Mad River Union
McKINLEYVILLE – The county’s Planning Commission has approved permitting for an “ambitious project” restoring salmonid habitat and creating new river access in a wetland area owned and managed by the McKinleyville Community Services District (MCSD).
Approved without discussion as part of the commission’s November 19 consent agenda, the project will improve and increase salmonid habitat in the Mad River watershed and create access to a river overlook.
The project area is located in McKinleyville, on Fischer Avenue near the intersection of Fischer Avenue and at the western segment of School Road from Ocean Drive to Verwer Avenue.
The habitat restoration includes removal of 4.25 acres of percolation ponds to “restore a more natural connection to the Mad River,” according to a written staff report. Two acres of new wetlands will be created within the pond infrastructure footprint along with 1.4 new acres of open water for “off-channel rearing refugia habitat for salmonids.”
Also part of the project is creation of a 1,775 foot channel connecting the river to the pond area to allow juvenile fish access. Reconnection of the river to the project area’s floodplain will create off-channel habitat.
The project’s trail development establishes access to a Mad River overlook off the existing paved School Road pathway. There will also be a trail from the overlook to a river access area.
There will be parking access via five additional parallel parking spots along School Road and an ADA-reserved spot. A vehicle turnaround will also be developed.
The project has been in planning stages since 2012 and is supported by a variety of state and federal grants sponsored by California Trout. The MCSD also gained a Habitat Conservation Fund grant for the project’s design.
The MCSD collaborated with several non-government organizations, the Wiyot tribe and state and federal environmental agencies. The district and the county also worked with property owners to “fashion a suite of road modifications to lessen the impact to the neighborhood,” according to the written report.
“This ambitious project will enhance valuable fish and wildlife habitat as well as enhance public access and recreation opportunities while preserving open space,” the report states.