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In November of 2003, a crew from the Sonoma County Water Agency cleared out trees, bushes and vegetation from a 300-yard section of the creek where members of the Casa Grande High School United Anglers program had worked for more than 20 years to restore the creek as a habitat for steelhead trout.

The incident prompted a six-page grand jury report, ?Adobe Creek Debacle and Restoration,? and a misdemeanor charge against the SCWA. The agency reached a settlement in September of 2004 when a Sonoma County Superior Court commissioner agreed to dismiss the charge if the SCWA took corrective actions.

The SCWA then contracted with the Southern Sonoma County Resource Conservation District to take a long-term approach to handling flood control along the stretch.

Recently, after four years of planning, meetings and permits, most of the restoration of the creek has been completed.

?The goal of our project was twofold: to address the needs of flood control and to help save an endangered salmon species,? said Jason Sweeney, watershed coordinator for the resource district and manager of the project.

?Our project focused on balancing these somewhat competing needs and to also support the ongoing work of the United Anglers,? he said.

The section of the creek that was improved runs through an eastside neighborhood near Sartori Drive and Del Oro Park. More sediment tends to drop into this channelized section than in the natural part of the creek, Sweeney said.

?It?s been a long haul,? he said, ?and the creek has gone through a lot of changes since we started. But the channel is evolving nicely.?

The long process included permits from the Army Corps of Engineers and the National Marine Fisheries Service, funding from the Zone 2A Flood Advisory Committee and an environmental review to meet California Environ-mental Quality Act standards.

Sweeney also held meetings with neighbors, city parks and water officials, the city?s Tree Advisory Committee, United Anglers director Tom Furrer and other interested parties.

Sweeney and his crews removed non-native plants and trees and replaced them with maples, oaks, box elders, buckeyes and alders ? ?mostly water-loving plants that will get tall, not bushy,? he said. Most of the trees were grown at the Casa Grande native plant nursery, managed by teacher John Shribbs and supported by volunteers and students.

?The planted trees will increase canopy cover that will reduce summer water temperatures and restore diversity and balance to the existing vegetation,? Sweeney said. ?The work will also improve bird habitat and overall ecosystem health.?

Now Sweeney?s biggest worry is people who, either unknowingly or intentionally, might damage the careful efforts to restore the creek.

He sent out a postcard last month to neighborhood residents to inform them of the purpose of the project and ask them not to disturb the plants. After first planting 80 seedlings in 2006 and hand-watering them through the summer, a number of them disappeared, he said. ?One of our bank repairs was vandalized, too,? he said.

Mark Ferguson, a parks and recreation commissioner whose house backs up to the creek, said he and fellow neighbors have participated in an outreach to Furrer, the SCWA and the city police and water departments to address the problems along the creek.

?We?ve had some negative activity like littering and graffiti,? Ferguson said. ?The police have been working with us to patrol the area and we have a lot more eyes on the creek now. We still get some graffiti, but it has gotten a lot better.?

An e-mail system has been set up for residents to communicate about creek issues, he added. ?Between all the agencies and neighbors, everybody is working together to make the area a better and safer place,? he said.

(Contact Chris Samson at chris.samson@arguscourier.com)