Northern California’s Mokelumne River has officially been designated a Wild and Scenic River, signed into law on June 27, 2018 by Governor Edmund G. Brown, becoming the 12th river in our state with this protection status. The designation applies to 37 miles of the North Fork Mokelumne and main stem running through Amador and Calaveras counties.
Don’t forget a camera on your next outdoor adventure! CalTrout’s annual photo contest submission period is coming up soon. Will you be one of 11 winners? Grand Prize wins a Sage Foundation rod and 2200 Series reel with 20 lb. Rio line. People’s Choice Award gets a Patagonia Refugio backpack embroidered with our logo, a CalTrout neck gaitor, and Echo Carbon XL rod. The remaining 9 Best Photos win a set of 4 CalTrout native fish pint glasses, and playing cards, and CalTrout trucker hat.
Share your best photos of California’s rivers, streams, and creeks and your angling experiences. Photos can include fish, anglers or others enjoying California waters, or be more scenic in nature. Enter for a chance to win some great gear and be featured on the CalTrout website, social media channels, and in issues of The Current.
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.)
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.
The LA Times published an op-ed by CalTrout’s South Coast Program Director, Dr. Sandra Jacobson, on the plight of Southern steelhead and the conservation projects that are happening right now to recover the population.
Locals who like to fish off the coast might be surprised to learn that Southern California steelhead were once prized catches along the coast. With dwindling population numbers, these fish are now federally endangered. Their struggle is symbolic of a larger challenge: maintaining healthy waterways for people and wildlife in urbanized coastal California. But real progress is being made toward recovering this iconic species. Recent efforts provide hope that these native fish can coexist with people, even in this highly altered landscape.
The elusive Southern California steelhead are an incredibly resilient species. Listed as federally endangered in 1997, they represent the southern edge of the steelhead species’ range. Their genetic diversity has, so far, enabled them to adapt to higher water temperatures (up to 77°F!), low streamflows, and weather variability. Southern steelhead are the fish of the future. Their amazing resiliency is a major reason why we need to protect this distinct species. Sustaining their genetic diversity is crucial as it may offer clues that could help other steelhead populations further north weather hotter water with a warming climate.
Sandra leads the South Coast Steelhead Coalition which is charged with implementing the 2012 National Marine Fisheries Service Southern California steelhead recovery plan. We work with a broad range of Coalition partners– non-profits, government agencies, tribes, and interested stakeholders– to re-establish steelhead populations in high priority watersheds. Removing in-stream barriers is a key part of our steelhead recovery plan since fish passage among the complex array of concrete infrastructure is a major concern. CalTrout’s headwaters-to-ocean recovery approach will ensure the long-term persistence of self-sustaining wild populations of Southern steelhead.
The Elk River in Northern California has had a contentious past. From the earliest logging of the old growth redwoods on up to the modern era of logging the Elk has been a productive watershed for timber but at the expense of native fish. The Elk was hit especially hard during the Maxxam take over of PALCO and was at the the center point of the Timber Wars in the mid 90’s leading up to the preservation of the Headwaters Forest Reserve. That era of heavy clear-cutting has left a legacy of degradation on the river system and is causing problems for landowners down stream. CalTrout sees an urgent need to address the most pressing problems in the watershed- both ecologically and socially- and has been leading technical studies since 2014 to document the issues facing the Elk River and coordinating with other stakeholders to formulate a plan for recovery.
For more on the Elk River, check out the Spring 2018 edition of The Current:
On May 2 CalTrout hosted the Eel River Forum at the Benbow Village Hall along the South Fork Eel River, in the heart of the ‘Emerald Triangle’. The topic of the day was the regulation of water diversions and other policies for the now-legal cannabis industry, many of which were rolled out in 2018 with legalization of recreational marijuana use.
The Forum heard from environmental scientists with the three State Agencies who are responsible for the protection of public trust resources, as well as primary regulatory authority over the water diversion practices commonly used for cannabis irrigation – including springs, wells, and surface water diversions. Staff scientists from the CA Department of Fish and Wildlife, the State Water Resources Control Board, and the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board were on hand to present updates on their individual agency policies and guidelines, and then help stakeholders identify the gaps that might exist where those policies overlap.
More than 30 people attended to hear the speaker presentations and participate in an engaging panel discussion. Key questions were posed for the group to discuss, such as:
- 2018 is a critical year in implementing cannabis cultivation regulations. How has it been going?
- Are policy outcomes being achieved based on the work that’s being done on the ground?
- What, if any, factors should be considered to limit the density of cannabis cultivation in local watersheds?
- What to do with the issue that only approximately 10% of the estimated 30,000+ cannabis growers statewide have applied for a cannabis license.
- Identifying priority watersheds that are too sensitive or critically important to allow any, or any additional, cannabis farms to be permitted. These are the stronghold watersheds that currently sustain the best wild salmon and steelhead populations.
- Where to focus funding resources for cannabis site cleanup and remediation in order to reduce or minimize the effects of legal and illegal cannabis production on our watersheds.
- How will state agencies adapt their regulatory policies and guidelines as permitting, enforcement, and market dynamics change the where, how, and how much cannabis is produced in California.
The Eel River Forum is led by CalTrout and comprised of 22 public agencies, tribes, non-profit conservation organizations, and other stakeholders. The Forum’s mission is to coordinate and integrate conservation and recovery efforts in the Eel River watershed to conserve its ecological resilience, restore its native fish populations, and protect other watershed beneficial uses. These actions are also intended to enhance the economic vitality and sustainability of human communities in the Eel River basin.
CalTrout recently explored the Eel River Watershed with some of our partners, members, and Humboldt locals. We toured project sites on Strongs Creek, Rohner Creek, and Howe Creek (all tributaries to the Eel River) where we are implementing fish passage, flood control, and stream restoration projects.
We were inspired to see the City of Fortuna’s work to restoring fish passage, providing quality habitat, and reducing flooding in the middle of Fortuna. From the private landowner perspective, we are glad that excellent stewards of the land like Steve Hackett are out there providing cold clean water for spawning and rearing in the lower Eel River while managing his land for sustainable grazing and timber operations. There are many challenges to getting these types of projects on the ground, but the rewards are worth it.
Many thanks to Eric Stockwell of Loleta Eric’s Guide Service for being our tour guide and thank you to the funders, local expertise, and partnerships for your dedication in providing the best possible conditions for our native and wild salmon, steelhead, and trout.
We hope you will join us for more upcoming events and at the next Watershed Tour of the Eel River Estuary this summer. Tour date to be announced.
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More pictures of the Eel River Watershed Tour:
Photos by Mary Burke and Eric Stockwell.
We’re excited to announce our partnership with FishOn Energy Co., who have created some sweet CalTrout apparel and are graciously donating 50% of CalTrout sales to our organization. We are very grateful for their support and commitment to help recover native fish populations.