Video by Victor Tieu

Stabilizing Strawberry Creek

At the end of October, a temporary fence surrounding large rock piles and heavy equipment at the confluence of two branches of Strawberry Creek signaled that the plans made by the Strawberry Creek Ecological Stabilization Project, a student group formed to design a better erosion control system along the campus creek, are coming to fruition.            

The group was founded in 2012 by Aysha Massell, featured in last fall’s Berkeley Engineer, who has since finished up her master’s degree in environmental engineering and continues to manage the project.

“Once I understood that this project needed to be spearheaded by someone, I applied for a grant from the Green Initiative Fund, funded and organized by students on campus,” Massell says.  

With the funding, Massell assembled an interdisciplinary team and launched the project, including students in the College of Environmental Design and environmental science. “We combined our strengths and disciplines on this project,” she says.

For more than a year, the team worked with Scott Stoller (M.S.’03 CEE), from the environmental engineering firm ESA PWA, in all aspects of creek restoration design. “The design process involved looking at the creek system and hydrology, modeling the hydraulics and estimating velocities and sheer stress,” says Stoller. “With that information, we looked at what size of rock with what kind of rock structure would withstand the anticipated forces.”

“The Strawberry Creek Ecological Stabilization Project is a grade-control project, so that the stream does not keep incising into its bed. We wanted to improve on past engineering practices and actually take the ecology of the area into account,” Massell says.

“We’re moving two failed concrete check dams and installing analogous rock-step pool structures,” says Stoller. “These structures will be flexible, able to adjust to the environment and provide a pool habitat for some of the species that reside in the creek.

“Ideally, this project is the beginning of many improvements we can make to Strawberry Creek,” says Massell.