No Flow on the Eel River

The Eel River has officially stopped flowing in the lower reach, cutting off migratory fish from their passage to the Ocean as shown in the video below by Eel River Recovery Project.

This year, more than ever, underscores the importance of the work CalTrout is doing in the Eel River drainage to help create multi-agency water management solutions to keep water in the river for fish. 

Click to learn more about CalTrout’s Eel River Restoration Project and Coho Recovery Project and let’s hope the Eel gets some rain soon.

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PacifiCorp Klamath Project Agreement to Lessen Impact of Drought

PacifiCorp, the company supplying power to parts of Oregon, Washington and Northern California, has agreed to release water from its reservoirs to lessen the impact of drought in the Bureau of Reclamation’s Klamath Project.

“This proposal is an opportunity to positively contribute to the health of federally listed fish species in Upper Klamath Lake and the Klamath River, supports tribal interests, and will prove beneficial to Project irrigators for the 2014 water year during these critical drought conditions,”  said Reclamation’s Mid-Pacific Deputy Regional Director Jason Phillips. 

While the Bureau’s news release does not make clear when any additional Klamath River flow releases will be made to protect adult salmon now moving into the lower river, it is welcome news that the Klamath water users, specifically PacifiCorp, step to the plate to protect these fish. It is especially important that terms of the newly revised Klamath Project biological opinion be followed, even in these difficult drought years.

CalTrout also welcomes Reclamation reconsidering the use of Trinity water if conditions in the lower Klamath deteriorate throughout the remainder of this drought season.

To read the Bureau of Reclamation’s full press release, click here.

Eel River Recovery Work

Yesterday, the Sacramento Bee ran an insightful article on the Eel River, the looming battle for its waters, and the impact water diversions and other factors have had on salmon and steelhead.

At issue is the re-licensing of the river’s (or PG&E’s) Potter Valley Project which includes a mile-long tunnel that began diverting Eel water to the Russian River more than a hundred years ago.  

For insight on the issue, Bee reporter Susan Sward looked at three other water battles across the state; the Trinity River, Klamath River and Mono Lake. Each of these have had at least one thing in common — CalTrout’s involvement in fighting for adequate flows and a healthy ecosystem for the state’s wild fish populations.  

CalTrout strives for the same goal on the Eel. As the Sac Bee article states:

The potential for consensus on the Eel may exist in the respected Eel River Forum, an effort by CalTrout’s Darren Mierau to bring the affected parties together. The forum’s 22 members include the Sonoma County Water Agency, PG&E, the Potter Valley Irrigation District, Indian tribes, state and federal agencies and environmental groups.

Mierau, CalTrout’s North Coast regional manager, told me: “The river needs help. There is such a great opportunity for a huge recovery of the Eel.”

Read the full story here.

Bridge Creek Project

In other Eel-related news, construction of the half-million dollar Bridge Creek Fish Passage Project began in earnest last week. Over the next several weeks, this project will remove a 200 fo0t section of the North West pacific Railroad Line that runs along the mainstem Eel River near Scotia, CA, along with more than 30,000 cubic yards of the railroad crossing fill materials that has blocked access to coho salmon and steelhead habitat in Bridge Creek for decades.  Progress made includes:

  • installed a temporary stream crossing
  • laid out fish protection and stream dewatering infrastructure (pipes, hoses, etc.)
  • removed approved sections of railroad tracks
  • began removing fill dirt and rock from the railroad embankment, a task that will take several weeks to complete. Lots of dirt to move!

The project will wrap-up late this summer, in time to welcome home salmon and steelhead into Bridge Creek for the first time in many, many years.

Temporary creek crossing

Temporary creek crossing

Train track removal

Train track removal

Save the Smith from Mining

CalTrout let you know earlier this year about a nickel mine being proposed in the headwaters of the Smith River in Oregon. We published an op-ed in May in the San Francisco Chronicle highlighting the threat.

We have now learned of the submission of a water license by the mining company to the Oregon Water Resources Department to extract water from a tributary of the North Fork Smith River.

California’s most pristine river needs your voice now! The Public comment period for this 5-year limited water license is open from June 24 until July 8, 2014.

Click here for the public comment section for the project or email the Oregon Water Resources Director at Director@wrd.state.or.us or phone at 503-986-0900

Dear Director:

The Oregon portion of the North Smith River watershed on the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest is being targeted for a large nickel mine that would devastate the area for recreation and pollute water for municipalities of California. Proposed test drilling for the nickel mine requires thousands of gallons of water. The Red Flat Nickel Corp (owned by St Peter Port Capital, United Kingdom) applied to Oregon Water Resources Department for a 5-year limited license to take public water from Taylor Creek for industrial mining purposes.


I believe the limited license LL1533 should be denied because the water use would impair one of California’s last remaining salmon and steelhead strongholds. The Smith River is an economically important recreation area and water extraction by the mine would be a detriment to the public interest.

This proposed water diversion is the first of many potential impacts to the Smith River if this strip mine is approved.  The strip mine will also leach toxic metals, increase sediment loads, and result in the accidental release of processing chemicals. 


Smith River is one of California’s premier “Salmon Strongholds”.  The Smith is home to coastal Chinook salmon, steelhead, coho salmon and coastal cutthroat trout.   The Smith is the largest undammed river in California.  The Smith deserves full protection from the threats of strip mines. 

I urge you to protect the Smith River and deny the Red Flat Nickel mine’s application for a 5-year limited license to extract water from the headwaters of the Smith River. 

BACKGROUND:

Red Flat Nickel Corp. plans to drill 35 3-inch diameter holes to a depth of 50 feet to obtain core samples of minerals adjacent to existing roads. The location of the proposed mine is 8 miles east of Gold Beach, Oregon, in the area known as Red Flat within the Hunter Creek and North Fork Pistol River watersheds in the headwaters of the Smith River.

These exploratory mining operations are being reviewed by the Forest Service and there will be a NEPA comment period, anticipated for November 2014.

You can find more information at http://www.fs.usda.gov/projects/rogue-siskiyou/landmanagement/projects and clicking on RF-38 Test Drilling #41652.

 

Smith River Update

smith-parmentier_9251

The Smith River is one of California’s premier “Salmon Strongholds.”  The Smith is home to coastal cutthroat trout (seen below), steelhead, and coho and Chinook salmon.  CalTrout has been a trusted partner with the Smith River Alliance (SRA) on decades of conservation projects in the watershed.  Read on for updates on the Smith projects.  For more information please visit www.smithriveralliance.org.

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Humboldt County Fails to Protect Salmon Stream

After two rambling hearings on Dec. 10 and Jan. 7, the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 (Lovelace dissenting) to approve the Halvorsen Quarry reclamation plan without adequate protections for water quality, fish habitat, and nesting bald eagles.

The quarry is adjacent to Rocky Creek, a coho-bearing tributary of Humboldt Bay. Rocky Creek’s lower reach—which was once low-gradient slough and wetland habitat before being diked off from the bay’s tidal influence—has recently been restored to support juvenile over-wintering coho and tidewater goby.

Humboldt Baykeeper and CalTrout appealed the Planning Commission’s approval after many of our concerns were ignored.

For the full article as it appeared in the Northcoast Environmental Center’s Feb/Mar EcoNews click here.

Low Water Flows Prompt Closures

On January 29th, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) closed some waters to fishing in order to protect native salmon and steelhead from low water flows in California streams and rivers that have been significantly impacted by drought. CDFW is also recommending that the Fish and Game Commission adopt emergency regulations on other rivers.

The CDFW press release states

Current low stream flow conditions will prevent the movement of migrating anadromous fish, primarily wild steelhead trout. Stream flows in many systems are inadequate to allow passage of spawning adults, increasing their vulnerability to mortality from predation, physiological stress and angling. Furthermore, survival of eggs and juvenile fish in these systems over the coming months is likely to be extremely low if the current drought conditions continue. These temporary angling closures on selected streams will increase survival of adult wild steelhead.

With our mission of protecting and restoring wild trout, steelhead, salmon and their waters throughout California, we support these closings.

Still plenty of great places to fish out there but plan accordingly.

Quarry threatens to undermine the public trust

Imagine taking a 5-acre piece of hillside in a watershed surrounding Humboldt Bay, removing all of the trees and topsoil down to bare dirt and rock, exposing it to year after year of winter rains, and then expecting downstream neighbors and Humboldt County residents to believe “it’ll be fine.”  That’s what the county supervisors and the Schneider quarry operators are asking us to do.

Read the full article in the Eureka Times-Standard by CalTrout’s North Coast manager, Darren Mierau.

North Coast Manager Darren Mierau On Opening Day For The Yurok Tribe

First day of Yurok fishing season, Klamath

The first day of Yurok fishing season on the Klamath.

This from CalTrout’s North Coast Region Manager Darren Mierau:

I ended up at the mouth of the Klamath this morning with my wife, and witnessed the amazing and fascinating spectacle of the start of the Yurok fishing season. There was a focused energy and bustle, and a prevailing silence to the event and already over a hundred boats in the water. I felt privileged to see it and know it’s part of what we fight for… gill nets and all.

Klamath Salmon, Tribes, Fishermen, Conservation Groups All Breathing A Little Easier

Judge O’Neil Orders Increased Flows Down Trinity, Klamath Rivers To Protect Salmon

CalTrout members wondering if another massive fish kill is in store for the Klamath’s salmon can now breathe a little easier.

A Federal judge allowed a Bureau of Reclamation plan — which released extra water down the Trinity River (a Klamath Tributary) to prevent a salmon die-off like the one that occurred in 2002 — to proceed.

(From the Eureka Times Standard)

Trinity River water will be released to protect salmon after a federal judge lifted his order Thursday afternoon, finding the additional flows critical to preventing a repeat of the massive fish kill from 2002.

”Releases are designed to prevent a potentially serious fish die off from impacting salmon populations entering the Klamath River estuary,” Judge Lawrence O’Neill concluded.

”There is no dispute and the record clearly reflects that the 2002 fish kill had severe impacts on commercial fishing interests, tribal fishing rights and the ecology, and that another fish kill would likely have similar impacts.”

CalTrout had broadcast an alert about the situation on the Klamath (“A Federal Judge To Decide The Fate Of The Klamath’s Salmon“).

CalTrout Conservation Director Curtis Knight applauded the decision to release approximately 20,000 acre-feet of water down the Trinity, pointing out the best available science was used to arrive at the number — which was considerably lower than the 69,000-109,000 acre feet originally forecast.

“We use adaptive management techniques whenever possible to arrive at the best solutions for fish, habitat and those who have other uses for the water. It’s the same kind of adaptive management that would be brought to the Klamath by the Klamath Basin Agreements, where science would be used to manage flows, not rigid guidelines.”

Knight also said “This whole episode underscores the need for a basin-wide solution to the Klamath’s problems. We can’t keep lurching from crisis to crisis, especially considering the impacts these water issues have on the whole state. It’s dumb and it’s expensive. We can do better.”

The increased flows are designed to protect high numbers of salmon currently entering the lower Klamath River from the same conditions — warm water, disease and overcrowding — that led to the massive 2002 Klamath River fish kill.

The original Bureau of Reclamation plan was delayed by a lawsuit filed by the Westlands Water District and San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority — water agencies located over 300 miles south of the Klamath River. They feared that water releases to protect salmon would deprive them of some of next year’s water allocation.

And while the outcome is welcome, not everyone was pleased by the delay. In a statement, Congressman Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) said he was happy the water was released, but was concerned it might still come too late:

“The legal squabbling over water that does not even belong to Central Valley irrigators forced a delay that could prove deadly to salmon migrating into the Klamath,” Huffman said. “I encourage the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to move swiftly in implementing its planned releases.”

For more details about the story, we recommend the Eureka Times-Standard story by Catherine Wong and the Earthjustice website