Pescadero and Butano Creeks Watershed Sediment TMDL

NEW –On its December 11, 2018 meeting, the State Board will be considering a resolution approving a Basin Plan amendment to establish a sediment TMDL and an implementation plan for the Pescadero-Butano watershed.

September 18, 2018 – State Board will accept public comments on the proposed approval of Basin Plan amendment to establish a sediment TMDL and an implementation plan for the Pescadero-Butano Watershed. The public notice for this Basin Plan amendment provides information on the comment period and the public hearing.

June 6, 2018: The supporting documents for the Basin Plan amendment for the Pescadero-Butano Watershed Sediment Total Maximum Daily Load and Habitat Enhancement Plan prepared in advance of the June 13, 2018 Board meeting (agenda) are available below:

You can receive updates via email on Pescadero-Butano Watershed developments by subscribing online: Electronic Subscription List


The Pescadero and Butano Creeks flow westerly and drain approximately 81 mi2of the Santa Cruz Mountains in western San Mateo and Santa Cruz Counties and enters the Pacific Ocean near the town of Pescadero. The watershed contains steep forested slopes, deep canyons with steep inner gorges, a coastal valley, and rolling hills and grasslands near the coast. While the Pescadero sub-watershed is 58 mi2, the Butano sub-watershed is 23 mi2. Pescadero Marsh, a 320 acre brackish and freshwater wetland at the confluence of Pescadero Creek and Butano Creek, is one of the most significant coastal wetlands on the central California.   It is composed of an estuary/seasonal freshwater lagoon, fresh and brackish water marshes, brackish water ponds, and riparian areas along stream channels. The watershed provides habitat for a diverse array of aquatic life, including steelhead trout, and in the recent past, coho salmon. Other listed species that are also dependent on habitats within the Pescadero marsh include tidewater goby, San Francisco garter snake, and California red-legged frog.

Due to land use changes in the watershed, sediment input to the channels doubled in the last 150 years and sediment storage along the channels and the valley has been eliminated. In addition, channel incision have disconnected the channels from their floodplains and converted sediment storage reservoirs into sediment sources. The zone of sediment storage in the western quarter of the watershed shifted from channels and the valley downstream to the lagoon and marsh. The lagoon, which is one of the most sensitive habitats for listed species, now receives more sediment. There is more sediment input to the channels, no storage, and a very efficient drainage system that transports all sediment eroded from the hills and channels downstream into the lagoon and marsh where most of it deposits.
Populations of steelhead and salmon in the Pescadero-Butano watershed have declined substantially over the last century due to progressive changes in land use resulting in excess sediment in the channels and degradation of channel habitat. Land clearing, timber harvesting, legacy grazing and agricultural practices, channel modifications, and roads have: i) increased hillslope erosion; ii) doubled annual sediment supply to channels; iii) resulted in deep incision of Pescadero and Butano creeks and their tributaries; and iv) eliminated sediment storage along the channel and on the floodplains. Habitat conditions are degraded by elevated concentrations of fine sediment in the streambed (primarily sand) – caused by pervasive alteration of sediment supply, transport, and storage- which further reduces juvenile salmonid growth and survival in all freshwater life stages. Channel incision has severely impacted the basic physical habitat structure of the channel and has caused habitat simplification expressed by a substantial reduction in the frequency and area of gravel bars, riffles, and side channels. Channel incision has also isolated channels from their floodplains: floodplains no longer function as sediment storage sites and are lost as excellent rearing and refuge habitats for juvenile salmon and steelhead. In addition, a substantial reduction in the amount of large woody debris in channels has greatly diminished the capacity for the creeks to store, sort, and meter sediment, as well as the quality and diversity of freshwater channel habitats. Lastly, significant and persistent increases in sediment supply and loss of floodplains have contributed to an order-of-magnitude increase in the sedimentation rate in the Pescadero lagoon and marsh, adversely impacting water quality.

San Francisco Bay Regional Water Board Public Process

NEW – February 13, 2018: The public comment period for the Pescadero-Butano Watershed Sediment Total Maximum Daily Load Draft Staff Report and Basin Plan amendment has been extended to March 14, 2018. The revised public notice for this Basin Plan amendment provides information on the comment period and the public hearing.

January 10, 2018: The Pescadero-Butano Watershed Sediment Total Maximum Daily Load Draft Staff Report and Basin Plan amendment are available for public review and comment.

This Staff Report for the Pescadero-Butano Watershed Sediment Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) and Habitat Enhancement Plan presents the supporting documentation for a proposed Basin Plan amendment that will be considered by the San Francisco Bay Water Board to restore water quality for sediment and habitat conditions and to facilitate the recovery of listed populations of coho salmon and steelhead in the Pescadero-Butano watershed.

Comments on the draft TMDL and Basin Plan amendment should be sent by mail to:

San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board
ATTN: Setenay Bozkurt-Frucht
1515 Clay Street, Suite 1400
Oakland, CA 94612

Or by email to

CEQA Scoping

On June 30, 2015, Regional Water Board staff hosted a public workshop and CEQA scoping meeting. A summary overview of the CEQA scoping meeting is available for download.  The presentations can be found at the links below.

The comment period is now closed.

Project Documents

Studies and Reference Materials

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For more information contact:

Setenay Bozkurt Frucht
Water Resource Control Engineer
San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board
1515 Clay St., Suite 1400
Phone: (510) 622-2388
Fax: (510) 622-2460