Some Edgar Slough history

The south Chico waterway was never just an irrigation ditch

Emily Alma is a retired community-agency director and longtime environmental advocate. She lives near Comanche Creek.

Like so many before him, Edward Booth attempts to belittle the rich riparian ecosystem of Comanche Creek/Edgar Slough by referring to it as merely an irrigation canal or ditch (“Shaping the future,” CN&R Letters, Aug. 5).

Call it what you will, the area is forested with heritage valley oaks, sycamores, Oregon ash and cottonwoods, some of them quite ancient, and they in turn support the lives of many species of wildlife—wild turkey, belted kingfisher, green heron, red-shouldered hawk, beaver, fox, coyote, otter. Some irrigation ditch!

Edgar Slough is a historic natural drainage, which explains the presence of the grand old trees. I did some research: Writing in 1925, Dr. Alfred Kroeber describes this as the area where the O’da-wi Maidu lived, “from Edgar Slough to Sandy Gulch.” Robert Anderson, sheriff of Butte County from 1857 to 1865, “rode by horseback up Edgar Slough to the old grist mill at the mouth of Butte Creek Canyon.”

Why the confusion of names? In 1961 the U.S. Board of Geographic Names rejected the historical name of Edgar Slough and renamed the waterway Comanche Creek.

Yes, the water from the creek provides irrigation for crops. In the early 1920s, Edgar Slough was connected to Butte Creek at the Parrott-Phelan Dam (aka “Okie Dam”) in lower Butte Creek Canyon as a dependable water supply for the Parrott and M&T ranches. However, using the water for irrigation does not detract from the creek’s value as a vibrant, living system that would be greatly diminished by a concrete roadway cutting through with cars and trucks roaring by, spewing gasoline fumes.

Ask the turkeys. Ask the beavers. Ask the green heron and belted kingfisher. Ask the children who would have a chance to play amidst the quiet wildness, if only we would unlock the gates. There is no compromise roadway that would preserve this unique area. None.

To get back to Booth’s letter, his suggestion to use Ashland Creek as a model—great idea! The businesses along Meyers Street that now have big truck parking lots along the creek could convert to eyes-on-the-creek designs with “restaurants and inns, prominently featuring the creek, resulting in an ambiance difficult to match elsewhere” (Booth’s words). What a way to attract businesses and jobs to Chico—by touting this unique riparian area, wisely left intact for generations of humans and wildlife to enjoy!