In 2009, Humboldt Baykeeper initiated an internship program in conjunction with Dr. Alison Purcell O’Dowd, Assistant Professor and Environmental Science Program Coordinator at Humboldt State University. Interns are students enrolled in Applied Ecological Restoration (ENVS 450) who study riparian and instream conditions in Widow White Creek, a tributary of the Lower Mad River in McKinleyville.
Baykeeper provides sampling equipment and guidance, along with experts at Pacific Watershed Associates, Redwood Community Action Agency, and Humboldt Fish Action Council.
Why Widow White Creek?
Widow White Creek has been impacted by urbanization of 25% of the watershed, as well as logging and low-density residential development in the upper watershed. It historically supported coho salmon, steelhead trout, cutthroat trout, three-spine stickleback, and sculpins, and thus is an important target for restoration. Citizen "First Flush" monitoring over several years has found extremely high levels of fecal coliform in the creek, particularly at monitoring sites near residential and commercial areas. The sources of the coliform bacteria are unknown.
Most of the Widow White Creek watershed lies within the unincorporated community of McKinleyville. The watershed has lost 33% of its timber and meadow areas compared to historic conditions.
By 2001, one-quarter of the watershed was classified as “dense urban” by Klein and Anderson. In their analysis on the effects of urbanization on flood frequency estimates for lower Widow White Creek, they found that the 2-year flood flow has increased 229% over pre-development conditions.