Maintaining Your Creekside Property

If your property has a creek or waterway flowing through it, you are responsible for complying with applicable regulations. Many activities such as construction, erosion repair and planting may require a planning process and a permit. Always contact your city or county planning department before beginning any project. Please review our regulations and resources page for more information.

Basic ways property owners can maintain healthy creeks:

1. Minimize soil erosion and provide habitat for wildlife

  • Buffer Zone: Preserve or establish a vegetated buffer zone between the creek and your yard, sheds, patios and other structures on your property. Unplanted, barren areas, even those that are not located next to the creek, can increase the amount of sediment washed into the creek (erosion).
  • Vegetated Slopes and Banks: Replant barren slopes or creek banks on your property as quickly as possible. Use native plants on slopes and banks and when possible.

2. Avoid dumping

Never dump, add fill or obstruct the flow of a creek. Dumping in creeks and gullies will not only increase the chance of flooding, but can also increase erosion in other parts of the creek.

3. Repairing streambank erosion

Streambank erosion repair may be necessary if the erosion threatens property, structures or roads, or if it puts riparian habitat at risk. Be sure to consult with the Alameda County Planning Department (see Resources) before beginning any stream bank setback zone repair project!

Stabilizing creek banks requires knowledge of the flow patterns of the creek and history of the site. When considering repairs:

  • Check your creek regularly. Learn to spot problems, especially during storm events. Some sediment and foam is natural. Excessive sediment or colored or oily foam indicate problems such as erosion or pollution upstream.
  • Identify the cause of the trouble. If the source of a particular problem occurs upstream, your restoration ef­forts may be defeated unless that problem is addressed.
  • Consider the least invasive options first. Creeks are resilient and may not need extensive (or expensive) restora­tion techniques.
  • Use living materials. Use plants such as willows and other native vegetation. Hard structures such as rock and concrete-lined channels provide no fish or wildlife habitat and tend to increase flood risk.
  • Avoid harmful materials. Never use tires, concrete rubble, or appliances to repair erosion problems. These items can be washed away by water and cause further damage. These items may also contain materials that are toxic to creek life.