Archive for the ‘oakland water’ Category

Oakland’s droughtproof lake

5 September 2014

I’ve been walking around town a lot this year, and our perennial streams still have running water even in the third year of severe drought. If we still had any natural lakes, I think they’d be suffering, just like our reservoirs. But we don’t. Whatever else happens, we have Lake Merritt.

lakemerritt

Lake Merritt isn’t like other lakes: it’s an arm of the Bay. So let’s relish our luck and make the most of our inexhaustible, droughtproof “lake.”

Mine creek at Twitter Court

17 August 2014

I’ve shown you the ugly orange streambed just below the old McDonell pyrite mine. Farther downstream, the creek (which I’ll name Mine creek) emerges from private backyards next to Mountain Boulevard at Twitter Court.

mine-creek-at-twitter

It’s still pretty orange here, from extremely small (colloidal) particles of iron oxide minerals that form as the acid drainage from the mine is neutralized. The creek enters a culvert here and disappears. Somewhere under the Warren Freeway, it joins Lion Creek on its way to the bay. Lion Creek appears next as Lake Aliso on the Mills College campus, and unless the lakebed is all orange too, the pollution has been fully neutralized by that point. As I’ve said before, the pollution looks awful, but without chemical tests we can’t tell if it’s poisonous. Iron oxides by themselves are not a great hazard.

Courtland Creek cut

19 July 2014

Courtland Creek runs just south of High Street; presumably the valley was a footpath long before High Street was laid out in the 1800s. It has the peculiarity of crossing the old alluvial fan without cutting out a floodplain, as shown here in the geologic map.

courtlandcreekgeo

I visited it a few weeks ago. As you go upstream along Courtland Avenue, this dirt road appears. Dirt roads are always interesting in this city.

courtlandcreekrow

It’s the old right of way for the Key Route line, and it leads to Courtland Creek Park, a cool streamside strip with some understated concrete work meant to evoke the history of the area. At one point there’s some unusually elaborate rockwork leading down to the creek itself.

courtlandcreekrockwork

Farther upsteam, too, is a cut into the side of the Maxwell Park hill; this view is looking back west.

courtlandcreekwall

And at the upper end of the park is one of those excellent mosaic trashcans that make this city so special.

courtlandcreekcan

As I’ve mentioned before, the topography of this part of Oakland, in the Allendale flat, suggests to me that the drainage has switched between streams at various times. It will be fun to poke around here some more.

Casting pond, upper Lion Creek

26 June 2014

One of Oakland’s most beautiful places is tucked in the woods next to the Warren Freeway at Carson Street: the casting pond complex of McCrea Memorial Park, along Lion Creek. Entering the park took my breath away the first time I visited.

castingponds

Lion Creek leaves the grounds of Holy Names University and runs in a steep gorge behind Elinora Avenue, evading the freeway for a short stretch that includes the park. Horseshoe Creek joins it at the south end, and the combined stream enters a culvert beneath the freeway running to the Mills College campus.

This part of the streambed is highly engineered. The 1947 topo map shows an ordinary stream valley here with an intermittent stream indicated, so the wide glade for the ponds was built and the stream shunted aside. Farther downstream are some empty ponds whose purpose I don’t know; perhaps one of you does.

lion-creek-at-mccrea-park

The woods have made the area their own. This was once part of Leona Heights Park, which was cut in half by the freeway, and a pedestrian bridge that may be Oakland’s least-used one connects the two sides.

Lion Creek restoration

5 June 2014

Down at the mouth of Lion Creek, at what most of us still think of as Coliseum Gardens, the authorities have undone a bit of historic damage to the habitat. A rehabilitation project dug a new channel next to the existing culvert and installed water gates at both ends to manage the flow—brackish tidal water at the Bay end and floodwater at the hill end. After four years, it’s looking the way it was intended. Here’s the view downstream from the Lion Way overcrossing, with the Coliseum in back and the Lion Creek Crossings community all around.

coli-gardens-creek

Here’s the map view. The airphoto is kinda old, but it shows you the plan.

coli-gardens-map

The ground where I was standing is mapped at about 8 feet elevation. The other end of the park is approximately where the historic coastal marsh started, so they’re doing the right thing for this location. The culvert is still there to handle floods, but a real creek bed evolves to coexist with floods. So what we have now is sort of a zoo creek. I’ll take it over what was there before.

Cost estimates vary from $4 to $5 million to create this acre and a half of habitat. Looked at another way, that’s what it costs to lose a plain old natural creek bed, doing what it does best.

More from the City of Oakland

Alameda County calls it a “natural channel”

Alameda County Flood Control district calls it “a natural bypass creek”

Arroyo Viejo emerges

13 April 2014

Quietly, at the edge of the Coliseum station parking lot, Arroyo Viejo comes out of hiding from beneath Hegenberger Expressway. It runs under the walkway to the Coliseum and joins Lion Creek just short of the bay.

arroyoviejomouth

Even in its coffinlike culvert, the stream wants to curve, laying a gravelly point bar on its left bank and trying in vain to erode the angle of the culvert’s course into a nice meander. Sorry, old creek.

People’s Water Company

16 September 2013

This caught my eye by the side of Merriewood Road: an artifact of the early infrastructure in the Oakland hills.

peopleswater

It wasn’t until I checked just now that I realized how old this must be: The People’s Water Company was founded in 1906 and went bankrupt eight years later. At this time Oakland and the East Bay were seriously hampered by the limits of the local water supply, but somehow they ran pipes up here and got water to them, for a while.

Seems like a museum should have this. But the Oakland Museum of California is not a museum of Oakland, and the Camron-Stanford House, which started out as the city museum, is just a Victorian costume home. Who collects historic artifacts for the city of Oakland?


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