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Fish Passage Barrier Removal at Deep Cliff Golf Course in Cupertino

The Friends of Stevens Creek Trail has created a partnership with the cities of Mountain View, Cupertino, Sunnyvale and Los Altos, as well as the County of Santa Clara, Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District and Deep Cliff Golf Course. Together we provided matching funding to qualify for a grant from Valley Water for implementing a Stevens Creek Steelhead Passage Improvement Project. The plan is to remove a low water vehicle crossing that creates a passage barrier for juvenile steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss), a federally listed threatened species. The barrier is located one mile downstream of Stevens Creek Reservoir, in the Deep Cliff Golf Course in Cupertino.

Stevens Creek supports a population of federally listed steelhead. Below the Stevens Creek Reservoir the creek is a designated critical habitat for Central California Coast steelhead. According to studies, regional steelhead populations have declined to an estimated 10% of their historical abundance and steelhead in Bay Area streams are at continued risk of extinction due to multiple factors including impassable dams, large drop structures, flat bottom culverts, urbanization, reduced flows and degraded water quality.

Oncorhynchus mykiss
Steelhead / Rainbow Trout

Progress & Updates

The preliminary design (“35% Basis of Design”) for the Fish Passage Project was completed on schedule in January 2021.

Before construction can begin, we need regulatory approval from: the SF Regional Water Quality Control Board, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Army Corps of Engineers, Valley Water and the National Marine and Fisheries Service.

May 2021

Valley Water have filed their CEQA Exemption notice with Santa Clara County, clearing a major regulatory hurdle for this project. We have filed our Notice of Intent and 100% Basis of Design documents with the San Francisco Regional Water Quality Control Board which is the next step in the approval process. We also recently completed a Historical Properties Survey Report that concluded that our project would not impact any Native American sites, a precondition for approval from the Army Corps of Engineers. We are now much closer to our goal of beginning construction late this summer.

SCT Steelhead Information Board

Transcript of the text:
Sit by a river. Find peace and meaning in the rhythm of the lifeblood of the Earth.- Anonymous

Unique Species

The steelhead trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) that make Stevens Creek their home are known as Central California Coast Steelhead Trout. This distinct population segment of steelhead was designated as threatened in 1997 under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. In 2005, Stevens Creek was designated as critical habitat for this steelhead. Critical habitat is a geographic area that is essential to the conservation of a threatened or endangered species and requires special management and protection.

Steelhead Trout Information Board


Lifecycle image text

Egg: Steelhead lay eggs in gravel nests called redds.
Parr: A juvenile steelhead trout in freshwater.
Smolt: A juvenile steelhead migrating to the ocean.
Adult: A mature ocean-going steelhead.

Steelhead Lifecycle
(click to view larger)

Life History

As members of the salmon family, steelhead are anadromous, meaning they are born in freshwater, spend most of their life in the sea and return to freshwater to spawn. Unlike salmon, steelhead can spawn more than one time. The life history of the steelhead trout varies more than that of any other anadromous fish regarding the lengths of time spent at sea and in freshwater habitats.

Steelhead trout are able to adapt to varying environmental conditions. They spawn in fast-flowing, well-oxygenated, gravel-bed rivers and streams. Those remaining in the freshwater their entire lives are called rainbow trout. The fish that migrate to the open ocean are called steelhead. Adult steelhead return to their place of hatching (natal stream) to spawn.

Steelhead can live to be ten years old. Males mature at two years and females at three. They typically spend up to two years in freshwater before migrating as smolts to the open ocean through San Francisco Bay. They remain at sea for one to three years before returning to spawn in the fall.

Wood Ducks (Aix sponsa) nest along local streams within dense riparian forests. They are one of the few duck species equipped with strong claws that can grip bark and perch on branches. They nest in the cavities of large, old trees and will readily take to nest boxes. The ducklings climb out of the tree cavity using their clawed feet.

Habitat Restoration

Restoration of Stevens Creek and the surrounding riparian habitat includes removal of structures that are barriers to fish migration and movement, expansion and enhancement of the native habitat, removal of non-native plant species, improved water releases from Stevens Creek reservoir and efforts to reduce pollutants from entering the creek through storm drains. In the future, we hope Stevens Creek will provide the habitat necessary for supporting an abundant steelhead population.

Board Location

This information sign is located between El Camino Real to the North and Sleeper Ave. to the South.
Look for this sign along the west side / creek side of the trail where the trail and fence are close to the creek.
Closest entry: Sleeper Ave.
Show on Google map or in Google Street View.