Aysha Massell

Creek life

Restoring a campus landmark

November 1, 2013 by Daniel McGlynn
This article appeared in Berkeley Engineer magazine, Fall 2013

Map of Strawberry Creek and project areaLast fall, Aysha Massell was playing with her kids along the confluence of Strawberry Creek’s north and south forks, at the edge of the eucalyptus grove that borders the western entrance to campus. Massell, a returning student pursuing her master’s degree in environmental engineering, noticed that the north fork of the creek was incising its bed. A check dam, which was installed decades earlier to control erosion, had collapsed, resulting in the
creek turning into a ravine-like drainage ditch. Another upstream check dam looked likely to blow during the next high flow event, probably pulling with it a large native buckeye tree perched on the bank and further incising the stream bed up the channel.

Massell decided to do something to help stabilize the creek and improve riparian habitat. Working with CEE professor Kara Nelson, Massell obtained a grant from the campus-based Green Initiative Fund, and founded the Strawberry Creek Ecological Stabilization Project. The goal was to design a grade control system that would reduce erosion, improve fish habitat and provide safe user access.

Diagram of step pool profile1: Technical

With guidance from an engineering firm, the team conducted a topographic survey and geomorphic assessment of the area around the confluence. Using the data, the team modeled the impacts of restoration work using AutoCAD and HEC-RAS software

Diagram of overall creek stabilization project2: Design

After modeling the desired outcomes of erosion control, riparian habitat improvement and enhanced accessibility, the team came up with a design for this portion of the creek that includes two rock step pools, a log weir and graded banks planted with native species.

3: Education

The project team conducted outreach to inform the campus and wider community about urban creek ecology. They also promoted the use of the project site as an outdoor laboratory.

4: Implementation

With the design completed and permits obtained, the team now aims to raise $70,000 to complete the construction. For more information, visit ecostabilization.wordpress.com.

Update: The Strawberry Creek Ecological Stabilization Project began restoration work in October 2014.