Thursday, February 22, 2018

Night-Shift Water Pro Daylights as Artist

By night he’s a water treatment engineer; by day, an artist. And Matt (“Woody”) Woodworth is embracing the challenge. 

He juggles 12-hour night shifts at Harry Tracy Water Treatment Plant with a creative trade at home, producing art that he shows at different local galleries.

After several years as a graphic designer in New York, the Pacifica natïve came back home and made a career shift to the water industry.  Now an engineer with our Harry Tracy Water Treatment Plant, he’s on duty four or five nights a week, monitoring the different treatment processes and making minor  but essential adjustments throughout the night to ensure the safety and high quality of our water before it goes out to others. 

So far Woody doesn't make art on a schedule. Instead, he'll head out for the nearby coast at different times of day to surf, take pictures, or plot out studies for the next works. 

Subject matter varies, but most of the fanciful abstracts, illustrations and painted surfboards or other beach findings reflect aspects of ocean life, like dune habitat, marine organisms, or riding the waves.  

He and partner Kelly Harris are also developing a children’s nature education project. They'll include coloring pages, cut-outs with different textures, and other activities to re-create  ocean experience on paper—or even instill the  kind of reverence that, for some, comes with the sea.

“It’s had a huge impact on my life,” Woody says. “Respect it, but have fun too.  When you’re there, you’re kind of like a visitor. It’s good for the soul. “

Still when a work night rolls around, and it’s time for the next shift at the plant, Woody’s up for that too. “It’s the best job I’ve ever had,” he says. 

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Love on the Watershed

The long-protected Peninsula Watershed is home to a broad diversity of native wildlife species, and mating season is now for a lot of them. 

To take a few February examples, our California state amphibians—the endangered red-legged frogs—are in chorus at restored Homestead Pond, various  small songbirds are beginning to nest in the woodlands, and the wide-ranging coyotes, which bond closely with the same mate for years, will soon be expanding their family units with new litters of pups. 

Happy Valentine’s Day to species everywhere, four-legged and two.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Life on the Watershed: The Unlikely Community Pillar

Rains and lingering  moisture bring out one of the unsung champions of the forest. 

The lowly banana slug may be short on appeal to us, but it is pivotal to forest nutrition and regeneration. As it propels its slow  way along the ground with one powerful little foot, it eats up fallen leaves and twigs, animal droppings, and other dead matter, which it decomposes and recycles into a dark nutrient-rich soil humus. The humus is excreted onto the forest floor, where it mixes in with the existing soils and fuels the roots of new and existing trees and other plant life.      

Unlike the reviled garden slug that can level your herbs and other greenery, this organism prefers dead stuff. 

The lowly banana slug is a woodland community pillar.   

Friday, January 19, 2018

Sowing the Native Acorn

No, it’s not an environmental art work you see next to I 280 at the Trousdale exit on your way south. 

The deftly arranged posts across the open space are actually protective tubes, each carefully inserted above a single acorn that’s been carefully placed into a hole about 2 inches deep. The six-foot tube will safeguard the fragile young Coastal live oak sapling from deer and rodents while ensuring a straight, strong trunk.  

The native acorns were gathered last fall from nearby mature forests. The  future young forest here will be  one of several we're planting at different watershed locations under the Habitat Restoration Program to bring back a total of about 180 acres of native grassland, wetland and woodland. The historic habitats provide essential food and shelter for a variety of native plant, butterfly, bird and other wildlife species, some found nowhere else in California. 

Friday, January 12, 2018

Tree Cutting above Drinking Water Pipeline in Junipero Serra County Park

About 90 to 100 mature trees above a major drinking water pipeline are coming down this month in Junipero Serra County Park and the other side of Crystal Springs Road in San Bruno. The trees have sprouted naturally over the years on top of the SFPUC’s San Andreas Pipeline #2, now 90 years old and urgently in need of replacement.

Since large trees and their roots can damage a pipeline and prevent our crews from accessing it for future repair or maintenance, we will not be planting replacement trees on that corridor. Instead, we’ll hydroseed the disturbed areas and, where possible, replace screening shrubs. New trees will be planted elsewhere in the park at the San Mateo County Parks Department’s direction after the pipeline work is completed.

The work will be on weekdays only, 7:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Traffic control for short periods will be in effect at times along Crystal Springs Road. The park will be open throughout.

The pipeline replacement itself in this area is expected to follow in late spring or early summer, and be complete by late fall. 

Information:  866- 973-1476;

Friday, January 5, 2018

Holiday Watch

It was this past New Year's Eve at the Harry Tracy Water Treatment Plant. Operators Mike Evans and Matt Woodward were there through the night until mid-morning the next day—and they were on the job Christmas Eve too. As on any nighttime watch (this team takes four or five a week), they continually monitored the different treatment processes that go on throughout the plant, made the fine adjustments that are frequently needed,  and checked the water quality at regular times in the lab next door.

At least two operators are always on duty at Harry Tracy— including nights and holidays. And even on a quiet holiday night, the high-pitched beeps routinely come in every few minutes.  Those are notifications about levels and conditions throughout the plant—ozone residual, the pH level, turbidity, and any number of others.  A key part of the job is knowing what action to take, says Mike, the senior operator on the team. A 13-year Harry Tracy veteran, he is trained to recognize and deal with the many different issues that could come up, including an earthquake or other natural disaster.  Even heavy rains with the potential for mud slides can affect our water quality, and a contingency plan is always in place.

In short, Mike says, “You have to be ready for anything.  It’s all about protecting the public with safe water 24/7.” 

Mike’s teammate “Woody” Woodworth is just as committed.  “In the water industry, the customer is always the highest priority,” says Woody, now in his second year at Harry Tracy after seven with a smaller utility, the  North Coast County Water District in his home town of Pacifica. The long hours of trenching, manning heavy equipment, and other pipeline repair work could be “grueling,” he remembers, “but we had to get the job done for all those customers."

At Harry Tracy, the long 12-hour shifts have their own challenge, but the junior teammate says he looks forward to every one of them. The customer is still the top priority, and Woody calls his present job  the best he’s ever had. 

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Happy Holidays!

The California Toyon brightens the December watershed landscape with its vivid red fruit, commonly called the” Christmas Berry.” The berries themselves are precious wintertime food for multiple bird and animal species, while the abundant foliage provides shelter for nesting and cover from predators throughout the year. 
Elsewhere along the reservoir, some Sawyer Camp Trail regulars get into the spirit with decorations for a trailside holly tree. Both the Sawyer Camp and San Andreas trails are expected to be open through the Holidays. (For updates, please check

Happy Holidays to all of you from all of us.