The city of Goleta held an information session this past weekend regarding the San Jose Creek Capacity Improvement & Fish Passage Project, an ecological renovation program set for one of Goleta’s major waterways.

The session gave Goleta citizens and business owners the opportunity to learn more details about the local implications of the project, which will replace the old Hollister Avenue Bridge and reshape the creek bed to help struggling native fish populations survive amidst the dangers of flooding in the winter months. The project will kick off this fall as officials plan to add new polycarbonate-attached concrete blocks and slotted dams to the original concrete creek channel lining to slow the natural current. The second phase will replace Hollister Avenue Bridge with a wider, larger structure elevated farther above creek to help relieve the persistent threat of flooding in Old Town Goleta.

Saturday’s event also catered to local youth with a number of nature-related activities as well as photo opportunities with the event’s popular mascot, Sammy the Steelhead.

According to Goleta City Council member Roger Aceves, funding the renovation has been a struggle since Santa Barbara County designated responsibility for the project to the newly incorporated city of Goleta in 2002.

“We started by putting together stakeholders’ funding, and it took a significant amount of time to raise all the money,” Aceves said. “We finally approached bonds to pay for it and we got it, luckily, before the state closures and limits.”

The project presents potential traffic concerns for Goleta residents, particularly because the effort is scheduled to continue for another four years.

However, Goleta Public Information Officer Valerie Kushnerov said several accommodations will be made to prevent disturbances to local homeowners and retailers.

“There will be very minimal traffic impacts, and it shouldn’t really have an effect on the Old Town area at all,” Kushnerov said.

According to Goleta’s Capital Improvement Program Manager Rosemarie Gaglioni, the effort will benefit the steelhead trout, an endangered species in the area, by renovating California’s sixth most important creek for steelhead recovery.

“Right now, there are tons of steelhead trout being left stranded due to the shallowness of the creek,” Gaglioni said.

According to Aveces, the new project will provide the Goleta residential and business communities with a respite from the stresses of flood damage and potentially save the city millions of dollars on flood insurance.

“It’s a great benefit for the community,” Aveces said. “A large portion of Goleta’s community pays for flood insurance. This project will increase capacity and eliminate the need for the community to pay for that insurance.”