosquito Fish, Friend or Foe?

by Bill Templin


Mosquito fish (Gambusia sp.) are small fish
(1.5 – 2.5 inches) that tolerate a wide range of temperatures
and are used as a predator of mosquito larvae in many diverse aquatic
habitats throughout the world. With all of the attention being given
locally to aerial spraying to control mosquitoes and reduce West Nile
Virus problems, mosquito fish just keep on quietly eating the mosquito
larvae as many people want them to do. Unfortunately, mosquito fish
also eat other living things, which can be a problem in some environments.
In fact, some people think that mosquito fish can be a “major pest and
in many cases more suitable alternatives exist for mosquito larvae control”

So what should we use for mosquito control if we
can’t use mosquito fish? Pretty much any fish will eat mosquito
larvae. Try finding a mosquito larva in any body of water inhabited by
fish. The best thing to use is a native fish found in your local area
that is somewhat hardy and will reproduce in the environment that requires
mosquito control. Guppies (Poecilia sp.) are also used locally instead
of mosquito fish, mainly in koi and gold fish ponds, but they lack the
tolerance for temperature extremes. For more information, visit the

Sacramento-Yolo Mosquito Vector Control District

During a recent tour of the Sacramento-Yolo Mosquito & Vector Control
District offices and hatchery facilities, I learned that mosquito fish
and guppies are used as biological controls to help reduce the amount
of pesticides needed. Mosquito fish are planted in most permanent or
semi-permanent water sources but are no longer planted in vernal pools
because of their detrimental impacts on fairy shrimp. I also learned
that planting is now done only by technicians who are trained in the
field. In the past, mosquito fish were handed out on request, which
provided less control on their use. I also found that District Manager
David Brown (dabrown at FIGHTtheBITE dot net) and his staff are very helpful
and eager to work with individuals and groups who may have concerns
about any of the District’s operations. Consider taking a tour yourself.
They will be holding an Open House next spring.

This article originally appeared in our Summer 2007 Newsletter

Posted in Author: Bill Templin, Creek Info | Comments Off on Mosquito Fish, Friend or Foe?

Pyrethroids in Creeks

by Dave Tamayo,
Pesticide Control Program Manager,

Sacramento County Stormwater Program

Way back at the end of the last century (the 1990s), the Sacramento Stormwater Quality
Partnership (or SSQP, which includes Sacramento County and the cities of Citrus
Heights, Elk Grove, Folsom, Galt, Rancho Cordova, and Sacramento) found that the
water in local creeks was contaminated with the insecticides diazinon and chlorpyrifos, at
levels toxic to the water flea Ceriodaphnia. Since then, most urban uses of these
chemicals have been phased out, only to be largely replaced in the urban marketplace
with pyrethroids. In our area, pyrethroids are widely used for ant control around
buildings, in most aerosol bug sprays, and even in combination with lawn fertilizers
(even though the target insects rarely cause problems in Sacramento lawns).

Recent studies by Professor Donald Weston of U.C. Berkeley frequently
found pyrethroids at toxic levels in urban creek sediments of the Sacramento region and the
Bay Area. Weston’s studies also indicate that urban areas, not upstream agriculture,
are the source of these chemicals in the creeks. Pyrethroids bind strongly to sediments, so
that the vast majority of them will be found in the stream bottom. This is better for animals
like Ceriodaphnia that swim and don’t interact much directly with the sediment. However,
animals that dwell on or in the stream bottom are at risk, since they are more likely to
contact the pyrethroids. Weston’s study animal, Hyallela azteca, is a sediment-dwelling
amphipod crustacean found naturally in this area, and is an important component of the aquatic
food web.

To help prevent harm to creek life, SSQP actively encourages residents and
professionals to reduce pesticide use wherever possible. In addition, the SSQP is a leader
in the effort to prod State and Federal pesticide regulators to re-evaluate pyrethroids,
and to improve the overall process for pesticide regulation. A key goal is to evaluate
pesticides more effectively so future water quality problems are avoided before pesticides
are allowed on the market. Visit the

Sacramento Storm Water Quality Partnership
for resources on avoiding pesticide use.

Our Water Our World and WaterWise are two programs supported by the
Sacramento Stormwater Partnership that provide useful information for managing pests in
Sacramento area landscapes. These programs distribute information through retail outlets
and the internet. Water Wise also provides help through the Sacramento Master
Gardeners who can answer specific questions during business hours at (916) 875-6913.
Our Water Our World provides individual assistance on pest management issues through
Ask the Expert,
which links to the Bio-Integral Resource Center (www.birc.org). The University of
California Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program has abundant information on IPM
for landscapes, especially in its Pest Notes, and Turf sections.

This article originally appeared in our Winter 2007 Newsletter

Posted in Author; Dave Tamayo, Creek Info | Comments Off on Pyrethroids in Creeks

Dry Creek Salmon Count

by Bill Templin, Board Member,
Sacramento Urban Creeks Council
and Upper American River Foundation

Once again, a good volunteer turnout of over 30 people participated in walking 16
reaches of Dry Creek and it’s tributaries including Secret Ravine, Miner’s Ravine,
Antelope Creek, Linda Creek, and Cirby Creek. The intrepid volunteers were
documenting the number of live salmon, carcasses and redds in the salmon’s spawning
beds in the stream gravels. Volunteers included individuals and groups such as the
Granite Bay Flycasters as well as federal, state, and local governments.

According to Gregg Bates, Watershed Coordinator and Dry Creek Conservancy’s
Conservator, “These are the lowest numbers in the 10 years that we have been doing the
count. Numbers are apparently low all along the coast and may be related to ocean

The total number of live fish counted dropped again this year to 21, as compared with
127 in 2005 and 390 in 2004. The first year that I participated in this count (2004) we
counted 68 live fish in the same quarter-mile reach of Dry Creek where we counted 15
last year and only 6 this year! Declines also have been observed in the number of
carcasses and redds counted, with totals dropping from 87 carcasses in 2004 to only 20 in
2006, and redds dropping from 84 in 2004 to 43 in 2006.

More information about the Dry Creek Conservancy, its salmon surveys, and other
activities can be attained by visiting their website and reading their quarterly newsletter
at the Dry Creek Conservancy

This article originally appeared in our Winter 2007 Newsletter

Posted in Author: Bill Templin, Creek Info | Comments Off on Dry Creek Salmon Count

Winter Doesn’t Stop Students from Dipping Into Creeks

by Beth Etgen, UCCS Vice President – Education

“Wow! I never knew that creeks could be homes
for so many kinds of animals.”

“I get it, a creek food web sticks everything

“Water bugs look like monsters.”

“I‘ve seen junk in the creek near our house and
it looks ugly.”

These were some of the comments made by Jeannie Courters’ third grade students as
they were happily engaged in learning more about the importance of creek life and

On January 16th, 2007, Beth Etgen of the Effie Yeaw Nature Center (EYNC) and
assistant Susan Atkinson presented the first “Dipping Into Creeks in the Classroom”
program at Carriage Elementary School in Citrus Heights. One of the highlights of the
program is a wonderful creek costume made by EYNC staff member, Libby Harmor. On
this day, Jasmine was the lucky volunteer chosen to wear the creek cape as the group
discussed what makes a healthy creek. Realistic fabric models of plants, fish, insects,
amphibians and mammals were added to the cape while discussion reinforced the
concepts of interdependence and food webs.

Colorful slides brought the outdoors into the classroom by showing sites along
several Sacramento County creeks, both healthy and in need of restoration. Students saw
examples of erosion, trash and flooding while discussing simple ways to restore creeks as
beneficial components of the community. The students also saw aerial view slides of
local creeks flowing into the larger watershed system.

The kids loved the group stations. They were excited to work in smaller groups while
continuing to focus on creek ecology. Favorites were “Creek Life Bingo,” “Invertebrate
Concentration,” the “I Care For Creeks” game and making a take-home creek food chain.
One enthusiastic girl thanked us for bringing all the “cool stuff” to her classroom and
asked when we would be back.

A grant from the Sacramento Chapter of Urban Creeks Council allowed the Effie
Yeaw Nature Center to develop the “Dipping Into Creeks in the Classroom” program for
students in 2nd through 4th grades. This program uses local creeks as an ideal focus for
learning through experiential environment-based education. Research and classroom-
based studies show that students learn better, are better citizens at school, and transfer
their learning to new situations better in environment-based education programs.

For more information about scheduling a classroom presentation at your school,
please call the Effie Yeaw Nature Center at 489-4918 ext. 237.

This article originally appeared in our Winter 2007 Newsletter

Posted in Author: Beth Etgen, Education | Comments Off on Winter Doesn’t Stop Students from Dipping Into Creeks

Time is Ripe for “Scoop the Poop” Pilot Program

Courtesy of Sacramento County Stormwater Quality

The Sacramento County Stormwater Quality Program has partnered with Arcade Creek
Recreation and Park District and local volunteer groups to develop a cost-effective pilot
program called "Scoop the Poop." The program aims to reduce the bacteria found in local
waterways caused by the improper disposal of pet waste in our parks and trails.

The "Scoop the Poop" Program offers park-goers a convenient, earth-friendly way to
pick up after their pets at four parks within the Arcade Creek Recreation and Park
District: Hamilton Street, Oakdale, and Arcade Creek Park, as well as Holyoke Trail.

What is the problem?

The Unincorporated County has more than 254 parks that span over 23,000 acres, and
provide numerous social and recreational opportunities for residents. Studies show that
animal waste is a major source of bacteria (fecal coliform) found in Sacramento area
urban runoff. When dog waste is left on park grass and along trails, runoff from rain and
sprinklers carries it into storm drains and waterways. In addition, dog waste is unsightly
and generates many public complaints.

How it works

The "Scoop the Poop" program is a community stewardship program. Individuals can
either leave their plastic grocery bags at the pet waste bag stations for others or take a bag
to use for picking up and disposing of pet waste.
Working with the park districts, volunteer groups will install the stations at designated
areas. Not only is this program good for the environment and cost effective, it will also
build connections within the community.

For more information, check out the Scoop the Poop Program PDF

Fact Sheet

If you are interested in installing Scoop the Poop signs,
please call 874-5733 or email

We would like to thank the following groups for supporting the Scoop the Poop

  • Junior Girl Scout Troop 1308
  • Bel Air Supermarket, 4005 Manzanita Ave., Carmichael
  • Albertsons, 4708 Manzanita Ave., Carmichael
  • Albertsons, 5445 Auburn Blvd., Sacramento
  • Safeway, 4040 Manzanita Ave., Carmichael

This article originally appeared in our Winter 2007 Newsletter

Posted in Creek Info | Comments Off on Time is Ripe for “Scoop the Poop” Pilot Program

Frank Cruzen Remembered

by Alta Tura

Frank Cruzen

Frank Cruzen

Frank Cruzen, co-founder and first president of the Sacramento
Urban Creeks Council, passed away on August 29, 2006. Frank
accomplished many things before he took on the challenge of
advocating for creeks in Sacramento County. After he and his
wife Marie raised their family, he retired from Pacific Bell
and could have chosen leisurely golden years. Instead he chose
to earn a college degree in biology and then put his newly
acquired book-learning to practical use.

Almost 20 years have passed, but Jo Smith clearly remembers
Frank asking her the question, "What are we going to do about
Sacramento's creeks?" She didn't have an answer. Frank had
some ideas, Jo made some calls, and a meeting was arranged.
The Sacramento Urban Creeks Council was born with Frank at
the helm.

Frank understood the problems of our creeks because he had
walked most of them. He saw the garbage in the creeks. He
observed the decline in fish and other aquatic animals. He
saw how homes and businesses were built right up to the creek
banks. He recognized the invasive plants that had escaped from
yards and were taking over habitat from the plants. He took
others to the creeks or showed people his photographs to
point out the decline. Creek maps and documents were examined.
He and Jo interviewed experts and concerned citizens who
studied and pondered how to reverse the mistreatment and
neglect of our local waterways. An initial solution proposed
by Frank was to clean the garbage out of the creeks. Our new
organization had its first project. On a spring Saturday in
1987, a small group of adult and youth volunteers plunged into
a clean-up of Arcade Creek near American River College. Frank
saw to it that the clean-up became an annual effort that
expanded yearly. He involved the creek maintenance groups of
the City and County of Sacramento, recruited leaders for the
growing number of clean-up sites and volunteers, and formed a
committee to plan the process as it grew into a major event.
After a few years, he left the leadership of the committee in
the capable hands of Jane Steele, who became the second president
of the Sacramento Urban Creeks Council.

Frank saw the need for a curriculum that aided teachers in using
creeks as outdoor classrooms. Dipping Into Creeks was the result.
He suggested special recognition for schools that studied and
performed service projects on creeks. The Creek Steward Award
gives that recognition annually at the Creek Week Splash Off
attended by sponsors and dignitaries. Frank established ties
with American River College that, among other things, enlisted
the help of students with the clean-ups.

Frank worked and studied hard, planned well, found partners,
nurtured new recruits and was a strong leader. When he decided
it was time to retire from his volunteer work, he made sure
successors were in place. If you didn't know Frank, imagine
somebody unassuming, kind, good, thoughtful and considerate "
with steady determination, showing you his creek pictures and
urging you to help him answer the question, "What are we going
to do about Sacramento's creeks?" You can be proud to be part
of his answer.

Others remember Frank:

by Bruce Swinehart:

Years ago on the first day of one of my classes,
I asked each student to explain why they were taking my Natural
History class. I always did that as an ice breaker. It seemed to
be a normal make-up of the class except for one very bright-eyed
fellow who looked almost as old as I did, unlike most of my
students. He said he was retired and was always interested in
nature and wanted to do something of value with his time. Many
people just sit down in front of the TV set and take it easy.
Frank was definitely not that type. I would often come in to
the classroom early and find Frank there.

During the class students could come in and study the specimens
on their own time any time the class room wasn't in use. He was
so interested that I invited him to come with my group on the
Sacramento Christmas Bird Count. He came for several years until
his back caused him too much trouble. Through the Bird Count
we became friends. Frank enjoyed college and did so well that
he decided to get his degree. He graduated from American River
College and then attended California State University, Sacramento,
where he was awarded his BA degree. I was very impressed with
his desire and energy to go back to college and start a new
career. Needless to say, he did well and became very active in
conservation in our area.

I was always very proud that I played a role in Frank's success
and was doubly pleased when he and Jo Smith got the UCC started
on such a great foundation. I miss Frank very much as a friend
and as an outstanding environmentalist in our area. I hope The
Urban Creeks Council and membership will remember that the
organization didn't just happen. It took people with vision and
ability to make it happen. I really admire Frank and Jo for what
they accomplished.

by Benjamin Etgen:

Frank was also the president of the American
River College Alumni Association. He was both an excellent
leader and a friend. He brought new life to the association.
All of its members will fondly recall his term as president.
The association hosted a dessert and play event. Like always,
he was highlighting the efforts of others, desserts from the
culinary department and a play from the theater department.
He personally welcomed everyone and was sincerely interested
in how they were and what they were doing.

This article originally appeared in our Fall 2006 Newsletter

Posted in Author: Alta Tura, Volunteerships | Comments Off on Frank Cruzen Remembered

Creek Critters: Water Striders

by Bonnie Ross

Among aquatic insects, long-legged water striders are about
the easiest to see. They live on the water surface film and
they tend to congregate in large numbers. One genus, would
you believe, lives on the surface of the ocean, sometimes
many miles from land!

Water striders belong to the family Gerridae within the order
Hemiptera, or "true bugs." Being a "bug" they do not undergo
complete metamorphosis, and don't go through the larval and
pupal life stages many other insects, such as butterflies and
beetles, experience. Instead they hatch from an egg, then
become a nymph and undergo five molting periods called instars,
each causing them to increase in size and look a little more
like a mature adult. Water strider adults overwinter in
protected areas near the water's edge. Eggs are laid in
the spring and summer.

As with all aquatic insects, adaptations allow them to survive
in their unique niche. Water strider legs are adapted to
"skate" on the surface film as they possess fine hairs that
resist water saturation and do not break through the surface
film. They are carnivorous, using their short forelegs for
grasping prey rather than for skating. They capture
terrestrial insects that fall on the surface or aquatic life
forms that come to the surface to breathe.

Being a member of the "true bug" clan they are equipped with
a long proboscis normally used to inject their prey in order
to suck out body juices. The proboscis can also deliver a
wicked sting to human hands. So, when searching for water
striders to observe, it is best to just watch them and
appreciate their unusual place in Nature.

This article originally appeared in our Fall 2006 Newsletter

Posted in Author: Bonnie Ross, Creek Info | Comments Off on Creek Critters: Water Striders