Restoring Concrete Channels to Creeks

As in much of California and throughout the United States, Contra Costa County has a history of channelizing creeks as a means of maximizing space for development and providing flood protection for a growing population. Houses and businesses are now built up to the edge of these channels, but the channels are nearing the end of their service life, which raises the question: “what should be done about this aging infrastructure?” In 2009, Contra Costa County adopted the Fifty-Year Plan, which aims to restore creek corridors for multiple benefits that are reflective of a new set of values – including habitat for wildlife and green spaces for the public – in addition to flood protection.

Building from previous studies, such as an assessment of opportunities to implement the Fifty-year plan  (see report and atlas here) and guided by the Walnut Creek Watershed Council (WCWC), the Spring 2022 LA 205 Environmental Planning Studio set out to explore how to establish realistic guidelines on approaching a concrete channel conversion in a highly urbanized watershed, how to communicate the problem of  aging infrastructure to the general public, and how to center equity in the conversation of restoration in the Walnut Creek Watershed. The outcome of this studio was a series of maps and diagrams cataloguing the history of concrete channels in Walnut Creek, the risks posed by aging infrastructure, the potential paths forward to address aging infrastructure in the Walnut Creek Watershed, and specific methods by which this may be done. Along the way, the studio attempted to untangle – or at least communicate – the “wicked problem” of aging infrastructure in the Walnut Creek Watershed, and emphasize the importance of key partnerships, public outreach, and completion of small demonstration projects as steppingstones to success in the long run.

The visuals and presentations developed by the 2022 LA 205 Environmental Planning Studio can be found here:

If you are interested in knowing more about Restoring Concrete Channels to Creeks in Walnut Creek or beyond, please contact us. We are always looking for opportunities to continue the conversation and can gladly arrange for future presentations.