San Jose

Years Of Clearing Trash From South Bay Creeks Pays Off: Salmon Return

Years of tireless work by hundreds of volunteers appears to be paying off in the South Bay with the return of salmon to locations that had not seen their presence in years.

"It's the cherry on top of the sundae," Steve Holmes, Founder and Executive Director of South Bay Clean Creeks Coalition, said. " All the work by our army, this is what we wanted to see."

Holmes, a San Jose businessman, started SBCCC (originally Friends of Los Gatos Creek) in 2013.

Holmes had watched a video online of a salmon struggling and eventually failing, to swim up Los Gatos Creek. Holmes, an avid outdoorsman, did some research and discovered that the trash-filled condition of the creeks made it difficult for salmon to reach spawning grounds upstream.

The more Holmes learned, the more determined he became to do something to clean up the waterways.

Over the past six years, Holmes has organized work parties filled with volunteers who have collected 200 tons of garbage from the creek beds. His hope all along was that wildlife would return to creeks once the trash was removed.

A few weeks ago, Holmes got his wish.

"There were probably two dozen fish who spawned in this area," Holmes said pointing to a section of Los Gatos Creek in Campbell alongside Interstate 880 where SBCCC had done ten previous clean up operations.

"This the payback. Cleaning these areas to the point that fish could come here and actually spawn was the goal from the beginning."

Holmes posted the good news on Facebook in December offering to lead a tour to the spawning site. More than 100 people showed up.

While the return of the salmon to this section of Los Gatos Creek is good news to Holmes it, by no means, signals the end of his mission. To him, it is simply fuel to keep up the hard work. "I think of it as running a marathon," Holmes said.

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