Elk River Recovery Project

Elk River Recovery Project

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Project Goal:

At over 3,600 sq. miles, the Eel River watershed is the third largest watershed entirely in California. While the majority of the watershed is privately owned and managed for timber production, and cattle and dairy ranching, the area also includes several state parks, wilderness areas, and national forests. Historically, the Eel River was a major salmon and steelhead producer with runs estimated to exceed a million adults (~800,000 chinook, ~100,000 coho, ~150,000 steelhead) in good years.

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Project Stages

Relationship Building


Permitting Phase



Estimated Completion Date:
December 2020


Project Funders

State Water Resources Control Board

Resources Legacy Fund

Fish Affected:


Project Description

The Elk River in Northern California has had a contentious past. At the center of the mid-90’s Timber Wars and the era of heavy clear-cutting, the Elk’s river system was left with a legacy of degradation that is still causing problems for landowners and native fish.

CalTrout sees an urgent need to address the most pressing problems in the watershed–both ecologically and socially. It is our goal to recover the Elk River from the current severe water quality and sediment impairment, nuisance flooding conditions, habitat degradation, salmonid population reduction, and community strife that resulted from years of excessive timber harvesting.

We have been leading technical studies since 2014 to document the issues facing the Elk River and are working with timber and agricultural interests, local residents, and agencies to design and implement viable solutions to the heavily degraded and regulated Elk River watershed for the recovery of SONCC coho and steelhead.

Project Partners:

Regional Water Quality Control Board
State Water Resources Control Board
State Coastal Conservancy
Humboldt Redwood Company
Kristi Wrigley and Middle Reach Landowners
Northern Hydrology and Engineering
Stillwater Sciences
Redwood Community Action Agency
Elk River ranching community
County of Humboldt Environmental Services
University of California Cooperative Extension
Natural Resources Conservation Service

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