Helping Nature Store Our Water

Plunge Creek Conservation Project

Plunge Creek Project recharges groundwater and creates a new home for the kangaroo rat and other native species

The San Bernardino kangaroo rat and the Santa Ana River woolly star thrive in areas with frequent flooding. But decades of mining -- and the construction of ditches, pipeline crossings, levees and a bridge -- had cut off water flow and made their environment unlivable.

With generous funding from the California Department of Water Resources; Proposition 84 grant program administered by the Santa Ana Watershed Project Authority, San Bernardino Valley Water Conservation District has built the multi-benefit Plunge Creek Conservation Project to restore this environment: a move designed to save the local population of kangaroo rats while increasing groundwater recharge in accordance with the District’s mission.

In a first for Southern California, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife awarded a Safe Harbor Agreement to the SBVWCD to temporarily remove the kangaroo rat from its degraded habitat in order to restore it. This agreement also allows for the cultivation of the endangered plant, the Santa Ana River woolly star, which is now being planted in the new habitat area along with other native flora. This was the first Safe Harbor Agreement awarded in Southern California, and one of just 10 awarded since 2012 in all of California.

The goal is to restore Plunge Creek back to a naturally braided stream system using natural processes and hydrology, removing invasive grasses, and increasing habitat for the endangered San Bernardino kangaroo rat and other rare and endangered species, as well as allowing the water to spread out and infiltrate into the ground to recharge the basin. Specifically, the project provides for:

Construction of two pilot channels to reintroduce intermittent flooding necessary to restore 208 acres of riverine habitat

Seed collection and revegetation of the new habitat area with woolly star, plus seeding of other native plants such as California buckwheat, desert wishbone bush, mulefat, tarragon, and deerweed

Invasive species control

Relocation of the San Bernardino kangaroo rat to the new habitat area

Oversight and monitoring by qualified biologists and ecologists

Tracking of San Bernardino kangaroo rat for up to 10 years after project implementation to gain a full understanding of long-term project benefits

Plunge Creek Map

SBVWCD Covered Species Map

Plunge Creek in the News

Plunge Creek

Rats with Backpacks? Science, Not Dr. Seuss

Southern California News Groups: San Bernardino Sun; OC Register, Redlands Daily Facts, L.A. Daily News, The Press Enterprise and the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin.

Spectrum News

Spectrum News

Kim Passoth, Inland Empire Spectrum News reporter, covers the Plunge Creek Conservation story and how the kangaroo rats got their backpacks. (September, 16, 2020 Photos and video taken by Stephen Readmond and provided by SBVWCD).

Highland Community News

Bidding to start for Plunge Creek conservation project

The San Bernardino Valley Water Conservation District is expected to start the bidding process soon for the Plunge Creek Restoration Conservation Project, which involves the excavation of two pilot channels from the creek, through the historic floodplain and back to the active channel.

Plunge Creek

SBVWCD LAUNCHES UNIQUE HABITAT PLAN UNDER RARE SAFE HARBOR AGREEMENT

In a first for the region, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) awarded a Safe Harbor Agreement to the San Bernardino Valley Water Conservation District (SBVWCD) to temporarily remove the kangaroo rat from its degraded habitat in order to restore it – a move designed to save the local population. Under the same agreement, an endangered plant, the Santa Ana River woolly star, was cultivated and is being planted in the new habitat area along with other native flora.