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 small 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.

Friday, December 8, 2017

The King of the Watershed

It's at the top of the watershed food chain. But the mountain lion is solitary and reclusive.  So, though our staff may spot signs of its presence—like tracks, scat, or scratches on tree trunks—they rarely spot the big cat itself. Instead, they’ve set up remote trail cameras that capture an occasional image.

Since mountain lions are largely nocturnal, what nighttime images turn up are dark and muddy at best. So watershed keeper Sarah Lenz was thrilled to find this daytime shot on one of her cameras. “They’re definitely active during the day too,” she said. “We feel lucky to see such a secretive watershed resident from time to time.” 

The 23,000-acre watershed, with its connections to adjacent Peninsula open space, allows for the kind of  wide-ranging wildlife corridor that’s so vital for mountain lions and other large mammals requiring a large territory to roam. 

Mountain lions feed on a variety of other animal species, from deer to raccoons and mice. They hunt alone and attack from behind. After killing their prey, they’ll  bury what they don’t eat and come back to feed on the rest when they’re hungry. Mating is usually from December to March, with a female raising her litter of two to four kittens on her own.  The kittens remain with their mother for up to 2 years before setting out to establish their own territories.   

Friday, December 1, 2017

San Andreas Trail Closure Extended to Dec. 8

The San Andreas Trail closure has been extended to Friday morning, December 8, including the weekend of December 2-3, for additional pipeline repairs and restoration of the trail surface at repair sites. 

This closed segment,between Larkspur Drive and  San Bruno Avenue, is scheduled to reopen on Friday morning, December 8. 

Cyclists please continue to use alternate routes during this time. 

Friday, November 17, 2017

Art from the Watershed

A felled Peninsula Watershed eucalyptus tree has gone on to a new existence as a permanent sculpture by a local Bay Area artist.   

The original eucalyptus comes from a previous habitat restoration project in the southern part of the watershed, where stands of the non-native species and other invasive growth were removed from the lands around Homestead Pond.

The artist, Evan Shively, has created a system for using a whole tree and works with reverence for his salvaged materials. When you saw a tree, he said, “It dictates where it wants to be cut.” 

Homestead Pond, once a vital breeding habitat for threatened California red-legged frogs, had declined over the years. But now restored grasslands and healthy young coastal oaks are providing renewed foraging and shelter for both the frogs and the endangered San Francisco Garter Snake (considered by some as “one of the most beautiful serpents in North America” ).