Jan 05, 2024

New Year, New Projects: Plans for 2024

Happy New Year from the Estuary Program! We have some exciting projects planned for 2024 that we are excited to share with you throughout the year. Here is a sneak peek at what we have in store for 2024. 


We will be expanding several existing monitoring projects in the new year:

Drought Monitoring

The Estuary Program uses continuous monitoring equipment to assess streamflow conditions (see March Field Updates blog). In the coming year, we will be working with Creek Lands Conservation to collect and analyze continuous streamflow data from sites throughout the watershed. This data will be crucial to assess whether our local creeks can support sensitive aquatic species year-round. 

Pesticide Monitoring

Last year, we began a seasonal effort to assess toxicity in the watershed (see June Field Updates blog). In 2024, we plan to conduct additional analyses on freshwater pesticide contamination. Results from this monitoring will help us understand and address potential risks to aquatic and human health. 

In 2023, staff collected water and sediment samples from three sites in the watershed for toxicity analysis.


Chorro Creek Invasive Species Mapping 

Invasive plant species within riparian habitats can negatively impact flooding, water quality, biodiversity, and in-stream habitat for fish and invertebrates. Within the Morro Bay watershed, there are at least 19 different invasive species ranked by the California Invasive Plant Council (Cal-IPC). Arundo sp. is found in limited areas of the watershed and is a top management priority. The MBNEP will be completing a comprehensive mapping of invasive plant species in Chorro Creek and adjoining tributaries this spring. The project will identify priority treatment areas for future management of Arundo sp. and other invasives. 

A stand of Arundo donax. U.S. Geological Survey photo by Forest and Kim Starr., Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Informing Fish Passage Improvements 

Tributaries to Chorro Creek in the Morro Bay watershed are home to the federally-listed South Central California Coast Steelhead. One of the limiting factors for steelhead is access to tributary systems for over-wintering juveniles. When water temperatures rise in Chorro Creek in the late-spring/early-summer, upstream movement of juveniles to suitable rearing areas with cool, well-oxygenated water is vital, especially given projected climate change impacts. This year, the MBNEP is working with partners to complete field and modeling data to inform two fish passage barriers that are a high priority for removal along San Luisito Creek. This planning effort will help select the best design approach to allow steelhead passage through this important tributary.  

The Adobe Road culvert on San Luisito Creek (a tributary of Chorro Creek) is a barrier to fish passage. While large adult fish can likely navigate this structure during high flows, smaller juvenile fish likely cannot make the jump under any flow conditions.

Education and Outreach 

We have some exciting Education and Outreach projects we are working on in 2024. Here are a few of them: 

Educator Workshops

We are excited to launch a series of three educator workshops this spring related to coastal ocean literacy, climate change and resilience, and stewardship applications. We invite classroom teachers and outdoor educators to sign up for the series to learn about these topics and their NGSS applications for your classrooms!  

Watershed Week with One Cool Earth

This year we are working with the environmental education organization, One Cool Earth, to implement a watershed focused week at over 25 schools throughout San Luis Obispo County. Watershed Week will include activities and curriculum that will help K-5 students learn about watersheds, their local environment, and more about watershed impacts on the Morro Bay estuary. We hope to inspire environmental stewardship for watersheds and the Morro Bay estuary through these lessons and activities. 

Cleanups and Science on Tap Events

In 2023, the Estuary Program brought back many community events that were paused. In 2024, we will continue efforts to bring you more opportunities to volunteer and learn about our watershed and estuary. This includes recurring cleanup events around Earth Day, Memorial Day weekend, July 4th weekend, and the annual ECOSLO Creeks to Coast Cleanup in September. We will also be continuing our Science on Tap with the Estuary Program series this year! Come see our staff, partners, and other local organizations give bite-sized talks about research and science in our area. Stay tuned for this quarterly series hosted at various locations throughout SLO County.

Our most recent Science on Tap event, hosted at Two Broads Ciderworks, focused on the topics of climate change and resilience.

Help us protect and restore the Morro Bay estuary!