A Volunteer Effort: The 2014 Riverwalk


Santa Ana Sucker Fish Photo Credit: Brett Mills

The Santa Ana River Watershed includes a mixture of urban, suburban and rural populations of people that border the Pacific Ocean, small creeks and the region’s central waterway, the Santa Ana River. The municipal agencies and districts that provide water to these people have partnered with regulatory agencies, conservation organizations and other entities to conduct an annual fish habitat survey within the Santa Ana River with a focus on one of the region’s federally listed endemic aquatic species, the Santa Ana sucker, Catostomus santaanae. Since April, 2000, the fish has been listed as “threatened” by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).

This collaborative survey conducted by the Santa Ana Sucker Conservation Team (Team), known as the Riverwalk, has been underway since 2006, when the first group of Team staff, local volunteers, and the USFWS and California Department of Fish and Wildlife staff volunteered their time and resources to document the quality of the Sucker’s primary habitat in the Santa Ana River Watershed.


About the Santa Ana Sucker

The Santa Ana sucker is primarily a bottom feeder so a river bottom with a mixture of sand, gravel and cobble is ideal for the algae that the fish feeds on. Spawning can also take place over gravel and cobble riffles.Open stream reaches with shifting sandy substrates are typically less suitable for algae, and hence, less suitable as habitat for Santa Ana suckers.

Data from the 2014 Riverwalk

The data from the 2014 survey has been compiled and an atlas documenting the quality of habitat over time is now available. Data is collected at the same point each year, with each point labeled with a designating number (9 through 118). Poor quality habitat is substrate where less than 30% of the data point’s river bottom is gravel/cobble, marginal habitat is where 30%-65% of the data point’s river bottom is gravel/cobble, and excellent habitat is where 65% or more of the data point’s river bottom is gravel/cobble. In comparison to the 2013 Riverwalk, the quality of fish habitat that existed downstream of Mission Blvd has degraded over time, while the quality of the habitat near Riverside Avenue in San Bernardino County has improved somewhat.

The Santa Ana Sucker Conservation Team

The Santa Ana Sucker Conservation Team, administered by the Santa Ana Watershed Project Authority, conducts the Riverwalk each year. The Team uses the data collected from the Riverwalk to evaluate the condition of the fish habitat. Various projects and studies aimed at recovering the Santa Ana sucker are funded by the Santa Ana Sucker Conservation Team member agencies, which include Orange County Water District, the City of Riverside and San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District.

A Volunteer Effort

Thanks to all the volunteers who came out on October 16, 2014 to make the 2014 Riverwalk possible. If you want to learn more about the Santa Ana sucker, the work going into its recovery and meet staff and other volunteers involved in the world of water and natural resources management, we encourage you to participate in the 2015 Riverwalk. Please stay tuned this fall for an announcement of the event’s date. If you have any questions, contact Ian Achimore at iachimore@sawpa.org.

SA Riverwalk 2014_cropped

2014 Riverwalk Volunteers