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.)
- CalTrout-led South Coast Steelhead Coalition is working to recover Southern California steelhead and their habitat,… https://t.co/8XXNPemF5L ->
- For the 1st time, the largest tribe in California (Yurok) has one of their own to lead its legal battles. As lead a… https://t.co/ArPoA2R3Mk ->
- Recently passed #Prop68 will be a boon for some long-delayed projects that have long struggled to find funding, lik… https://t.co/BaOZ5NzUlb ->
- #CalTrout recently joined @CAStateParks & Resources Legacy Fund on a coast-to-crest tour of #Malibu Canyon, strateg… https://t.co/sjNVhVmcSw ->
CalTrout joined members of State Parks and Resources Legacy Fund on a coast-to-crest tour of Malibu Canyon on June 6, strategizing for the future removal of Rindge Dam. The 100-foot dam, built for water storage, became obsolete just 30 years post-construction after the reservoir filled entirely with sediment– sediment that is needed for sand replenishment at the beach. It was decommissioned in 1967, but still provides an illegal jumping-off point for visitors.
The photos below (courtesy of State Parks) show the renovated estuary and majestic beauty of Malibu Canyon, and miles of high quality spawning and rearing habitat that would become accessible to endangered steelhead and other species after dam removal to complete their own coast to crest tour.
Since the construction of Rindge Dam, endangered Southern California steelhead have been blocked from reaching high quality spawning grounds in upper Malibu Creek, which is classified as a Core 1 watershed defined in the National Marine Fisheries Service Southern Steelhead Recovery Plan
The removal plan for Rindge Dam is set to be finalized within the next couple months by the California Department of Parks and Recreation and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; it was approved by the California Coastal Commission earlier this year. The plan has been in the works since the 1990s. Progress has been slow because multiple agencies and organizations are involved in the planning and because the waters that drain into the ocean are federally protected, both U.S. and state agencies must coordinate their efforts.
CalTrout has been involved with this project for decades. Southern California steelhead and fish passage improvement remains one of our Key Initiatives.
- Our organization and members are proud to say that we're voting #Yeson68 tomorrow! We are excited to see investment… https://t.co/r9mgGPoJLP ->
- Election day is tomorrow! Who's already voted #YesOn68!? Tell us why! in reply to CalTrout ->
- Until the end of June, enjoy 15% off CalTrout's custom #fish pint glasses, featuring original artwork by Paul Water… https://t.co/9Q1YH8G33s ->
- We stand with the Winnemem Tribe to bring back native #kingsalmon to the #McCloudRiver, which means getting them pa… https://t.co/fdJdoQ6xYw ->
- It's California Invasive Species ACTION Week! Take action by volunteering & sharing the message that… https://t.co/samXBRcguV ->
- We did it! Prop 68 passed! https://t.co/vQjcpavwOd ->
- RT @WaterEdFdn: 'Time for action' to avert Colorado River crisis, federal official says, via @TDSIanJames top story in today's https://t.co… ->
- RT @agleader: California Water is out! https://t.co/zVxyx4U2ur Stories via @GaryWockner @ShaneGoldmacher ->
- We should all feel proud watching this video of #CalTrout's recent work in #conservation and #restoration. Our foll… https://t.co/1b6GOXx2J6 ->
- Open spaces & parks. Clean water. Nature. On June 5th vote #YesOn68 to ensure that future generations can continue… https://t.co/K66UzAdOvj ->
- Have unanswered questions about #Prop68, the #California Clean Water & Safe Parks Act? Tune in tomorrow at 10AM PST… https://t.co/DotlplPq8Q ->
- RT @WaterDeeply: Check out our latest #DeeplyTalks on Delta fisheries w/ Peter Moyle & @fishydurand @ucdavis https://t.co/0CZAQtHlqH @ian_W… ->
- #FremontWier is being rebuilt for easier fish passage from #YoloBypass to #SacramentoRiver, helping endangered… https://t.co/uqa5qsmY95 ->
- Join us at 10 am at @Yes68CA to get all your questions answered about Prop 68, the California Clean Water and Safe… https://t.co/udldLHkF2x ->
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- One of our favorite spots in #California: Mossbrae Falls on the Upper Sac River. #Yeson68 to protect CA's most trea… https://t.co/FSKbauRUaq ->
- #MossbraeFalls on the #UpperSac (Photo by Mike Wier:) https://t.co/06Ro2vKI6w in reply to CalTrout ->
- Imagine a #California where we don't have to choose between fish or farms for water. Vote #Yeson68 to fund… https://t.co/Oopy7TdyuD ->
This month CalTrout joined the Bay Area Youth Fly Fishers for their launch event at the Golden Gate Casting Ponds. Over 40 kids showed up with their families, excited to learn about fly fishing. They had a blast rotating through activities: bug briefing and fly tying, casting, knot tying, and a lesson in fish and water conservation. It was great to see so many people and groups come out and motivate the next generation of fly fishers. In addition to our organization, Trout Unlimited helped as well, along with local fly shop Lost Coast Outfitters, and Bay Area fly clubs, Diablo Valley Fly Fishermen, Grizzly Peak Fly Fishers, Flycasters Inc. of San Jose, and of course the Golden Gate Angling and Casting Club, who graciously allowed us to use their facilities and historic Anglers Lodge.
- Sat. May 19th join #BayAreaYouthFlyFishers at the Golden Gate Casting Ponds. Kids grades 4-7 are invited w/ their f… https://t.co/nbNSmOW50O ->
- RT @OrvisFlyFishing: Test yourself against the Quiz Master in our weekly trivia challenge. How much do you know about fish, rivers, and fli… ->
- RT @VenturingAngler: Nice video.
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- It’s just a matter of time before the next #fire or #drought. CalTrout supports Prop 68, Clean Water & Safe Parks A… https://t.co/ja7i8kwxo8 ->
- PG&E has announced plans to sell its #PotterValleyProject on the #EelRiver, which consists of 2 dams, 1 of which (S… https://t.co/bMbWHxCB7b ->
- Bay Area Youth Fly Fishers launch event last Saturday. Over 40 kids showed up to learn how to #flycast, tie knots,… https://t.co/d8nvxQO85P ->
Earlier this month PG&E announced they are putting their Potter Valley Project out to open bid this fall. This project consists of two dams– Van Arsdale Dam that diverts water to the Russian River for hydropower and other uses, and Scott Dam, the only fish passage barrier on the mainstem Eel blocking over 150 miles of salmon and steelhead spawning and rearing habitat.
CalTrout, Friends of the Eel River, Trout Unlimited, and other conservation and commercial fishery interests have a goal to remove Scott Dam and return fish to the upper Eel watershed. Returning salmon and steelhead to their historic home in the headwaters of the Eel is a critical part of our efforts to restore fish abundance back to the Eel River.
What does PG&E’s decision to put the Potter Valley Project up to bid mean? It means that any entity could bid to buy the project and operate the facility for hydropower or just for the benefits of diverting water to the Russian River, or both as is currently the case. This is not our preferred alternative.
In an effort to push stakeholders towards dam removal, CalTrout has helped facilitate a series of ad hoc meetings convened by Congressman Jared Huffman (D-CA), which includes our conservation partners, PG&E, and Sonoma County Water Agency. Our hope is that through these conversations, the group of diverse interests can come to an agreement that includes the removal of Scott Dam.
Currently, CalTrout and partners are working to build the record of information to make the case for dam removal. To date we have established that there is at least 150 miles of spawning habitat above Scott Dam, we are working with a consultant to assess the feasibility and cost of removing Scott Dam, and we are in the process of assessing water rights.
Opportunities to remove big dams in California are few. Scott Dam on the Eel River represents one of the best opportunities in the state and PG&E’s announcement has helped move things along, hopefully in a positive direction for California’s salmon and steelhead.
To learn more about the Eel River and the opportunity for salmon and steelhead abundance once again, watch this film.