News & Stories

  • Festival celebrates return of chinook salmon/

    September 23, 2018

    Chico Enterprise Record By Bianca Quilantan

    OROVILLE — The 24th annual Oroville Salmon Festival Saturday attracted thousands who celebrated the return of the chinook salmon to the Feather River. And, this year, the salmon were also in full attendance.

    Anna Kastner, who has been the Feather River Hatchery manager for more than 20 years, said the hatchery is responsible for the environmental education portion of the Salmon Festival. Each year, the salmon spawning tours fill up fast — this year was no exception.

    People lined up to take a look through the windows to watch fish and wildlife technicians fertilizing chinook salmon eggs from the spring run.

    “People can come and see what we do,” she said. “We take the sperm and the eggs and we make babies.”

    Dave Lunsford, who has been working as a fish and wildlife technician for 12 years, said this year the hatchery is expecting a better return of fish and eggs. Mike Lasagna, another technician who was fertilizing the eggs, agreed.

    “We got a lot of fish,” he said. “It’s going to be a good year.”

    Environmental resource agency tables also lined the roadway to the hatchery with activities for all ages. Kids in colored-in paper salmon hats stopped at booths to learn about fire safety and more.

    “I think I see more kids this year than I’ve seen in the past, so it’s really nice to be able to see the children,” Kastner said. “We have all of the resource agencies, the fire department with the smokehouse, we have fly casting, a couple aquariums — there’s just all kinds of activities to teach the kids about the environment.”

    New at the hatchery this year was a salmon life cycle mural created by the Yuba City High School ceramics class. Last year, the students had a booth selling fish feed at the hatchery to raise money for the project, Kastner said, and It was unveiled Saturday for the first time.

    Another new attraction was a kayak rafting tour on the Feather River where attendees could learn about salmon migration and their life cycle. Tours left hourly from the hatchery and tickets were priced at $35.

    “The idea is to develop a floating classroom program that will go throughout the spawning season,” said Ray Laager, Salmon Festival event coordinator. “It will kick off at the Salmon Festival and then it will go until mid-November or whenever the fall run ends.”

    Downtown Festivities

    Live music and the smell of smoked salmon filled the air in at Salmon Court held on the levee near the river in downtown Oroville. Below in historic downtown, the streets were filled with vendors selling craft goods and foods, and downtown businesses invited passersby in for a quick trip into their stores.

    Laager said the event is about celebrating the return of the wild chinook salmon up the Feather River. He said it’s one of the last wild salmon chinook runs in California. Laager estimated that about 20,000 people attended the festival this year and said he hopes to gain more visibility for next year’s festival.

    “Next year is our 25th anniversary,” he said. “It’s a secret, but we are planning a lot of special things.”

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  • Oroville Salmon Festival Returns on Sept. 22

    September 18, 2018

    The 2018 Oroville Salmon Festival is scheduled Saturday, Sept. 22 at the Feather River Fish Hatchery in Oroville and in downtown Oroville.

    The annual event will feature free tours to view salmon spawning, information booths, educational displays and vendor booths. The festival is scheduled from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the hatchery and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in downtown Oroville.

    The Feather River Hatchery, which raises Chinook salmon and steelhead along the Feather River just below Lake Oroville, will offer free tours, and an underwater viewing window at the hatchery displays migrating salmon or steelhead. The fish ladder opened at the hatchery on Sept. 14.

    The hatchery also plans to unveil art created by students from Yuba City High School during the festival. The ceramics mural, which illustrates the life cycle of Chinook salmon, will be displayed outside the main office at the hatchery. Also scheduled at the hatchery are a pancake breakfast from 7 to 10:30 a.m. and a lunch from noon to 3 p.m.
    For more information, please visit www.salmonfestoroville.org.

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  • Humans devastated California's chinook salmon. Now they want to save it

    September 13, 2018

    Christian Science Monitor By Martin Kuz

    Dave Vogel already knew that levees and dams had devastated the coastal salmon population in California’s longest river. The surprise for the fisheries scientist arrived when he saw the video footage of young salmon clustered beneath bridges in the watery depths.

    City and county agencies in Northern California hired Mr. Vogel to provide research on several bridge-construction and retrofit projects along the Sacramento River starting in the late 1980s. He surveyed the riverbed with radar and underwater cameras to gauge the potential impact of the bridge work on the California coastal chinook salmon, whose population has plummeted since the turn of the 20th century.

    Prior studies found that juvenile salmon gravitated to the river’s shoreline for protection. Vogel’s videos instead revealed a fish tale of desperate adaptation born of the loss of habitat. The young chinook take refuge some 20 feet below the surface behind bridge piers and other artificial barriers, an imperfect alternative that still exposes them to bass, trout, and other predators.

    The footage gave Vogel an idea. Dams prevent tree debris from flowing downstream, depriving young fish of cover from predators and the swift current. He envisioned recreating the salmon’s habitat in deep water to help the fish mature and grow stronger, improving their odds of surviving to make the 300-mile migration to the Pacific Ocean.

    Last year, two decades after that inspiration, tugboat crews installed 25 salmon shelters in the river near Redding, Calif., 160 miles north of Sacramento. Each six-ton shelter consists of large almond tree limbs or walnut root wads bolted to a massive limestone boulder. The protruding boughs and roots create a kind of maze that allows juvenile salmon to evade bigger fish and the current’s constant pull.

    River Garden Farms, a family-owned, large-scale farm based on the river, invested $400,000 in the shelters and obtained a $200,000 federal grant for the three-year pilot project, the first of its kind in the country. The shelters count as one of dozens of projects planned, ongoing, or completed on the Sacramento River since the Northern California Water Association (NCWA) launched a salmon recovery program four years ago that builds upon earlier efforts.

    “The old attitude was, ‘It’s going to take 100 to 200 years for nature to heal itself,’” Vogel says. “Now the attitude is, ‘Let’s start solving one problem at a time.’”

     

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  • Judge puts controversial Healdsburg logging plan on hold

    September 12, 2018

    Santa Rosa Press Democrat by Mary Callahan

    Planned logging near a Healdsburg stream that provides some of the last refuge in the region for wild coho salmon has been put on hold after a court decision overturned a timber harvest plan for the 160-acre site.

    Sonoma County Superior Court Judge Rene Chouteau determined last month that the plan approved by Cal Fire last fall inadequately analyzed potential impacts for endangered and threatened fish species in Felta Creek and the greater Russian River watershed into which it drains.

    Chouteau also agreed with neighbors’ claim that property owner Ken Bareilles failed to sufficiently address the effects of logging trucks on narrow roadways and five rural bridges they would travel to haul lumber from the remote parcel.

    The resolution is unlikely to be the final chapter in the dispute, with both sides anticipating ongoing legal battles.

    “The land isn’t safe until it has a conservation easement on it or a harvest plan geared for limited, smaller-scale logging, said Lucy Kotter, a one-time forester and a spokeswoman for Friends of Felta Creek, which was formed to block the plan.

    Bareilles, a Eureka attorney, said Wednesday he still hopes he can start logging in the spring and intended to revise and resubmit his timber harvest plan for approval in the meantime.

    He said concerns regarding traffic and bridges would be more easily addressed than those related to at-risk fish populations, but he said a sustained rise in lumber prices meant he wouldn’t lose any money while he worked the problems out.

    “This is a bump in the road, if you want to call it that — this court ruling,” Bareilles said. “But it just delays us.”

    Chouteau’s Aug. 20 decision is the latest round in what’s now a year-and-a-half battle fought by neighbors including Kotter and environmentalists to halt the logging project near Felta Creek, a cold, clear stream which provides rare habitat for diminishing salmon and steelhead trout runs once abundant on the North Coast. Even in years when spawning wild salmon have failed to show anywhere else in the area, they have returned to Felta Creek, local biologists say.

    Opponents had managed for several months to stall approval of the logging plan, which endured two rounds of public comment and revisions before it won approval from Cal Fire on Nov. 17.

    By then, some of the steepest slopes had been removed from the logging area and provisions to safeguard against hillside erosion and other environmental harms had been strengthened.

    But Friends of Felta Creek sued the state forestry agency, arguing that protections in the document remained inadequate, given the proposed large-scale logging, the vulnerability of the landscape and the narrow, winding canyon access. They secured a temporary injunction on any logging while the case was pending.

    “Really, what we’re concerned about, is once they start cutting, they’re going to cut hard and they’re going to cut deep,” said Bob Legge, policy and outreach coordinator for the Russian Riverkeeper, a conservation group. “And when you do anything in a fragile watershed like that, you’re going to have complications that go on for years.”

    Bareilles and his wife, Linda, bought the land — which is zoned for timber production — in 2015 for $2.5 million with plans to log redwood and Douglas fir and then resell it for homesites.

    Bareilles has a somewhat checkered past as a developer and has twice been convicted in Humboldt County for violating regulations shielding waterways and wildlife habitat, among other offenses. Critics in Sonoma County say his past is part of their concern.

    But Bareilles has repeatedly said that maintaining the natural beauty of the land and the watershed is in his own self- interest, so he can maintain the profitability of the property.

    He said several conservation agencies have explored the possibility of buying the property but were rejected because “they don’t want to pay us anything for the timber.”

    Attorney Tom Lippe, who represents Friends of Felta Creek, said there remain many opportunities to challenge Bareilles’ plans.

    The Russian River watershed is listed as impaired under the Clean Water Act because of excess sediment accumulated over decades of human activity, including logging, farming, road building and other development.

    “This project is going to put more sediment in the river and in the streams,” said Lippe, posing another risk for imperiled fish species.

    “The characterization that this is a speed bump is in the eye of the beholder,” Lippe said.

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  • Salt River restoration gets $1.13 million boost

    September 12, 2018

    Eureka Times Standard By Shomik Mukherjee

    A $1.13 million restoration award from a state agency will buoy efforts to excavate the Salt River watershed, the seven-mile channel of the Eel River that local conservationists have spent decades trying to restore.

    The money comes from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, which this year handed out $27.8 million to a diverse geographical spread of water body restoration efforts. The Salt River watershed, running from near Fortuna to a Pacific Ocean estuary, is just one of those projects.

    “There’s a lot of history and awareness of Salt River here,” said Matt Wells of the agency’s grants branch. “This is the culmination of a lot of efforts, both externally and internally.”

    The new financial boost will help the Humboldt County Resource Conservation District work toward restoring an additional mile-and-a-half stretch of the river during its next construction season. By the end of this season, the district will have restored 4.5 miles of the watershed.

    Navigating the Salt River channel became impossible some time in the 20th century, when decades of logging and agricultural work had deposited too much clay sediment into the watershed for water to continue flowing. In 1987, the RCD was formed by popular vote to restore parts of the Eel River.

    Since then, getting the Salt River watershed back to where it was hasn’t been an easy task.

    “We’ve had years when we aren’t able to implement construction as much as we’d like to be able to,” said Jill Demers, the RCD’s executive director. “Some years due to project funding and other years due to the landowners.”

    Getting a hold of permits, going around the individual preferences of over 45 landowners and, above all, winning funding have all been a gargantuan effort — one with numerous setbacks, Demers said. Even the $1.13 million won’t make any sort of dramatic impact, though Demers emphasized that an award of this size is always “wonderful” news.

    But achieving a full restoration will take more awards of this size and magnitude, she added, especially when a lengthy contracting period — around six months — sits between winning an award and getting the funds.

    “It’s not an easy ‘get in there and dig it out,’” Demers said. “A process like this requires hydrologic analyses. The system requires a lot of long-time maintenance.”

    Why is it so important the Salt River watershed be restored? Without a channel to drain into, excess water on the mainland can cause perpetual flooding and deny fish and wildlife a steady stream of water to rely on.

    One of the five tributaries, or streams, of the Salt River is Williams Creek — though for much of the year, no one would know it driving on state Route 211 near Ferndale.

    On the bridge above the tributary there’s a sign that says “Salt River,” but the water system has become so degraded over the years that for most summer and autumn months the stream below looks like a dry field. It’s only during the winter that rainfall helps Williams Creek live up to its highway sign.

    Much is at stake for the Salt River restoration, which gets almost 100 percent of its funding from awards like these, Demers said. City entities and local agencies have made timely contributions to support the cause, she said.

    More than a few times since 1987, the process has hit a proverbial wall of clay sediment, she said, but a few individuals, including former 1st District Supervisor Jimmy Smith, have ensured water continues to flow through the Salt River.

    “The project as it is today came together with [Smith]’s longtime support,” Demers said of the late North Coast politician, who died in 2016. “We wouldn’t be out here without his vision.”

    Read the article at the source »

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