The Week’s Newsbytes

Groundwater Management: Today’s Hot Topic…Finally

California remains the only state in the union without statewide regulation of groundwater. Lack of regulation creates an unsustainable ‘tragedy of the commons’ use of groundwater, especially during dry years. California’s severe drought and full consequences of increased groundwater pumping — including dry wells, rivers drying up, and land subsidence—have heightened awareness of groundwater issues. Groundwater is a wonky topic, but important to fish because it often sustains river flows during drought.

CalTrout and other leaders have come together to make sure our state does the right thing, right now with the launch of the Groundwater Voices Coalition website, sponsored by the California Water Foundation. The site aims to educate decision makers about the need for more effective and sustainable groundwater management. Check it out and educate yourself on this important issue.

In other groundbreaking groundwater news,

A Sacramento Superior Court judge issued a ruling Tuesday requiring regulation of groundwater pumping to protect a river in Siskiyou County.  Attorneys on both sides say it’s the first time a California court has ruled the “public trust doctrine” applies to groundwater. The doctrine says the State of California holds all waterways for the benefit of the people.  The lawsuit claimed groundwater pumping in the Scott River Basin is partly responsible for decreased river flows – limiting the public’s use of the river and harming fish habitat. … 

Read more from Capital Public Radio here: Sacramento Judge Makes Precedent-Setting Ruling On Groundwater Regulation


HCRP Crowdfunding Goal Surpassed

We’re thrilled to announce that we surpassed the goal of $25,000 for our Hat Creek Restoration Project crowdfunding campaign.  Almost $11,000 was raised through the Indiegogo platform and an additional $22,500 was donated directly to CalTrout bringing the total amount to $33,420. The donations secure a matching grant from Orvis and bring the total funding for the 3-year project to $1.15M.

We’d like to recognize and give special thanks to Sherri Wood whose generous donation on behalf of the World of Outdoors Foundation (WOOD Foundation) put us well above our mark. The $20,000 donation was made in memory of her husband, David, an avid fly fisherman who loved Hat Creek and would certainly appreciate the work being done to restore a robust, vibrant trout fishery for future generations to experience.

Each and every contribution, large and small, will help to bring Hat Creek back to its glory. Thanks to all who supported this important project.

The Week’s Newsbytes

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

2014 HCYI: Healthy Forests, Healthy Streams

hcrp-1The 2014 Hat Creek Youth Initiative hit the ground running last week with guest speakers, guided field tours at Hat Creek, and classroom learning to understand the stream ecology of Hat Creek. This year we have eight high school students who will be working until mid-August helping to restore Hat Creek.

Our first guest speaker, Kit Mullen – District Ranger with the Hat Creek Ranger District of the Lassen National Forest – gave the group the background info. necessary to understand the connection between healthy forests and healthy streams. Returning students who completed the program last year were able to ask Kit more detailed questions about forest disease and fire on the landscape, as well as see the connection to managing the riparian forest for future recruitment of large wood into streams.

Kit Mullen who has been at her current position with the USFS since 2006, brings a lifetime of outdoor and natural resource management knowledge from across the Unites States to share with the group, and is an accomplished angler to boot. Her rich knowledge, experience and lifetime of stories from living in the wilds of Alaska are second to none, and the group was fortunate to share their afternoon with her. Thanks Kit for your continued support!

The Week’s Newsbytes

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 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. 


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 and clicking on RF-38 Test Drilling #41652.


The Week’s Newsbytes

Protecting and Restoring California’s Groundwater Basins

CalTrout supports legislative efforts intended to produce more effective management of groundwater resources. Such legislation is particularly important as California increases its reliance on groundwater to confront the challenges presented by population growth, climate change and drought conditions.

We are particularly interested in ensuring that groundwater and surface water resources are managed in a sustainable and integrated manner to avoid impacts to stream flow levels and the biological resources that depend upon the stream flows, such as cold-water fish.

In a joint letter to Senator Pavley and Assembly members Dickinson and Rendon, California Trout and Trout Unlimited outline four key steps to a more sustainable approach to groundwater management.

Download (PDF, 240KB)

On the same topic, the Groundwater Resources Association of California, Contemporary Groundwater Issues Council recently outlined eight key points that the group considers critical to moving California’s groundwater management into the 21st century.  Read the recommendations in the California WaterBlog here.