Rediscovered in 2002 by Jim and Matt Stoecker while conducting a habitat assessment of the Sisquoc River for the Coastal Conservancy, the remote and obsolete Horse Creek Dam was found to be a migration barrier to southern steelhead and other species in this northern Santa Barbara County watershed. The dam and accumulated sediment was assessed again in greater detail with Michael Love and Associates in 2005 and in coordination with the Los Padres National Forest and with funding from American Rivers/NOAA Fisheries and the California Department of Fish and Game.
In October 2006, a diverse group of stakeholders spent two days camping near the dam and preparing it with explosives that blew concrete sky high to open more than 19 miles of historic steelhead habitat and improve stream flows. This documentary was produced in coordination with Thomas B. Dunklin Productions and with funding from DFG. Post dam removal monitoring was conducted during the summer of 2007 where adequate fish passage conditions were observed at the former dam site, steelhead were observed in the Sisquoc River near the mouth of Horse Creek, and red-legged frogs, pond turtles, and riparian bird species were observed at the restored former dam site. Stoecker Ecological continues to study the natural restoration and evolution of the stream channel at the former reservoir site to document the rapid renewal of habitat and wildlife to Horse Creek.
Following detailed studies of the dam, accumulated sediment, hydrology, and biological characteristics of the stream a collaborative working group of project stakeholders identified several alternatives for removing the dam. The group ultimately agreed that the remote and relatively small Horse Creek Dam offered a unique opportunity for using explosives to effectively remove the dam with minimal disturbance to the surrounding area and downstream environment and with minimal funding. All studies and removal of the dam was accomplished with less than $50,000 in grants and with in-kind contributions from project stakeholders.
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