Protecting Water Quality in Urban Watersheds: Sacramento’s Morrison Creek

January 3rd, 2022

In the past month, the California Natural Resources Agency announced major steps in the State’s effort to equitably address climate change and stem biodiversity loss with the release of its Pathways to 30×30 and Outdoors For All Initiative. Essential to both efforts will be the protection and restoration of urban creeks and streams; work at the core of California Coastkeeper Alliance and its member organizations. As the  voice for clean water in Sacramento, California Coastkeeper Alliance is protecting water quality in local creeks and streams, including Morrison Creek, through enforcement and advocacy.

Creeks and streams are greenways through the concrete, asphalt, and steel that defines urban neighborhoods. Often overlooked, they provide essential habitat and migration corridors for salmon and steelhead, egrets and herons, raccoons and coyotes, and countless other members of the urban wildlife community. Perhaps most importantly, urban creeks serve as public parks and gathering places, and welcome relief from heat stress, in surrounding communities. Yet these same creeks suffer from degraded water quality caused by channelization, trash, pesticides and fertilizers, and municipal and industrial stormwater pollution.  

Morrison Creek originates in the Sierra foothills, passes through Rancho Cordova, and runs southwest for nearly twenty miles through South Sacramento. It once served as a vibrant riparian and aquatic habitat, as well as a fish migration route to and from the Sacramento River. Today, it is impaired by pollution and completely channelized as it passes through Sacramento, with almost all of its riparian habitat severely degraded. Yet it still serves as habitat for all forms of wildlife, and where accessible, provides the South Sacramento community with green space and a place to connect.

Since 2018 there has been a concerted effort to revitalize the creek, with projects planned to connected area parks and open spaces with restored riparian habitat and trails and pathways along the creek. To help protect Morrison Creek, CCKA is focusing its ongoing effort to bring industrial facilities into compliance with the law through coverage under the Industrial Stormwater Permit in the watershed. These efforts include direct enforcement against those facilities that do not file under the Permit, as well as advocacy before the State and Central Valley Regional Board (whose offices in Rancho Cordova are less than a mile from Morrison Creek) to prevent pollution by these facilities. CCKA is also suing the Sacramento Area Sewer District for illegal spills of raw sewage into local waterways, including Morrison Creek.

California Coastkeeper Alliance looks forward to continued engagement with community groups seeking to make Morrison Creek a centerpiece of the community, and with governmental entities responsible for protecting the creek and its resources. We also look forward to working with the Natural Resources Agency to ensure urban creeks and streams, including Morrison Creek, take their place as essential elements in achieving the state’s goal to conserve 30% of land and waters by 2030 while centering underserved communities and communities of color to ensure nature’s benefits for all Californians.

Categories: Enforcement, Happening Now, Stormwater