Friday, July 21, 2017

Life on the Watershed: Nesting Turtles

A reservoir native—the protected Western pond turtle—has just finished this year’s nesting, while the next generation gets ready for  life on its own.  


The females have dug into sunny sandy areas not far from the lake shore, laid their eggs, and gone back to the water. The eggs incubate in the warm sands for about three to four months. The tiny hatchlings will make their way to the water in the fall. Those newborn females won’t reach maturity, and begin their own nesting, for a good six years or more.  

The Peninsula Watershed is home and refuge to a multitude of native California wildlife species and has the highest concentration of rare, threatened or endangered species in the nine-county Bay Area. The Western Pond Turtle is designated a “species of special concern” by The California Department of Fish and Wildlife. 












Friday, July 14, 2017

Landscape Update for El Camino Real

Plans are underway to plant 15 coast live oaks along with attractive new groundcover on our pipeline right of way along El Camino Real between Southwood Drive and Orange Avenue in South San Francisco. The future trees are replacements for several we removed at that site to install a new groundwater pipeline as part of the Regional Groundwater Storage and Recovery Project (GSR). 


The new trees are scheduled for planting this coming October, when fall wet weather will increase their chance of survival. Groundcover will go in by the end of November, along with a new non-climable fence. 


The GSR includes the construction of up to 16 new recovery wells and associated facilities on the Peninsula. This project is the result of a landmark agreement between the SFPUC and City of Daly City, City of San Bruno and California Water Service Company to help manage the South Westside Groundwater Basin. In wet years these entities will use Hetch Hetchy water in place of their groundwater supplies to allow the aquifer to store up to 20 billion gallons of water for use in times of drought.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Firefighting on the Watershed



SFPUC Peninsula Watershed keepers joined San Mateo and Santa Cruz county firefighters in a recent training session, when the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) conducted a controlled burn in the vicinity of the San Andreas Reservoir Dam. The several-hour drill gave the approximately 40 participating first responders vital experience in fire suppression techniques, firing methods, and wildfire behavior. CAL FIRE managed the burn under strict weather and moisture conditions. The Sawyer Camp Trail was closed during the training. 

CAL FIRE and watershed staff coordinate throughout the year on preventing and responding to fires and other emergencies on the watershed and neighboring lands. 


Friday, June 30, 2017

The 4th of July Waters that Didn’t


The 4th of July should have been an anniversary for the ages—commemorating the flow of the first outside drinking waters into San Francisco.

At least that was the intention in 1862, when construction of a brand new dam on the Peninsula Watershed--the Pilarcitos--was rushed to time the arrival of the first Peninsula waters with the nighttime fireworks. While the fireworks went off on schedule, the water didn't start coming in until early the next morning on July 5. 

Previously the young, fast-growing city had relied on sources within its own boundaries, such as Lobos and Islais creeks, Mountain Lake and various wells. It was the Spring Valley Water Company (one of several private utility companies serving the people of San Francisco) that first looked to the neighboring Peninsula as an abundant source of additional drinking water.  

That first dam was soon replaced by another four years later. The second one survived the earthquakes of 1906 and 1989, and is still in service today.

It holds Pilarcitos Creek raw water primarily for delivery to the Coastside County Water District in Half Moon Bay. We also release reservoir water to improve fish habitat downstream. Some also still goes to the SFPUC's Crystal Springs Reservoir and the Hetch Hetchy Regional Water System for supplemental supply. 

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Life on the Watershed: The Most Social of Them All



They are the most social of birds
Acorn woodpeckers live in tight clans and share stored acorns for food—as well as mates and the raising of the young in one common nest inside a tree cavity.

They’re year-round residents of the Peninsula Watershed, where the mixed oak/conifer forests provide abundant acorns as well as large trees with soft bark and dead trunks or limbs for storing them. Each acorn nut is stored in its own hole, When an acorn dries out and shrinks, the woodpecker moves it to a smaller hole—so that simply maintaining the granary is a constant activity.

Their abandoned nesting and roosting holes become homes for other native breeders: such as tree swallows (at left), along with chickadees, bluebirds and other “secondary cavity nesters." Woodpecker holes are also adopted by chipmunks, Western fence lizards, Gopher snakes, and some amphibians, 

Good places to see and hear Acorn woodpeckers are open slopes with scattered oaks and dead trunks or other bare limbs. 


Friday, June 16, 2017

Temporary Closures of Sawyer Camp Trail


There will be several short weekday partial closures of the Sawyer Camp Trail during the next two weeks, between June 20 and June 28. 

The San Mateo County Parks Department will close the  southern half of the Sawyer Camp Trail, from the Skyline entrance to the Jepson Laurel (near mile marker 3.5) Tuesday-Wednesday, June 20-21.  Park crews will also add more rock plus bender board to the shoulders, from the entrance to about mile marker 1, to make the sloping more gradual. 

The northern half, from the Hillcrest entrance to the Jepson Laurel, will be closed for mowing Thursday-Friday, June 22-23. 

The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission will close the southern half of the Sawyer Camp Trail for one more day, Tuesday, June 27, to paint a new center line. 

Finally, just north of the Sawyer Camp Trail, the Parks Department will close the San Andreas Trail, from Hillcrest to San Bruno Avenue, for mowing Tuesday-Wednesday, June 27-28.

No weekend closures are scheduled. 
  

Friday, June 9, 2017

June on the Watershed: California Buckeye Bursting Out




It’s a showpiece of the watershed. The deciduous California buckeye tree is in its full pink and white bloom, and the fragrant blossoms are an annual staple for others in the oak woodland community. 

The nectar draws more butterflies than any other native plant, and the pollen is feast for a diversity of bumble bees, beetles and other native insects. The Echo blue butterfly lays its eggs on the new unopened bud, which then becomes host for the larvae that live on the flowers, pollen and young fruit. The multitude of early summer invertebrates are in turn forage for numerous resident and migrating birds, and the abundant foliage will provide safe nesting habitat.   

Buckeye flowers and other parts of the tree have toxins that our native bees and other insects are immune to. But the European honeybee isn't, and beekeepers maintain their hives at a distance.


Early in the year, when the toxin level is low, deer and other mammals will nibble young leaves and shoots but avoid mature growth. Then, when the leaves yellow and fall to the ground, they lose the toxins and are once again high-protein food for others.

The seeds—big glossy “bucks eyes” that emerge from their husks in
the fall—are the largest of any California native plant (and very poisonous).