Kevin L. Hoover
JANES CREEK –One of Arcata’s premier waterways has had something stuck in its throat for decades, and at long last, it has been cleared.
For weeks, two teams of California Conservation Corps members have been working its way north along Janes Creek from State Route 255 to 11th Street, doing the exhausting hand labor of removing three-quarters of a mile of invasive Reed canarygrass (Phalaris arundinacea). The plant has infested the creek bed.
Impressive as the accomplishment is, it’s just the initial step in habitat restoration. The work prepares the creek for replanting of streamside foliage which will grow up and over the creek, “shading out” the grass.
The City is able to do the work along stretches of the creek that it owns, but is seeking private property owners along Janes Creek who would like to participate in the invasive canary grass removal.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is funding this project with two $173,000 grants, while the CCCs provide labor.
The tenacious reed canarygrass is well established along the creek. The portion of the creek visible from 11th Street is typical of the habitat-ruining infestation. That area is so dense with the plant that it obscured the dead body of Jeremiah Holland Jones, who fled from Arcata Police on Feb. 12 for more than a month, despite busy Northcoast Preparatory Academy holding classes right next door at the Arcata United Methodist Church. Jones’ body was finally discovered May 17.
Another big help to lower Janes Creek will come when the old tide gates are removed from its mouth sometime next year. That will allow tidal waters from Arcata Bay to flush the lower reaches of the creek, scour out silt and let salmonids re-enter the waterway.
The tenacious reed canarygrass is extremely difficult to pull out by hand, so the resourceful CCCs invented and built a new tool to expedite removal. A giant, claw-like set of tongs made of rebar is positioned over the plant’s pre-loosened root ball, and wth two CCCs standing on it, the massive clump is winched out of the creek.
Eventually, native trees such as alder, willow and sitka spruce will be planted in the riparian zone, along with native shrubs.
“It’s a work in progress,” said Julie Neander, City environmental programs manager.