August 28, 2018
Thanks to your voices, the Climate Resiliency bill AB 2528, championed by CalTrout, has passed the House and the Senate and is moving on to Governor Brown for signature. AB2528 will help California work towards building an effective climate resiliency strategy by “protecting the best” — Sierra meadows, Mt. Shasta area springs and other important areas like estuaries and strongholds.
Original post from April 19th, 2018:
California’s best remaining watersheds offer us a significant opportunity to secure our future water supply in the face of climate change, yet these areas are often under researched and under protected. The Sierra Nevada mountains, for example, provide 60% of California’s developed water supply, yet nearly half of the high mountain meadows that capture and store snowmelt and rainwater are severely degraded.
CalTrout and partners have been hard at work in the Capitol helping to create and champion legislation that protects California’s most vital source water areas. We are pleased to report that Assembly Bill (AB) 2528, a measure that incorporates four important state watersheds in California’s Climate Adaptation Strategy report, passed the Assembly of Natural Resources on April 16th. AB 2528, authored by Assemblymember Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica), will help the state create more climate resilient habitats and protect the state’s largest estuaries and most pristine river systems.
We called upon our followers earlier this month to contact their Assemblymembers in support of AB 2528. Over 100 letters were signed and mailed! THANK YOU for taking action.
In the bill, four watershed zones have been identified as ‘habitat resilience areas’- salmon and steelhead strongholds, spring-fed source watersheds, mountain meadows, and estuaries. By adding these zones, the bill would require the Natural Resources Agency to research the importance of these resilient watershed areas in its next Climate Adaptation Strategy.
For more on AB 2528, read the Press Release from Assemblymember Bloom’s office:
The Klamath River, which flows through parts of Southern Oregon and Northern California, has four aging hydroelectric dams which have blocked salmon and steelhead fish from reaching more than 300 miles of potential spawning and rearing habitat. Removal of the river’s four dams – J.C. Boyle, Copco 1, Copco 2, and Iron Gate have been the subject of national attention for nearly two decades
Last week however, progress was been made towards the most significant dam removal effort in US history when the Klamath River Renewal Corporation (KRRC) filed its “Definite Plan for the Lower Klamath Project” with the Federal Regulatory energy Commission (FERC).
The Definite Plan is a 2,300-page document that provides comprehensive analysis and detail on project design, deconstruction, reservoir restoration, and other post-deconstruction activities. Additional topics covered include plans to: manage construction impacts, manage impacts to groundwater wells, perform flood-proofing, improve roads and bridges, provide recreation opportunities, replace the City of Yreka water line, protect aquatic resources, and provide for ongoing fish hatchery operations.
Dam removal is projected to improve water quality and revive flagging salmon and steelhead fisheries on this major river system. Removal additionally provides economic benefit to the region by creating local jobs and boosting tourism and recreation in the area. A study released by the US Geological Survey in 2017 demonstrated fish are eager to return to the upper reaches of watersheds after dam removal, even if the areas have been blocked for decades or more. The study showed that historic upstream habitat can be recolonized by fish in a matter of weeks after access is restored.
Restoration activities outlined in the Definite Plan will include improving habitat along the river. CalTrout has been active in the region and has, among other projects, partnered with ranchers along the Scott and Shasta Rivers – two Klamath River tributaries – to improve conditions for migratory fish that are likely to return to the system once the dams are removed.
“After more than a decade of working toward removal of these four problematic dams, it’s exciting to see KRRC taking concrete steps toward making this vision a reality,” said Curtis Knight, executive director of CalTrout and one of the original negotiators involved in the development of terms of the Klamath settlement agreements, including the agreement that shaped how and when the dams would be removed.
The Klamath River was once the source of significant salmon and steelhead runs. Opening up the lower reaches of the river through this process will be invaluable in the effort to recover these fish runs. – Curtis Knight
“CalTrout’s goal is to find constructive solutions that support the needs of fish and people,” added Drew Braugh, Mt. Shasta/Klamath program director for California Trout. “This recent milestone in the dam removal process is an important step in the right direction. And our ongoing work with ranchers and farmers will help to ensure that conditions will be as good as possible for these fish when they finally have a chance to access large swaths of the Klamath watershed for the first time in over a century.”
CalTrout has been and continues to be deeply involved in the effort to identify a way forward in the Klamath Basin that respects the needs, rights and values of residents, Tribes, ranchers and farmers, and conservationists who are all invested in the future of this region.
More information about KRRC and its mission can be found at KRRC’s website: www.klamathrenewal.org.
We’re still riding that high from last week’s Five Rivers Challenge! The competition wrapped up with a sneaky win by Bruce Skinner and Josh Udesen guided by John Fochetti. The team pulled ahead on the last day, landing an epic 715 inches and 70 fish on the Fall River. Very close behind in second place is Steve Johnson and David Moser guided by Brooks Provence. Third place went to Richard Kropp and Pearce Hurley guided by Brian “Bucko” Theriot; they had a great final day on the McCloud and Upper Sacramento rivers. The remaining 5 teams performed outstanding as well, all ending the competition very close to each others’ scores. (See below for all final scores.)
This is the 3rd year of the event’s resurrection which originated back in 1998 by CalTrout Board Member Dick Galland. Owner of Clearwater House at the time, he created the event to call attention to the great wild trout waters in the Burney area of Northern California, between Mt. Lassen and Mt. Shasta. Proceeds from the event go toward restoration and research projects in the area like the Hat Creek Restoration Project and the Volcanic Aquifers Assessment and Protection program.
We’re glad to be back raising awareness of these pristine ecological areas and our efforts to ensure there will always be abundant wild fish in these waters. Each of the five rivers (Fall, Pit, McCloud, Upper Sac rivers and Hat Creek) is one of the original waters in the California Wild Trout Program and will have anglers testing the versatility of their skills on the varied rivers.
Thank you to our participants who came out for a fun time and to support CalTrout’s work restoring California’s native fisheries. As always, incredible thanks to Michelle, owner of Clearwater Lodge, for the amazing accommodations and meals.
Cheers to another great 5RC! We’re already planning the next one for 2019… Dates to be announced soon.
Big thanks to our photographers Mike Wier and Val Atkinson for capturing the fun. (More photos of theirs below.)
Loretta Keller and Sydnie Kohara guided by Scott: 599 inches, 65 fish.
Peggy Anderson and Kurt Anderson guided by Fuzz: 593 inches, 63 fish.
Mikk and Cirith Anderson guided by Colton: 544 inches, 60 fish.
Laura and Geof Wyatt guided by Dave: 527.5 inches, 57 fish.
Rich West and Paul Vais guided by Joel: 521 inches, 58 fish.
California Trout and Lomakatsi Restoration Project held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on June 19, 2018 to celebrate the opening of a new pedestrian bridge over lower Hat Creek, one of California’s most important Wild Trout Areas, and commemorate the incredibly productive last three years of restoration work.
The ceremony marks a major milestone in the ongoing ecological restoration of lower Hat Creek. The new bridge symbolizes the work that CalTrout, Lomakatsi Restoration Project, and their project partners have done to bridge cultures and reduce the socio-economic divide in the region, as well as to support the robust native fish populations, healthy rivers, and thriving communities. It also allows anglers and hikers to access both sides of the creek without disrupting the ecological restoration work that has been done to improve conditions for wildlife and aquatic species.
“The Hat Creek project began around the legacy of our organization and fly fishing,” said Drew Braugh, Mt. Shasta/Klamath Regional Director of CalTrout, “but it has turned into so much more. This project provides conservation jobs for tribal members and training programs for young people interested in helping restore their ancestral tribal lands. These jobs are important for engaging the next generation in the long-term stewardship of Hat Creek. It’s also provided a significant socio-economic boost in the Burney area.”
The lower Hat Creek restoration effort is the result of a partnership among several diverse stakeholders: state and federal agencies, the Illmawi Band, landowner Pacific Gas & Electric, and the Stewardship Council, which works to protect and enhance the beneficial public values and uses of watershed lands, and to improve the lives of young Californians through connections to the outdoors. Additional project partners include the US Fish and Wildlife Service, UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences, Waterways Engineering, Inc., National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and Orvis.
Marko Bey, Executive Director of Lomakatsi Restoration Project, noted, “It has been an honor to work with the tribal community and traditional leaders to create a program that brings Traditional Ecological Knowledge together with ecological restoration for the implementation of a cutting-edge habitat enhancement project.” Lomakatsi creates public benefits through restored ecosystems while engaging tribal community members in the stewardship of their ancestral lands. Thirty-five tribal members were employed during the Hat Creek project.
CalTrout and Illmawi Band Elder Cecilia Silvas, along with Key Project Delivery Partner, Lomakatsi, started planning this project work in 2012. They jointly raised funding with the partners and broke ground on the effort in 2015. In addition to restoring the 160-foot historic pedestrian bridge in Carbon Flats, accomplishments to date have included planting more than six acres of riparian corridor with 5,000 native plants, shrubs and trees; constructing/improving nearly three and half miles of recreational trails; and establishing a Tribal Youth Ecological Stewardship Training and Workforce Program through the Inter-Tribal Ecosystem Restoration Network. Indeed, much of the work completed was undertaken by tribal members and supported by Tribal Elders, Tribal Staff employed by Lomakatsi, and Tribal Community Members, who were contracted as Cultural Specialists/Guest Presenters and part of the live classroom experiential learning program.
“Prior to this project, the land around Hat Creek was being abused by people driving ATVs down to the creek, shooting guns, and leaving trash,” said Cecilia Silvas, Illmawi Band Elder of the Ajumawi-Atsuge Nation, whose people are indigenous and have inhabited this land base since time immemorial.
Belinda Brown, Tribal Partnerships Manager with Lomakatsi, said: “We are honored to be part of a successful project that took dedication and teamwork; and more importantly, restored and revitalized the culture, community and economy of elders, youth, and families and the traditional values of working on the land.”
Hat Creek was the first stream in the West to be managed exclusively for wild trout. It is also the birthplace of CalTrout: In 1972, CalTrout fought to restore the creek and won a wild trout designation for Hat Creek. By 1983, it was home to more than 5,000 fish per mile.
But in the late 1980s, tens of thousands of tons of sediment accumulated in the Wild Trout Area, most likely culminating from the 1915 volcanic eruption of Mt. Lassen or through years of bank erosion through grazing. This sediment had settled in sinkholes and lava tubes, and is thought to have been flushed out during the construction of the Baum Lake Dam in the 1980s, directly above the Wild Trout Area, making the creek shallower. During the same period, cattle grazing and invasive muskrat populations caused bank erosion.
Thanks to the restoration efforts being celebrated today, Hat Creek is getting back on track. The river is naturally flushing the sediment slug downstream. Aquatic vegetation, home to the macroinvertebrates that fish eat, is starting to regrow at the tail end of the sediment slug, and especially is thriving around the large woody debris structures, which CalTrout flew in via a Firehawk helicopter as part of the project. Fishing on the Carbon Flats is better than it has been in decades.
Big thanks to CalTrout’s field reporter Mike Wier for beautifully capturing the day’s events.
On June 5th, California voters approved Prop 68, the Parks, Environment and Water Bond, a record $4.1 billion bond package that will provide funding to a host of environmental priorities ranging from climate change resilience to stream restoration. This is a big win for protecting California’s natural resources and getting more people in nature, which is very important since you cannot steward what you do not know.
Prop 68 will likely be a boon for some long-delayed projects that have struggled to find funding. This is a significant start to help California’s fish and rivers recover. But only if the funds are put to work- and that’s where we come in.
Currently in our 47th year since establishment, CalTrout is working harder than ever: increasing the number and scope of projects, and therefore our impact, all over California. We will secure Prop 68 funds for projects like removing fish barriers in Southern California including Rindge Dam, which is a huge detriment to endangered Southern steelhead; and continuing to partner with farmers in the Central Valley on multi-benefit floodplain projects to help threatened salmon.
Staff Attorney for CalTrout, Redgie Collins, was recently quoted explaining how legislators and voters “are taking heed” of the policies and rollbacks coming out of Washington, D.C. The ballot measure, Redgie says, is part of “building a green wall in California.” (Read article from E&E News here.)
This originally appeared in the Spring 2018 edition of the Current
Salmon recovery in the Mid-Klamath Basin
As CalTrout looks forward at our landscape-scale strategic objectives for the next three years, Klamath Dam removal jumps out as one of the most promising salmon recovery opportunities in the history of our organization. Hyped as the largest dam removal project in the world, we find it hard not to get excited about the prospect of spring-run Chinook reaching the headwaters of the Sprague, Williamson, and Wood rivers for the first time in over 100 years.
The Klamath River Renewal Corporation (KRRC)—the herculean nonprofit organization tasked with dam removal—shows on their website an ambitious timeline of sub-accomplishments needed to meet the goal of dam removal within the 2020-2021 window. CalTrout and our conservation partners have an appointed seat on the KRRC Board and are active in ensuring that the many steps towards removal stay on schedule. Click here to see KRRC’s dam removal timeline.
Most notably, over the next two years, the KRRC will have to work through the highly bureaucratic Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) process for License Transfer and Surrender. On a parallel path, KRRC will have to navigate the California and Oregon 401 Water Quality Certification Process and the FERC National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process. If the FERC and permitting process go well, KRRC will then turn their attention towards the solicitation and contracting challenge of hiring a qualified design and build construction firm. All this must be accomplished while simultaneously carrying out a massive education and outreach strategy to communicate effectively with dozens of special interest groups, government agencies, tribes, farmers, and private landowners.
Key nurseries for the Klamath Basin
As the KRRC prepares to meet these challenges head on, CalTrout is also ready to act. Dam removal will improve water quality and reduce fish disease throughout the mainstem Klamath River. With the lethal impact of these factors diminished, the Shasta and Scott tributaries can resume their historic role as key nurseries in the Klamath Basin for threatened coho and fall-run Chinook. As Dr. Peter Moyle noted, “This is one of the most productive river systems in the entire Klamath Basin, so if you improve conditions in the Shasta River for salmon and steelhead, you’re improving conditions for in the entire Klamath Basin.” Historically, the Shasta River produced more than 50% of all the returning adult Chinook in the entire Klamath Basin while the Scott River consistently generates one of the largest returns of wild northern California coast coho salmon in the state (NRC, 2004). When the Klamath Dams come down, the Shasta and Scott need to be ready.
Significant work remains, however, to prepare these basins for an influx of healthy returning adult salmon. Over the next three years, CalTrout is uniquely positioned to carry out large-scale restoration projects on private lands. Both the Shasta and the Scott Rivers suffer from water diversions to support agriculture, which degrades flow and water quality at critical times of the year for salmon. Diversion dams also restrict access to important spawning and rearing habitat. To directly address these issues, CalTrout engages water users—primarily multi-generational family farmers—by offering incentives for voluntary cooperation in restoring habitat for salmon. In 2017, CalTrout partnered with the Hart Ranch on the Little Shasta River to secure a multimillion dollar grant to completely retool the ranch’s irrigation infrastructure. By replacing leaky pipes and valves, improving water management, and being more efficient with agricultural operations, the Hart Ranch was then able to use California water code 1707 to dedicate meaningful water savings back to the stream for salmon. Not only did the Hart Ranch upgrade their infrastructure and improve their water efficiency but in doing so they drastically reduced their exposure to environmental litigation under the Endangered Species Act.
CalTrout is currently working with other landowners in the Shasta and Scott rivers to replicate this voluntary, incentive-based model. By bringing partners to the table voluntarily, farmers often take great pride in the stewardship of natural resources, better water management, and the recovery of threatened or endangered species. As Blair Hart is fond of saying, “We know how to grow cows. We don’t know how to grow fish. But we’re going to learn.” CalTrout facilitates this learning process by offering the technical and financial assistance landowners need to understand how their agricultural operations affect aquatic ecosystems and the complex life history strategies of salmon and steelhead.
CalTrout also develops partnerships with leading academic institutions like the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences to ensure that all our work and restoration strategies remain grounded in science. Finally, CalTrout taps into tools and policies like voluntary Safe Harbor Agreements and California Water Code Section 1707 to find legal solutions for landowners that want to support salmon recovery efforts but might be discouraged by regulatory roadblocks or fear of litigation.
As Klamath Dam removal moves closer and closer to reality, CalTrout continues to work as part of the KRRC and with a broad coalition of long-time partners to ensure that the FERC license transfer and surrender goes smoothly at the federal level. In rural Siskiyou County, CalTrout continues to work towards restoring two of the most important salmon producing tributaries in the entire Klamath Basin. Combined, these strategies ensure that when the Klamath Dams do finally come down, fish will return to healthy waters for a better California.
To celebrate World Fish Migration Day, we’re sharing this creative article written by our own Mike Wier on the removal of Klamath Dams from the perspective of fish. Currently, the Klamath River Renewal Corporation (KRRC) is hosting informational meetings about dam removal and encourage the public to attend as this is best place to hear what’s going on and to ask questions.
Controversy over Klamath Dams removal has some native fish excited while some local fish remain apprehensive.
By Michael E. Wier
The Klamath Basin is on the verge of what could be the largest river restoration project in the history of the United States, maybe the world. Last year settlements were procured between the dam operating company PacifiCorp and a multitude of other stakeholders (including farmers, tribes, commercial fisherman, local government, and conservationists) to remove four dams on the mainstem Klamath River. After years of negotiations it was decided that retrofitting the dams for new safety standards and updating operational facilities would cost more money for PacifiCorp, rather than forfeiting their license and removing the dams altogether. Funding methods have now been implemented and plans are being drafted to begin the dam removal process as soon as 2020.
Removing the four dams will re-connect over 300 miles of historic habitat that was once accessible to native salmon and steelhead. Isolated tribes of native fish persist high in the tributaries of the downstream reaches of Klamath River. Many of those fish have been waiting patiently for decades for the opportunity to return to their native waters.
Wild Bill, an elder from the last of the winter steelhead tribe and one of the greatest proponents of dam removable commented: “The upper Klamath basin is our ancestral water. We used to have spawning ceremonies in the great springs of the Wood and the Williamson. Now we are stuck in the isolated lower tributaries. Most of these small rivers have snowmelt source waters that are no longer reliable. Our fish brothers and sisters have been suffering. It’s our right to return to the sacred lake and our historic spawning springs.”
Over the past few decades, living conditions in the lower stretches of the river have significantly declined. In some years, algae blooms on the reservoir warmed the water temperatures and depleted oxygen down to lethal levels.
A fall-run Chinook we interviewed a few years back had this to say: “I waited years to be ready for the Fall Spawn Prom. After a couple weeks of Singles Mixers in the estuary, a large group of us decided to head up river for the annual migration ceremony. Things were going good until we hit mid-river. All of the sudden the water started getting really hot and I was having trouble breathing. By that point we were too far up river to turn back. I looked around and a lot of the better-looking hens started losing their eyesight. Everyone started gasping for breath and then went belly up right in front of me. It was like a scene from a zombie horror movie. I didn’t get to spawn at all that year. Needless to say I was bummed, man!”
Many wild salmon and steelhead were completely pushed out of their cold home springs once the dams were installed. However, other fish have since moved into those neighborhoods and taken up permanent residence. If native salmon return, local trout know they will mostly likely be bullied out of the prime feeding lanes.
Mr. Planterton, a trout from below JC Boyle Dam, remarked: “I’m a fifth generation transplant. My grandfather’s grandfather fell from the great truck tank back in 1985. I’ve been stuck in this reach for a long time. I’ve been trying to find a way out of here. How the heck does one get to the ocean from here? I swam up the river and down the river, and back up and down, yet I always just end up in this stupid lake. I really want to see the great ocean, but I am also nervous about running into those giant salmon squach I have heard legends about.”
Many wild fish from across the state of California are very happy about the dams’ removal. It’s exciting to imagine all the new territory to explore.
Even strays from neighboring watersheds are hopeful for the prospect of someday visiting the Cascade Range. One noted: “I’m from the Smith River area, but I’ve always wanted to visit the Klamath. Some strays I ran into a few years back in the ocean school talked about miles of river roads leading to some truly amazing cold springs. As the Smith gets warmer, those cold springs sound better and better. We never imagined it could be possible for an ocean fish to make it out of the coastal range. But rumor has it that once those road blocks come out we’ll be able to make it all the way to the great redband basin and beyond. There’s bound to be some epic cold springs up there.”
However there is still some resistance from local fish who will be most affected by removing the four dams. Stretches of river that were once superhighways for salmon and steelhead have now been filled up behind the dams. All those new warm water housing developments are now occupied by non-native fish who migrated here from other areas looking for a better life.
Billy the Bass commented, “I am a third generation Siskyou bass. My family has been herding crawdads and farming dragonfly larva in the shallows of Irongate as long as I can remember. We’re tough as any bass out there. I’ve heard stories of our Shasta kin having angler-fighting rodeos. They let humans catch them for fun, then they fight their way free. Maybe if more people were paying attention to us, we could have one of those fancy tournaments here. I bet that would bring some human tourists to the area. We sure like to entertain.”
A young wild summer steelhead named Steely Dan responded, “Forget fighting humans. That’s lame. All I need is some frosty bugs and some tasty cold river waves, dude. Once those dams come out I plan to be one of the first steelhead up there. I can make that swim in a couple days. I’ve heard there are still some cute landlocked hens up there. I can’t wait to introduce myself and hopefully dance with some. And if I run into any of those foreign bass, I’ll kick their tales off! That’s my grandfather’s river.”
Whichever way you feel about it, it will be interesting to see the changes along the Klamath River in the coming decade. Exciting times ahead.
Photos by Mike Wier.
CalTrout is an active supporter of Proposition 68, the California Clean Water & Safe Parks Act, as it heads toward the vote this June. As our Executive Director Curtis Knight explains, “we need this important funding to support our state’s water needs and struggling fish. This is a valuable investment in our water security.” Californians have a responsibility to act, especially since our state can no longer rely on the federal government to protect our resources.
If passed, $4 billion will be invested in protecting our own unique natural resources, fighting climate change, and ensuring every Californian has access to clean drinking water and safe, accessible parks. Of that, $1.6 billion will go towards ensuring clean drinking water, increasing local water supplies, and protecting our state from future droughts. Through critical and cost-efficient investments in water supplies and water quality, Prop 68 addresses water at its sources—rivers, lakes, streams, natural areas, and groundwater—and provides funds to make localities more self-reliant by increasing water capture and recycling.
Prop 68 will allow our organization to keep moving forward on projects that support habitat resiliency, resource enhancement, and climate preparedness, such as:
* Our work in Southern California planning for the removal of Matilija Dam to restore the Ventura River Watershed;
* Innovative efforts in the Central Valley helping to restore endangered salmon and improve agricultural practices;
* A South Coast Steelhead Coalition project CalTrout is involved in replacing a bridge on the Santa Margarita River that blocks the migration of Southern steelhead and puts the public at risk due to flooding after storms.
In this cycle we’re in of drought and extreme weather, now is a critical time to support this legislation to protect our communities from ecological degradation and flooding. Vote Yes on Prop 68 to provide a better California for future generations. We can give them the same chance to experience the natural wonders of California as we and our ancestors before us did.
2% for Trout
Working together to protect and enhance our wild fish and fragile angling resources through research, education and advocacy.
California Trout and The Fly Shop have joined in partnership for the 2% for Trout program which will support our fish conservation and restoration efforts. For every trip reservation made through The Fly Shop, either to Alaska, Kamchatka, Argentina, or any other local or worldwide fishing destination, a donation will be made to our organization equal to 2% of the cost of the travel package.
“We are thrilled to partner with The Fly Shop and appreciate their commitment to CalTrout and our work. Together we are ensuring resilient wild fish thrive in healthy waters for a better California.” – Curtis Knight, Executive Director.
Based in Redding, California, The Fly Shop is one of the most recognizable names in fly fishing retail and also operates a full international travel department. Owner Mike Michalak has made a quality reputation over his 40 years in business. “Here at The Fly Shop, it’s always been about people. Since April of 1978, I’ve worked to surround myself with the most talented staff, the best products, and the finest angling travel destinations in fly fishing. Along the way, most of our customers became our friends. Everybody says they’re the best, but my people have been proving it since our doors opened,” explains Mike.
Explore the shop’s website where they include detailed descriptions and photos of each fly fishing destination.
*Required when booking: Mention the 2% for Trout program and specify California Trout as the receiving organization.*