A Return to Abundance
A word from CalTrout’s ED, Curtis Knight
January was a crazy weather month. Our staff in our Mammoth, Shasta and South Lake Tahoe offices all got good workouts shoveling out of massive snow storms. January leaves us with Shasta Reservoir at 120% of average and a Sierra snowpack around 200% of average. Recent rains have helped Southern California, though it is still drier than normal. Cachuma Reservoir on the Santa Ynez river, an important steelhead river and primary source of water for the city of Santa Barbara, is only at 11%. SoCal typically gets the majority of its precipitation in February and March, so here’s hoping the area catches up.
Has California recovered from the drought? No. Most notably, groundwater has been severely depleted and needs to be replenished. The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act of 2014 has helped promote groundwater recharge efforts but it will take numerous wet years and progressive management to recharge groundwater levels, especially in the Central Valley.
CalTrout staff and Board headed to Scotia on the Eel River this month for a board meeting and project tour. It was awesome, the Eel was running at 80,000 cfs, big and brown—and down from a peak a couple days earlier of 249,000 cfs! Such a contrast to a trip I made in September of 2014 when the river was running completely dry at the Ferndale Bridge.
That’s a good thing for California’s third largest watershed–the drought coinciding with an explosion in marijuana cultivation hit this area hard. And yes, I hear you steelhead anglers, the Eel has given up few fishable days—keep your eyes on those hydrographs, keep your spey rod in the car and be ready to go on a moment’s notice. You can take comfort in knowing these flows, pouring out of the veins of this vast watershed, are providing pathways for migrating steelhead and salmon to access areas they have been unable to get to in years.
You’ve been hearing a lot about the Eel from us lately. Humboldt Steelhead Days is in full swing, our Return to Abundance film is running crazy on social media, and our North Coast staff is running hard to implement our headwaters to the sea approach to restoring the Eel. For us it’s simple. The Eel River presents the best opportunity for a return to historic fish abundance then anywhere in the Pacific Northwest.
If you haven’t yet watched Return to Abundance or read the latest issue of The Current, please do. You’ll come to understand why we believe the Eel is a special place primed for a comeback and what we’re doing to help get it there.
We’ll be rolling out more of our Eel story and plan over the next few weeks. Please watch, share and let us know what you think.