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ARCATA FWO: Culverts and Tidegates-Arcata Field Office Helps Locals Manage the Health of Humboldt Bay
California-Nevada Offices , May 19, 2008
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Water control structures like culverts and tidegates appear as dots as shown on this map of the uppermost reaches of Humboldt Bay, California. Users can click on the dots to obtain specific information about a particular water structure.

Photo Credit:  USFWS-Arcata Field Office
Water control structures like culverts and tidegates appear as dots as shown on this map of the uppermost reaches of Humboldt Bay, California. Users can click on the dots to obtain specific information about a particular water structure. Photo Credit: USFWS-Arcata Field Office - Photo Credit: n/a
The Arcata Field Office, and other local and state partners, obtained location and information for 371 individual water control structures like these two culverts. Some of these structures were in existing databases, but approximately half of them were previously unrecorded. The database includes photographs for 165 structures, which further enhances the descriptive information provided

Photo Credit: USFWS Arcata Field Office
The Arcata Field Office, and other local and state partners, obtained location and information for 371 individual water control structures like these two culverts. Some of these structures were in existing databases, but approximately half of them were previously unrecorded. The database includes photographs for 165 structures, which further enhances the descriptive information provided Photo Credit: USFWS Arcata Field Office - Photo Credit: n/a
Arcata Field Office Fisheries Biologist Nick Simpson measures the height of the tidegate opening. These structures were never previously recorded or plotted on a map, but today they are available online in a GIS database thanks to the work of local partners and the Arata Field Office.  

Credit: USFWS Arcata Field Office
Arcata Field Office Fisheries Biologist Nick Simpson measures the height of the tidegate opening. These structures were never previously recorded or plotted on a map, but today they are available online in a GIS database thanks to the work of local partners and the Arata Field Office. Credit: USFWS Arcata Field Office - Photo Credit: n/a

Matt Baun, Arcata Field Office  

Travel the lowlands of Humboldt Bay and its surroundings in northern California and you will take in the many splendors nature has to offer.   However, there are scenes around the bay that often go un noticed because they are so ordinary and common. Take, for example, culverts —those oft neglected but ever-present fixtures of both rural and urban landscapes. 

 

For most people, these objects rarely evoke a second thought.  But for the Arcata Field Office of the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service culverts, tidegates and other structures are of considerable interest because they play a critical role in estuarine health.

 

There are scores upon scores of these structures around Humboldt Bay.  The problem was that nobody at any level of government – or anywhere else for that matter – knew the locations or the condition of these structures.   

 

The Arcata Field Office joined with state and local partners to plot this information on a map so that it can be accessible to managers and other interested parties. The objective was to develop a GIS database containing spatial data for all tidegates, culverts, and other water control structures in the area.

 

“Knowing the location and status of these structures is vitally important and it helps the community gain a better understanding of hydrology in tidal areas at the landscape scale,” said Paula Golightly, Habitat Restoration Supervisor and Fish and Wildlife Biologist at the Arcata Field Office.

 

“This information will help agencies, landowners and others with planning of conservation projects, public works projects, and other efforts where understanding water flow issues are important for making land management decisions,” added Golightly.

 

An example of how this data will help managers and landowners is illustrated by the potential for an at-sea oil spill or some other source of environmental contamination in the ocean near the bay.

 

During tides, oil could flow into the bay and then inland through tidegates and culverts – potentially causing even more damage to public and environmental health.  Under such a scenario, officials and land managers are now able to use this information to quickly mobilize a coordinated response that could mitigate and lessen the damage to public health and the environment.   

 

“Previous efforts to collect information about water control structures comprehensively for Humboldt Bay resulted in a limited range of data collection and, at the time, GIS capabilities were not as advanced as they are now,” said Greg Goldsmith, the GIS Supervisor and Fish and Wildlife Biologist for the Arcata Field Office.

 

Goldsmith also noted that the community felt that obtaining this information was important for the development of a strategic approach to estuarine restoration, and that it would help improve management strategies for operation, replacement, or modification of the structures where needed.  

 

The U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Arcata Field Office provided more than $20,000 of in kind support lending its resources, technical expertise, time and energy to ensure the successful completion of this project.  California Department of Fish and Game and the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District provided the core funding for the project.

 

Today, there is no longer a data gap thanks to the work of the Arcata Field Office and its partners, including some local landowners who volunteered information about water structures on their land in association with ongoing habitat restoration projects.

 

Information about the location, shape and conditions of these water control structures are available on-line at the California Department of Fish and Game’s “CalFish” Internet map server website . To visit the database, go to:

http://imaps.dfg.ca.gov/viewers/calfish/app.htm?zoomtoBookmark=1065


Contact Info: Scott Flaherty, , Scott_Flaherty@fws.gov



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