Santa Clara River Gets a Pick Me Up

31st Annual Coastal Cleanup Day


Photo courtesy of Nina Danza

Keeping our rivers, beaches, and estuaries clean of pollution and promoting good water quality along our coast and waterways is imperative to the recovery of this federally endangered species. Coastal Cleanup Day is just one way to help us fulfill this mission.

California Trout, Sierra Club and The Nature Conservancy partnered to co-captain the Santa Clara River Gateway site as part of the 31st anniversary of International Coastal Cleanup Day on Saturday, September 19, 2015. This was the second year the groups partnered at this new site to clear trash from the lower Santa Clara River main stem.

25 volunteers worked tirelessly between 09:00am until 12:00pm to clear 1,399 pounds of garbage from two square miles of the Santa Clara River. Almost a TON – tires, shopping carts, shoes, gloves, golf bag, eyeglasses, a bible… you name it! The teens from Foothill Technology High School were an inspiration! The youngsters from Sierra Linda 5th Grade (Oxnard) turned the time into a fantastic fun work party! What a pleasure to see young stewards of our environment getting involved and supporting local community efforts.

Volunteers picked up all human-made debris at the site and recorded what they removed on data cards. The data collected is inserted into the Ocean Conservancy’s international database, which helps identify the sources of debris, and helps inform strategies to address marine pollution. The Santa Clara River Steelhead Coalition’s mission; of which CalTrout is the chair, is to protect and restore wild southern California steelhead and its habitat in the Santa Clara River watershed spanning Los Angeles and Ventura Counties. Steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss) are rainbow trout that exhibit an anadramous (i.e., migrating to and from the ocean) life history.

Fishing line is a big perpetrator that is collected on Coastal Cleanup Day. And Friends of the Los Angeles River have initiated their Fishing Line Recycling Program in an effort to combat the effects fishing line has on local wildlife.


Thanks again to all our volunteers!

Santa Clara River Steelhead Coalition Update

scsclogoSanta Clara River Steelhead Coalition Efforts Forge On

The CalTrout chaired Santa Clara River Steelhead Coalition has been extended from June 2015 through May 2017; with generous funds from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Fisheries Restoration Grant Program (FRGP), and additional support from The Rose Foundation, Marisla Foundation, Patagonia, Southern California Edison, and Friends of the Santa Clara River.

The Coalition will pursue six planning and/or implementation projects, such as the Harvey Diversion and 12th Street Infiltration Gallery Fish Passage Restoration Projects led by CalTrout (Read more about 12th Street below), as well as the Santa Clara River Estuary Habitat Restoration and Enhancement Feasibility Study (FRGP 2013); and, IRWM Prop 84 Arundo donax removal and riparian habitat restoration project (read more  on that project here), led by Coalition members the Wishtoyo Foundation and University of California Santa Barbara Riparian Invasion Research Laboratory respectively.

A key recovery strategy has been and will continue to be outreach, education and community engagement. Further objectives of the renewal are to grow and strengthen the existing Coalition of partners. This will be done through a minimum of eight outreach events, from large-scale participation events to a hosted Water Talks Program; expanding on the Mount Shasta model, and sharing our lessons and projects at scientific conferences.

The Coalition is also pleased to announce it has secured its third California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Fisheries Restoration Grant Program project to fund the 12th Street Infiltration Gallery Fish Passage Restoration Project

This project is located on the main-stem of the Santa Clara River – a “salmonid   stronghold” that historically supported a steelhead run of 9,000 adults. CalTrout is working with a private diversion operator to replace a gigantic earthen diversion/sand berm; which irrigates local citrus orchards, with an infiltration gallery (essentially an enormous French drain comprised of a matrix of perforated pipes).   The project is truly a “win-win” for environmental and agricultural stakeholders as it will restore fish passage, ensure reliable water infrastructure in this drought era, and reduce the landowner’s recurrent operational and maintenance costs to rebuild the diversion every year.

The Coalition hosts a webpage, Facebook Page and Twitter Account @SCRSC1, and will be producing a host of outreach materials and videos to support this strategy.


TNC Google Image 20140429(1)

CalTrout Sues Bureau of Reclamation Over Endangered Steelhead Deaths

California Trout, represented by the Environmental Defense Center (EDC), filed a lawsuit on October 6th in federal district court in Los Angeles against the United States Bureau of Reclamation (Bureau). The lawsuit alleges that the Bureau violated the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) by causing the deaths of hundreds of endangered Southern California steelhead trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) at Hilton Creek, below the Bradbury Dam and Cachuma Reservoir in Santa Barbara County.

Hilton Creek, which is located directly downstream from Bradbury Dam, is designated by the National Marine Fisheries Service as critical habitat for the endangered steelhead. The Bureau is required, pursuant to the ESA and a Biological Opinion issued by the National Marine Fisheries Service in 2000, to release water into Hilton Creek to ensure adequate flows for the species to migrate, spawn and mature and to ensure that the fish does not fall further into jeopardy of extinction. Water released into Hilton Creek flows directly into the main stem of the Santa Ynez River, providing water for downstream agricultural and other users.

Between March 2013 and June 2014 the Bureau’s water pumps continually failed, causing Hilton Creek to run dry, and leading to the death of at least 393 steelhead.

“The Hilton Creek fish kills are a good illustration of the problems that plague the entire Santa Ynez River watershed,” said Kurt Zimmerman, California Trout’s Southern California Program Manager. “Before the construction of Bradbury Dam, the Santa Ynez River supported the largest single run of steelhead south of San Francisco. The number of adult fish in this watershed will remain negligible or even decline until the Bureau manages the operation of the dam in a manner consistent with the protection and recovery of this important species.”

Download (PDF, Unknown)

CalTrout, EDC Plan to Sue Federal Government Over Deaths of Endangered Steelhead Trout

CalTrout and Environmental Defense Center yesterday issued a 60-day Notice of Violations and Intent to Sue to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation alleging violations of the Endangered Species Act.

The letter puts the Bureau on notice for its actions causing deaths of endangered Southern California steelhead trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) at Hilton Creek, below the Bradbury Dam and Cachuma Reservoir.

Between March 2013 and March 2014, the Bureau’s pumps failed to properly function and release water, causing Hilton Creek to run dry, and leading to the death of roughly 176 federally-endangered Southern California steelhead.  This past week, the pumps failed yet again – an outage which has killed over 200 steelhead.

Download (PDF, Unknown)

For coverage of the pump failures and action taken by CalTrout and EDC read the Independent article and the Noozhawk story.


Steelhead Exhibit at Aquarium of the Pacific Makes Debut

AoP signOn May 24th the Southern California Steelhead Story exhibit debuted at The Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach with 8,672 guests in attendance.

The exhibit aims to educate the public about the steelhead’s plight and enlist them in its fight for survival. While at the exhibit, guests can watch the CalTrout-produced film, Against All Odds, a documentary about the steelhead, one of California’s most magnificent and endangered native fish species.

CalTrout's Kurt Zimmerman and NOAA Coordinator, Reni L. Rydlewicz, on hand at the exhibit.

CalTrout’s Kurt Zimmerman and NOAA Coordinator, Reni L. Rydlewicz, on hand at the exhibit.

CalTrout’s Southern California Program Manager, Kurt Zimmerman, was on hand to answer questions about the restoration work being done by CalTrout and others to try to revive the species which is on the brink of extinction.

As stated in’s coverage of the opening,

With the exhibit, the agencies hope more people will learn about the species and involve themselves in watershed issues that affect both humans and wildlife. “The story doesn’t necessarily have to be a sad ending,” said Schubel, “We can help a happy ending for the steelhead and for the environment.”

Hear, hear.

First Steelhead Trout in Decades Spotted at Malibu Lagoon

Restoration work at Malibu Lagoon to save the endangered South Coast Steelhead seems to be paying off.  A 20-inch long steelhead was spotted in the Creek on May 15th, the first sighting in decades.

Congratulations to all those involved in the restoration efforts, including CalTrout’s Santa Clara River Steelhead Coalition Coordinator, Candice Meneghin.

“The project had a lot of critics during its implementation, because people didn’t believe that you should use a bulldozer in a sensitive habitat. The counter to that is that when you fill in a wetland with bulldozers and let that dirt stay there for 70 years, the only way to get it out again is to use more bulldozers,” said Suzanne Goode, a senior environmental scientist at California State Parks. “We feel somewhat vindicated to our critics who said that we were going to kill everything.”

For more on the restoration efforts, read the California State Parks press release.  Click to learn more about our Santa Clara River restoration project and the Santa Clara River Steelhead Coalition.

2014Malibu Lagoon Steelhead Trout










Photo Credit: Jayni Shuman, RCDSMM Stream Team.

New Aquarium of the Pacific to Feature CalTrout’s “Against All Odds”

California Trout and the Santa Clara River Steelhead Coalition have been raising the awareness of the plight of the South Coast steelhead and the need to recover the species in the region.  A big piece of those efforts has been promoting CalTrout’s documentary, Southern California Steelhead: Against All Odds, produced by Mike E. Weir.  The film premiered in November at Patagonia’s Great Pacific Iron Works and, since then, there has been an outpouring of support and interest in the documentary by conservation partners and educators alike.

A short version of the film will be included as part of the new Aquarium of the Pacific, slated to open May 23rd.  According to the LA Times,

Initially, the aquarium’s exhibit will pulse with hundreds of rainbow trout. “Eventually we may experiment with the chemistry of the water in hopes of watching some of these fish morph into steelheads,” Jerry Schubel, president and chief executive,  said.

The goal is to promote public support for restoration projects needed to turn local rivers back into “steelhead freeways,” he said.

We’re thrilled to be a part of this important project.

Released! See “Southern California Steelhead: Against All Odds” In Its Entirety

Nine months in the making, Southern California Steelhead: Against All Odds is now available online. We hope you enjoy watching this video as much as we enjoyed making it happen. Kudos to filmmaker Mike Wier for producing this stirring documentary, which looks at the dangers facing Southern California’s steelhead populations — and the things being done to protect and restore them.

Southern California Steelhead: Against All Odds from California Trout on Vimeo.

(Having trouble viewing it through the embedded player? Then watch it on Vimeo.)

Recovering California Steelhead South of Santa Cruz

By Kurt Zimmerman, Tim Frahm and Sam Davidson

Article reprinted with permission of Osprey Magazine

Kurt Zimmerman is Southern California Regional Manager for California Trout. Tim Frahm and Sam Davidson are California Central Coast Steelhead Coordinator and California Communications Manager for Trout Unlimited. Visit their web sites at:

Many anglers consider the steelhead trout (O. mykiss) the “perfect fish.” Steelhead are widely revered for their power and grace in the water, and for the high challenge of actually catching one. Sport fishing for steelhead is a major contributor to many local economies along the California coast.

Steelhead are rainbow trout exhibiting an anadromous (i.e., migrating to and from the ocean) life history. Unlike salmon, however, steelhead do not perish after the first spawning season, and may complete the cycle of anadromy multiple times.

Steelhead populations have declined precipitously across much of their range along the west coast of North America. Yet, steelhead are a remarkably resilient salmonid, and even in the most degraded habitats, remnant populations still persist. This fact, and the legal status of steelhead, have led to a multi-party effort to recover the species south of San Francisco Bay by restoring habitat, improving streamflows and fish passage opportunities, and even rescuing juveniles, as river segments dry up or become disconnected during summer. For more than two decades, steelhead advocacy groups such as California Trout (CalTrout) and Trout Unlimited have driven this effort, working in partnership with local steelhead conservation organizations, resource agencies, municipalities, agricultural interests, and water providers.

Click here to read more…

Sizable Snowfall Loss Predicted in Southern California Mountains

LA-area mountains may lose 30-40% of annual snowfall by mid-century according to new UCLA climate study

LA snow loss

The mountains surrounding Los Angeles will lose up to 42% of their snow by mid-century.

Southern California has long been known as the place where you could ski the nearby mountains in the morning and surf in afternoon.

By mid-century, those days may be gone. This “Climate Change In L.A.” press release was published by Climate Resolve — a Southern California group aimed at “Inspiring Los Angeles to meet the challenge of climate change.”

You can find more on their Climate Change LA website, but those who fish Southern California’s mountain streams for trout will want to pay attention.

Press Release

Today, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and UCLA Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences released Mid- and End-of-Century Snowfall in the Los Angeles Region, the second in a series of studies commissioned by the City of Los Angeles, funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. The snowfall study provides detailed forecasts of diminishing snowfall in Southern California Mountains between 2041-2060 and between 2081-2100.

The full study is available here.

This study predicts that, by mid-century, Los Angeles area mountains – including the San Bernardinos, San Gabriels, San Jacintos, and the Tehachapis – will lose upwards of 42% of their annual snowfall, given greenhouse gas emissions continue in a “business as usual” scenario. By the end of the century, the loss of snow will be closer to 70%.

Fortunately, if immediate substantive efforts are made to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, mid-century and end-of-century loss of snow could be limited to 31%.

Despite the threats of climate change, Los Angeles’ future is not yet decided. The City of Los Angeles has already taken big steps to reduce our carbon impact – including the decision to move off of coal by 2025 and investing in public transportation throughout the region.

While we will have to adapt to a changing climate with less snowfall and increased temperatures, Los Angeles has the opportunity to lead cities across the globe to a better future, ensuring that we will not only survive climate change, but thrive.

The full study is available here.