Project Goal:

CalTrout is convening a broad, collaborative team of agency partners to restore a 950-acre tidal marsh estuary surrounding Cannibal Island, adjacent to the mouth of the Eel River. The design will transform the Study Area from a monotypic landscape of diked/drained salt marsh to a mosaic of pasture and natural habitats, including estuarine and tidal slough channels and access for aquatic dependent species. The project will assess climate change resiliency and adaptation approaches to guide an appropriate design that considers impacts and enhancements to prime agricultural land and critical estuary habitat.

Future: 500 acres tidal wetlands restored & 26,400 ft of tidal channels

Learn More

Project Stages


Relationship Building

Conceptual Design

Permitting Phase


Post Monitoring

Estimated Completion Date:


Project Funders

CDFW Prop 1 & Prop 68 – Watershed Restoration Grant Program

Fish Affected:

Project Description

In 2019, this project was awarded $802,886 from the CDFW Prop 1 and Prop 68 funding to conduct the design, development, and environmental compliance phases. Throughout the lower Eel River basin, agricultural lands now dominate what was, historically, forested riparian and wetland habitat. The goal of restoration is to transform the monotypic landscape of diked and drained land back to a mosaic of natural habitats and pasture, with reconnected tidal slough channels and access for aquatic-dependent species. The loss of seasonally freshwater and brackish marsh habitat within the Eel River estuary is an important contributing factor to the decline of coho, Chinook and steelhead. Estuary restoration will play a prominent role in the recovery of these listed salmonids, as well as Dungeness crab, tidewater goby, longfin smelt, green sturgeon, lamprey and listed native plant and wildlife species found in surveys within the adjacent Salt River and Eel River Estuary Preserve project areas.

Inhabiting the third largest river in California, the Eel River salmon and steelhead populations have a chance to return to historic abundance. Estuarine habitat loss is one of the greatest limiting factors for recovery. The proposed project will initiate designs to restore access for Eel River salmonids and other estuarine species to tidal slough channels and salt marsh within 950 acres at the mouth of the Eel River. To inform the conceptual design, the project will describe current hydrologic linkage, estuarine function, and aquatic habitat condition - and address failing infrastructure. Protected as a Wildlife Area by CDFW and newly conserved private lands, the ecological benefits of barrier removal and restoration on Cannibal Island will be maintained and anchor the ongoing restoration of the South Fork Eel watershed upstream. The Cannibal Island project offers a valuable opportunity to engage with experts to apply the ASAT, a dynamic assessment and design tool to evaluate restoration alternatives that will increase ecosystem resilience for an assemblage of aquatic listed species.

Project Partners:

Private Landowners
Roscoe and Associates
Graham Matthews and Associates

More Initiative Projects