Part of Stevens Creek runs dry in Sunnyvale

Water officials in Santa Clara County are investigating why a stretch of Stevens Creek has suddenly gone dry.
October 30, 2013 5:10:04 PM PDT
Water officials in Santa Clara County are investigating why a stretch of Stevens Creek has gone dry. The creek between Fremont Avenue and Homestead Road in Sunnyvale started drying up last week for unknown reasons.

Many homes border the creek in Sunnyvale and Los Altos, and residents used to hearing the sound of water realized when the creek fell silent that something very serious was happening. "About a month ago or so, I would come out with the kids and you can't hear it anymore. There's just no sound," resident Beth Kinghorn said.

And the fish missed the water too. Upper Stevens Creek and its tributaries are spawning grounds for Steelhead Trout, which are native to the area.

Last Friday, another creekside resident, Pete Metrulas, shot video showing how the dry creek bed left what he estimated to be over 100 dead fish. But the tracks indicated there must have been many more already eaten by raccoons. Why the creek dried up along a one-mile long section is still under investigation.

Crews from the Santa Clara Valley Water District opened a valve late Wednesday morning to release water at a half-cubic foot per second into the creek. "We're trying to kind of use our own means to some way keep the other fish that are still alive, alive, and there are fish stranded in some pools downstream, and hoping that this additional water will keep them alive, and they'll be able to move out of the sections that they're in," Santa Clara Valley Water District biologist David Salsbery explained.

The water is being tested for temperature and contamination at the point of discharge. It will take an estimated six hours or longer to reach the dry section. "The water that we're releasing today is from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, which is a significant part of our water supply, and we do use that water to recharge our ground water supply. So, the water that we're releasing, it' hopefully going to benefit the aquatic wildlife, but it also will recharge the ground water basin," Marty Grimes with the Santa Clara Valley Water District.

The water flow will be adjusted as biologists monitor the impact on the stranded fish. Longtime residents say this section of the creek is normally wet year-round. The last time it went dry was six years ago, briefly, during a water diversion.

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