History

From the early settlements of the 1770s, the upper reaches of the creek were tapped for water supply and lower Strawberry Creek became a sewage conveyance system that was partially culverted and channelized, disrupting natural flow regimes and damaging aquatic and riparian habitat. By the 1900s, the creek had been altered dramatically from pre-disturbance conditions with degraded habitat, altered hydrologic regime, and chronic pollution problems. In 1952 East Bay Municipal Utilities District (EBMUD) built a sewage treatment plant and the majority of the campus’ sanitary sewer drains were re-routed to this facility. However, not all the drains were re-routed to the EBMUD plant and by 1987, water quality and health of the ecosystem were highly degraded and the creek was considered a public health risk. In 1987 the UC Berkeley’s Office of Environment, Health and Safety (EH&S) created the Strawberry Creek Management Plan (SCMP) which served as a consolidated effort to identify the specific sources of pollution and disturbance, ameliorate the problems, and restore the natural habitat of the riparian area.

The plan also led to rapid rerouting of pipes draining non-stormwater discharges to the creek. Corrective actions were prioritized, with high risk connections, including toilets and laboratory sink drains, addressed first and sources posing less significant risks—such as cooling tower drains—addressed secondarily. Today there are no known connections between the sanitary sewer system and Strawberry Creek.

Implementation of the 1987 SCMP from 1987 through 2004 led to greatly improved overall water quality conditions, enhanced ecological integrity as measured by biological criteria (macroinvertebrates and fish), increased environmental education for students and the campus public. Despite the occasional setbacks that an urban creek encounters, such as sewage overflows and water main breaks, Strawberry Creek is a thriving ecosystem due to the ongoing restorations efforts.

PRE-1700'S - HUCHIUN PEOPLE LIVE IN THE EAST BAY

The East Bay Area is a large marshlands below vast grasslands and oak forests in the hills. The 10,000+ Huchiun (Ohlone) people who live in the area harvest acorns and seeds and hunt game including elk, deer, pronghorn antelope, birds, fish and shellfish.

1772 - EXPEDITION OF FAGES

Spanish Lieutenant Pedro Fages explores Strawberry Creek and the Berkeley hills.

1776 - DEANZA & SETTLEMENT

Spanish Lieutenant Juan Bautista de Anza establishes a presidio (military fort) on the tip of the San Francisco peninsula.

LATE 1700'S TO EARLY 1900'S - CATTLE AND HORSE GRAZING

The East Bay hills are used as grazing land for livestock, significantly changing the landscape.

1790-1802 - HUCHIUN TO MISSION DELORES

Epidemics of disease sweep through East Bay Huchiun villages. Many survivors relocate to Mission Delores in San Francisco.

1820 - RANCHO SAN ANTONIO

Rancho San Antonio - a land grant issued to Don Luis Maria Peralta - encompasses what is now known as San Leandro, Oakland, Alameda, Emeryville, Piedmont, Berkeley and Albany.

1849 - GOLD RUSH PERIOD

Squatters settle on Peralta land.

1850 - CALIFORNIA STATEHOOD

California became the 31st state on September 9, 1850.

1867 - WATERWORKS ARE CONSTRUCTED IN STRAWBERRY CANYON

Springs in the hills are developed to capture and convey water via wooden flumes.

1868 - UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA IS ESTABLISHED IN BERKELEY

“All the other striking advantages of this location could not make it a place fit to be chosen as the College Home without this water. With it every excellence is of double value.” (Willey, 1887)

1882 - FIRST CHECK DAMS INSTALLED

Runoff increases with development in the hills, leading to severe erosion downstream. Five check dams are installed to stop erosion and incision of the stream bed.

1890'S - STRAWBERRY CREEK IS USED AS AN OPEN SEWER SYSTEM

Locals complain of the “...unsightly appearance of sewer-begrimed water and filthily discolored banks” (Berkeleyan, 1895)

1900'S - URBANIZATION OF THE WATERSHED

Urbanization of the watershed accelerates, with extensive road building, channelization, and culverting of the creek.The creek changes dramatically from its natural state into conditions marked by degraded habitat, altered hydrologic regime, and chronic pollution problems.

1923 - MEMORIAL STADIUM BUILT

California Memorial Stadium is built directly over the south fork of Strawberry Creek, obliterating waterfalls that once cascaded down the toe of the hillslope. The "Little Inch" bypass culvert now conveys the creek under the stadium. This picture shows the hydraulic monitor used to excavate the site.

1930'S - CITY OF BERKELEY CULVERTS THE CREEK

Public health and flooding concerns prompt culverting of most open reaches of the creek in the City of Berkeley.

1951 - BIG INCH CULVERT IS CONSTRUCTED

The "Big Inch" bypass culvert is installed because of possible failure of the Little Inch bypass due to cracks from the stress caused by the Hayward fault zone.

1952 - EBMUD SEWAGE TREATMENT PLANT BUILT

The East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) builds a sewage treatment plant and the majority of the campus sanitary sewer drains are re-routed to this facility.

1962 - THE STRAWBERRY CREEK FLOOD OF 1962

Strawberry Creek floods due to eleven inches of rain on the second week of October 1962. The rain causes an estimated $100,000 damage to University property.

1966 - DETENTION DAM BUILT IN UPPER WATERSHED

The Big Inch culvert is extended to an earthen detention dam built in the canyon at the entrance to the Lower Fire Trail. This structure is built as an attempt at flood control.

1970'S AND 1980'S - HEALTH ADVISORIES ISSUED

The City of Berkeley advises against direct contact with Strawberry Creek because of sewage and chemical contamination. Coliform spikes > 500,000/100 ml

1987 - STRAWBERRY CREEK MANAGEMENT PLAN

UC Berkeley graduate student Robert Charbonneau writes the Strawberry Creek Management Plan. The Strawberry Creek Restoration Program is established and managed by UC Berkeley's Office of Environment, Health and Safety.

1988 - FIRST FISH IN OVER A CENTURY REINTRODUCED INTO THE CREEK

The Strawberry Creek Environmental Quality Committee reintroduces three native fish species - Three-spined stickleback, the Sacramento sucker, and the California roach minnow. These fish still live in the creek today.

1999 - REDWOOD CRIBWALL BUILT

This redwood retaining wall is just east of the Stephens Hall Bridge. It provides an effective solution to bank stabilization and protection while also providing habitat for native plant and animal species.

2008 - NATIVE PLANT NURSERY BUILT

The Green Initiative Fund gives money to construct a native plant nursery on the west side of Giannini Hall. Students working with the Strawberry Creek Restoration Program propagate native plants for seeds, cuttings and donations,which are then planted in the natural areas on campus.

2011 - STRAWBERRY CREEK RESTORATION DECAL BEGINS

The DeCal class educates ~20 students each semester on restoration techniques and creek history.

2014 - STRAWBERRY CREEK ECOLOGICAL STABILIZATION PROJECT

Failed check dams are removed and replaced with ecologically engineered structures (rock step pools and a log weir). Banks are graded to a stable slope and planted with native vegetation.