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Placeholder Image photo credit: US Army Corps of Engineers
Sears Point and the Petaluma River viewed from the west.

California has set forth ambitious plans to preserve and restore natural landscapes throughout the state. But what exactly do those efforts look like?

KRCB spoke with Sonoma Land Trust’s Julian Meisler about one project: the upcoming Lakeville Creek restoration.

 "There's almost nothing growing along it except low grass," Meisler said.

A small seasonal tributary, Lakeville Creek's headwaters are near Sonoma Raceway.

"Right now if you look at it, it looks like a stream that you see all over California, all over the Western US," Meisler said. "It looks like a deeply eroded ditch, and that just comes from probably a hundred years of pretty heavy management on that site, a lot of grazing, and it sort of builds on itself, like water starts moving faster and faster through the stream, eroding it more and more."

Meisler said restoring natural flow patterns will change the landscape in kind.

"It will be a channel coming out of the hills, and then when it hits the flat ground on our ranch, the water spreads out over a little valley," Meisler said. "And what you'll see is a wet meadow punctuated by little willow groves."

Meisler said climate change mitigation is a complementary effect of the restoration work.

"The idea is we're slowing down that storm water," Meisler said. "So it's that idea of slow it, spread it, sink it; and that's one of the key approaches to dealing with a increasingly variable climate where we're dealing with drought one year, flood the next year, fire the next year."

The project also adopts a rare approach for conservation work in California, dubbed “stage zero”.

Meisler described it as restoring not just a condition, but also a process of nature.

"Giving that stream the time and space to do its natural thing," Meisler said. "But right now there's no way it can escape sort of the the cycle it's in, which is just cutting deeper and deeper into the earth and draining that water table and really not providing much habitat."

The Lakeville Creek restoration is slated to begin later this year.

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