News & Stories

  • Blue Creek part of 50,000 acres of forest re-acquired by Yurok Tribe

    August 17, 2019

    Crescent City Triplicate

    On Aug. 19, the Yurok Tribe, Green Diamond Resource Co. and Western Rivers Conservancy will celebrate a 10-year effort to preserve and place into tribal ownership about 50,000 acres of forest surrounding four salmon sustaining streams, including Blue Creek.

    “It is a good day for the Yurok people,” said tribal chairman Joseph L. James.

    “On behalf of the Yurok Tribe, I would like to thank Green Diamond and Western Rivers for assisting us in the re-acquisition of a significant part of our ancestral territory, and putting us in a position to permanently protect the Blue Creek watershed, which is the crown jewel of the Klamath River.”

    In 2006, the two organizations and the tribe formed a partnership designed to facilitate the transfer of the land to the tribe and conserve Blue Creek, the lifeline of the Klamath River. During this period, Green Diamond and Western Rivers Conservancy held the land while the Yurok Tribe and Western Rivers Conservancy pursued funds for its acquisition.

    Financial support came from a variety of sources, including the Hoopa-Yurok Settlement Act, the New Market Tax Credits program, the Kendeda Fund, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the Wyss Foundation, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation/Acres for America and Walmart Stores, Inc., the Wildlife Conservation Board; California Coastal Conservancy, loans from the California State Water Quality Control Board and Indian Land Capital Co., and the sale of carbon offsets.

    Green Diamond vice president and general manager Jason Carlson said, “We are very pleased to see the successful completion of this multi-phase, multi-year project that culminated with the transfer of the Blue Creek drainage. These lands provide the tribe a nearly continuous ownership that can be managed as a working forest and for the cultural resources that are vital to the Yurok

    “This is a historic and joyous moment,” said Western Rivers Conservancy president Sue Doroff. “The Yurok Tribe has been reunited with Blue Creek, and we have finally ensured that this all-important tributary of the Klamath River will forever remain a source of cold, clean water and a refuge for the incredible fish and wildlife that depend on it.”

    In addition to Blue Creek, parcels in the Pecwan, Ke’pel and Weitchpec Creek drainages are included in the project. The latter three properties will become part of the tribe’s Community Forest.

    The tribe plans to manage the lands to support native wildlife, in addition to the production of a wide variety of traditional foods and basket-weaving materials.

    The tribe is restoring about 15,000 acres in Blue Creek into an old-growth forest and a salmon sanctuary.

    Tribal officials said Blue Creek is one of the most important Klamath River tributaries, providing a critical thermal refuge area for migrating salmon, as well as forest habitat for sensitive wildlife species.

    During the fall Chinook salmon run, they said, the water at the mouth of the creek can be 20 degrees cooler than the main stem of the river. In most years, thousands of fish, stressed by dam-warmed water temperatures, rest and recharge below Blue Creek in order to make it to the upriver spawning grounds in a healthy condition.

    The officials said Yurok biologists, foresters and cultural experts are nearly finished with a comprehensive plan to create the salmon sanctuary. The long-term blueprint will guide restoration of the habitat for endangered species, including coho salmon, marbled murrelet, northern spotted owl and Humboldt marten, along with other culturally important fish and mammals such as chinook salmon, black-tailed deer and Roosevelt elk.


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  • Ghost town remnants make way for Lagunitas Creek salmon habitat

    August 9, 2019

    Marin Independent Journal By Will Houston

    Remnants of the ghost town of Jewell could still be found scattered in the upturned dirt banks along Lagunitas Creek near Olema this past week: a bed frame, a refrigerator door, concrete foundations, old pipes, wiring casings, a rusted oven frame, even old cans of pesticides.

    Over the next few months, these last vestiges of the former creekside subdivision will be plucked from the earth to restore the historic floodplains and channels where the now-endangered coho salmon once found refuge.

    Preston Brown, director of watershed conservation for the Salmon Protection and Watershed Network, or SPAWN, described his organization’s work as “pulling out the wrongs of the past.”

    The creekside views of Jewell’s and the nearby subdivision Tocaloma’s residences and vacation homes came at a cost. When the towns were built in the early 20th century, massive amounts of soil was hauled in to lay the foundation of the homes, fences and swimming pools. This plugged the creek’s floodplains and channels where young coho salmon would rear and grow during their yearlong stay before making their way to the ocean.

    Now when the heavy winter rains come, the young fish have few areas to take refuge when the creek swells into a torrent.

    “The flow is much stronger especially when the dam is overflowing and those fish can’t survive,” said SPAWN executive director Todd Steiner on Thursday as excavators worked behind him. “So we’re creating side channels where the water is quiet and the fish can survive the winter and spring storms.”

    The $594,000 project, which began this week, will remove about 6,000 cubic yards of dirt and carve out new channels and flood plains. About a quarter mile of habitat will be restored along the creek, adding to the three-quarter mile of restored habitat just downstream near Tocaloma that SPAWN completed last year. As with the previous project, native plants will be planted along the new channels to provide shelter and food sources for salmon and other wildlife. Large pieces of living and dead wood will also be placed into the river to provide shelter and shade. Later this winter and spring, native plants raised in local classrooms and SPAWN will be planted along the new habitat.

    The Tocaloma portion of the project has already shown promising results in the past year, with young fish having immediately spread out in the new habitat, Brown said.

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  • Coleman Hatchery expresses optimism for future fish returns

    July 23, 2019

    Red Bluff Daily News By George Johnston

    RED BLUFF—The Coleman National Fish Hatchery is expecting good returns of their fish in the foreseeable future after a few lean years of comebacks.

    Over 12 million fall Chinook salmon and 180,000 winter Chinook salmon were released between March and May, Project Manager Brett Galyean said. Almost all of those releases were in Battle Creek. However, for the fall Chinook, the hatchery decided to take 180,000 fish down to Chico and the Butte City area for a study.

    “I’d say we made our projection goals for the falls and we were a little bit shy for the winters,” Galyean said.

    Scheduling fish releases are dependent on high water levels, storm events and turbidity in the water.

    “It’s kind of like a crystal ball exercise,” Galyean said. “We can’t control Mother Nature.”

    Mother Nature worked with the hatchery this year providing high water levels and spring storms, said Galyean. When nature was not working in the hatchery’s favor was during the recent drought.

    Only 6,000 fall Chinook came back to spawn in 2017; the low numbers were caused by the drought conditions two years earlier. Coleman hatchery employees during that year had to truck the fish to San Francisco Bay because of the lack of rainstorms. Numbers went up in 2018 when 21,000 Chinook returned to Battle Creek.

    “Not a great number, but we were able to make our project numbers off of that,” Galyean said.

    Galyean said he is expecting a good return this year and again in three years when the fall and winter Chinook return as adults.

    “It should be a good year. We are expecting good returns to the Sacramento River system. Anglers should be happy. People who enjoy seeing salmon, the biological aspects of them out there should be happy, and we are expecting a good return to Battle Creek come October.” 

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  • New Yolo Bypass Fish Passage project approved/Work at Fremont Weir will allow salmon to travel between waterways

    July 21, 2019

    Chico Enterprise Record By Jim Smith

    The Department of Water Resources has secured final state and federal approval for a project that will expand a migration corridor for fish to the Yolo Bypass, the Sacramento Valley’s main floodplain.

    The project is part of the largest floodplain restoration action on the West Coast and demonstrates a commitment by DWR, the State Water Contractors, and the Bureau of Reclamation to protect native fish in California, while safeguarding agriculture, according to Erin Mellon, assistant director of public affairs for the DWR.

    The project aligns with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s recent executive order calling for a Water Resilience Portfolio that creates a suite of actions to secure healthy waterways and ecological function through the 21st century.

    The project, formally titled the Yolo Bypass Salmonid Habitat Restoration and Fish Passage Project, will enhance flood plain habitat for endangered species while protecting current agricultural and flood management uses of the bypass.

    “This is the quintessential multi-benefit project,” said DWR Director Karla Nemeth. “It improves fish survival and habitat while preserving the Yolo Bypass as a vital hub for agriculture and flood protection. We look forward to working with the region’s landowners on this win-win project for people, farms, and fish.”

    The approximately $190 million project will construct a two-way fish passage gateway at the head of the Fremont Weir, a 1.8-mile concrete wall that provides flood protection to Sacramento and surrounding communities.

    The 100-foot-wide gateway, or “big notch,” will open each winter, allowing juvenile salmon to move from the Sacramento River onto the floodplain and then back into the Sacramento River at Cache Slough. Providing fish access to the food-rich floodplain will expand survival rates for native fish on their migratory journey to the Pacific Ocean.

    The project will also allow adult salmon, steelhead, and sturgeon to more easily access the Sacramento River from the bypass.

    “California’s threatened fish species are the result of a water and flood system built before people understood how rivers worked or how fish used them,” said Jacob Katz, senior scientist with California Trout. “This first-of-its-kind, multi-benefit project integrates a 21st century scientific understanding of fish and rivers into water management and allows baby fish onto floodplain wetlands to grow, and adults to re-enter the Sacramento River to spawn. It’s a win-win-win for fish, farms and flood control.”

    This week, the project’s environmental impact report received final approval from state and federal permitting agencies, allowing the project to move forward with final design and permitting before construction begins in 2021. This project is funded by the Bureau of Reclamation and through State Water Project funds supplied by the State Water Contractors.

    “We are very supportive of the efforts to increase fish access to floodplain habitat, a step towards meeting the state’s goals of protecting the natural environment while managing water supply,” said Jennifer Pierre, general manager of the State Water Contractors. “Greater access should help salmon grow bigger and increase their survival as they travel through the Delta and into the ocean, hopefully translating to increased populations.”

    The project meets requirements of the state and federal Endangered Species Act, including the National Marine Fisheries Service 2009 Biological Opinion on the Long-Term Operations of the Central Valley Project and the State Water Project. The project will be a critical component of obtaining the Incidental Take Permit of the California Fish and Game Code for the long-term operations of the State Water Project.


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  • Salmon restoration: Input gathered for 2020 East Sand Slough side channel project

    July 19, 2019

    Red Bluff Daily News By Julie Zeeb

    The first step of getting input from the community on a 2020 East Sand Slough Side Channel Project was held Tuesday with a meeting at the Tehama County Library.

    “This is part of a larger (side channel) reconnection effort in Northern California that has three sites in Tehama County and six sites in Shasta County,” said Brin Greer of the Resource Conservation District of Tehama County, which is the lead agency in the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) project implementation.

    The project is a part of the restoration of salmon habitat stemming from the Central Valley Improvement Act and will take place on the left bank of the Sacramento River at the East Sand Slough, running from Agua Verdi Drive down to where it meets up with the Sacramento River below the I-5 bridge, Greer said. It reconnects the East Sand Slough to the Sacramento River during minimal flows by excavating the main channel and entrances.

    The overall goal of the project, according to a release issued by the conservation district prior to the meeting, is to create a functional side channel at lower Sacramento River flows to provide rearing habitat for juvenile salmonids and eliminate stranding pools within the East Sand Slough.

    The secondary objective is to look at what recreation expansion and enhancements the community wants in case future funding does become available, but there is no funding for it in this project, Greer said.

    The good news is there are plenty of grants out there for disadvantaged communities such as Red Bluff, said Nancy Snodgrass, a Department of Water Resources Engineer who co-presented with Greer. While the four-foot depth won’t allow for boating opportunities, it could be used for paddleboards or kayaks, she said.

    The base flow of the side channel, which will be about 20 feet wide, will be one foot deep and during the summer would be as high as four feet, Snodgrass said. The project is specifically geared toward creating habitat for the winter-run Chinook salmon which are “endangered and quickly disappearing,” said Department of Water Resources Northern Region Engineering Studies Section Chief Seth Lawrence.

    Construction will be a ways off with the first step being moving the utilities — estimated to take about three to four months, Lawrence said. There will also be native plants planted in the area to improve the habitat for the salmon. Utility work will hopefully be started in August 2020 with construction on the channel itself to be started around mid-November, Lawrence said.

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