The Klamath, Trinity, Eel, Russian and Smith rivers are the major
northern streams that drain this sparsely populated, forested
coastal area that stretches from San Francisco to the Oregon
border. These rivers and their tributaries flow west to the
Pacific Ocean and account for about 40 percent of the state’s
After a dry fall, the first storms of the winter kicked off the
annual migration of coho salmon from the Pacific Ocean to the
streams where they spawn. Over 10 inches of rain fell on Lake
Lagunitas last week… Streamflows are now high enough to allow
endangered central California coast coho to migrate.
While local tribes celebrated a federal appellate court ruling
last month upholding their senior water rights on the Klamath
River, a trio of threats facing the Trinity River combine to
paint a foreboding picture for local salmon populations.
CalTrout has identified Scott Dam, which impounds Eel River
water in Lake Pillsbury, as one of five aging dams it considers
“ripe for removal,” especially in the wake of PG&E’s
license surrender. There is, however, a potential middle course
backed by Friends of the Eel River, a Eureka-based nonprofit
that has long called for the dam’s removal.
The work, which started in August, focused on restoring natural
habitat for the fish by removing boulder walls called ripraps
along the creek banks and placing large pieces of trees into
the creek. The riprap walls … channeled the water into a
swift current during the rainy season, which scoured away
salmon eggs and salmon fry that were attempting to survive the
long year-and-a-half in freshwater.
Exactly what the Potter Valley Project will look like in the
future is not set in stone. The partnership is committed to
identifying solutions that meet the needs of the communities
and wildlife affected by the project’s operations.
Lots of stories circulate about the unethical actions of
Bernhardt and Gov. Newsom’s reluctance to fight Trump on water
— stories about Bernhardt’s effort to get rid of scientists who
concluded the new Trump Water Plan jeopardizes endangered
species in the Delta. Then there’s his work to give Westlands a
permanent water contract to irrigate poisoned selenium-ridden
lands… What’s not being covered: the impact these projects
will have on the Trinity and Klamath Rivers, and Newsom’s
reluctance to stop them.
Researchers in Canada and the U.S. investigated potential
reductions in streamflow, caused by groundwater pumping for
cannabis irrigation, in the Navarro River in Mendocino County,
California… Reporting in the journal Environmental Research
Communications, they note the combination of cannabis
cultivation and residential use may cause significant
streamflow depletion, with the largest impacts in late summer
when streams and local fish species depend most on groundwater
The water coalition has been meeting since 2018 and started
under the facilitation of Alan Mikkelsen, senior adviser to
Secretary of the Interior on water and western resources. …
The coalition aims to address challenges to fisheries, water
supply, and waterfowl and forest health.
For the past two centuries, California has relied heavily on
the natural resources of the North Coast region, exploiting its
pristine watersheds for agriculture and its forests for timber.
… Now the Yurok are working with local and state
organizations to revitalize the forests, rivers and wildlife, a
comprehensive feat requiring collaboration among community
leaders up and down the Klamath and Trinity Rivers.
Two months after two men were arrested at an illicit marijuana
farm on public land deep in the Northern California wilderness,
authorities are assessing the environmental impact and cleanup
costs at the site where trees were clear-cut, waterways were
diverted, and the ground was littered with open containers of
fertilizer and rodenticide.
A local coalition formed in the hopes of maintaining the most
important aspects of the Potter Valley Project is making
progress toward a two-basin solution, Janet Pauli told the
Ukiah City Council at its last meeting.
Today, annual salmon runs in Eel River that once may have
totaled a million or so adults consist of a few thousand.
Lamprey eels, too, have dwindled. Now, there is serious talk of
removing Scott Dam, owned by PG&E since 1930. For fishery
proponents, such a river makeover is the optimal way to revive
the Eel’s salmon runs.
The initiative, which the seashore facilitated in collaboration
with ranchers, conservation organizations and regulatory
agencies, began in 1999 and included three main types of best
practices: fencing, hardened stream crossings and the creation
of separate water systems for cattle.
California is chock full of rivers and creeks, yet the state’s network of stream gauges has significant gaps that limit real-time tracking of how much water is flowing downstream, information that is vital for flood protection, forecasting water supplies and knowing what the future might bring.
That network of stream gauges got a big boost Sept. 30 with the signing of SB 19. Authored by Sen. Bill Dodd (D-Napa), the law requires the state to develop a stream gauge deployment plan, focusing on reactivating existing gauges that have been offline for lack of funding and other reasons. Nearly half of California’s stream gauges are dormant.
A smaller run is expected to return this year because of the
lower number of spawning adults recorded a few years ago…
Coho salmon spend about a year and a half in freshwater and a
year and a half in the ocean before returning to freshwater to
spawn and die. What’s encouraging researchers more is how well
the newly hatched coho from last season are surviving.
Although the Water Board made clear that they are not, at this
time, issuing notices of violation, the letters serve as a shot
across the bow to an industry that is beginning to appreciate
the importance of compliance with environmental regulations and
portends more significant enforcement efforts in the near
The lawsuit, filed by the Center for Biological Diversity and
the Salmon Protection and Watershed Network, or SPAWN, concerns
the protection of endangered coho salmon and threatened
steelhead trout in streams in Marin’s San Geronimo Valley.
Bright pink “whiskers” have popped up in Riverside Park
recently, likely left by people performing a topography survey
in the beginning stages of a grant-funded project to restore
habitat in the largely undeveloped park that used to be home to
the city’s sewage treatment plant.
The California Water Boards sent at least 270 letters to
farmers in the Emerald Triangle, warning them to come into
compliance with regulations or face possible fines and even the
loss of their cultivation licenses.
An intensifying marine heat wave in the northeastern Pacific
Ocean has triggered government warnings about harm to salmon
and other fisheries along the U.S. West Coast, and it’s raising
concerns about hurricane risks to the Hawaiian islands and
wildfire risks in California.
The Round Valley Indian Tribes announced this week that they
have signed an agreement to join with users of both the Eel
River and Russian River to seek a “Two-Basin Solution” for the
re-licensing of the Potter Valley Hydroelectric Project, which
diverts water from the Eel River into the Russian River.
The city of Ukiah made its first delivery of recycled water
through its extensive Purple Pipe system this week, putting
about 2 million gallons of water reclaimed from local sinks,
showers and toilets into an irrigation pond just south of the
Ukiah Valley Wastewater Treatment Plant.
As a region, Humboldt County has the “highest rate of relative
sea level rise” on the United States’ West Coast, according to
data compiled by the county’s planning and building department.
The data indicate that even one meter of sea level rise would
top nearly 60% of the structures protecting Humboldt Bay’s
More and more land in California is going up in flames. The
area in the state burned by wildfires has increased by a factor
of five since 1972, according to a recent study, which
identified human-caused warming the likely culprit. So what’s
to be done? The Karuk Tribe wants to fight fire with fire.
The California Department of Fish & Wildlife (CDFW) is
considering listing the Northern California Summer Steelhead,
which lives in portions of Mendocino and Humboldt counties, as
an endangered species.
We don’t get to see Castor canadensis, the 60-pound North
American beaver, in Sonoma County very often, so I jumped at
the invitation to see one up close at the Sonoma County
Wildlife Rescue. An orphaned young kit, little more than a year
old, is there for care and rehab before release to back to the
The Lake County Board of Supervisors approved an amended
resolution Tuesday that will open the door for Lake County to
join a group vying to take over responsibility for the Potter
Valley hydroelectric project.
Finding a way to deal with the wastewater produced by a town
full of people is a challenge, one that’s forced the
McKinleyville Community Services District to find some creative
solutions. Officials are touting the emerging solution as a
win-win, a cutting-edge project that will serve the district’s
needs at minimal cost to ratepayers while also helping the
The headwaters of Blue Creek is also among the tribe’s most
sacred sites, said Gene Brundin, a member of the tribe’s
cultural committee. The stream begins at a place called Elk
Valley near Chimney Rock and its cold water ensures the
viability of the salmon runs, he said.
Although more fundamental ESA reform is needed, last week’s
action yielded modest and common-sense improvements to
implementation of an imperfect law. New efficiencies, clarity,
and transparency will serve the purposes of the ESA and the
A decade’s worth of junk including cars, refrigerators and even
goat carcasses that were illegally dumped into a West Marin
creek is being removed this week through a collaborative effort
between environmental groups, local businesses and government
We are a profession that depends on, and you might even say
reveres, a good map. Rights to water flowing in surface streams
are fundamentally defined by geography, and maps have long been
a requirement of appropriation and essential evidence of
Rhys Vineyards LLC, based on the California Central Coast but
with vines in Mendocino County’s prime pinot noir region of
Anderson Valley, has agreed to pay $3.76 million to settle
enforcement actions brought by state wildlife and water
regulators for unpermitted diversion of rainwater runoff on
property of a planned small vineyard in a northern part of the
The “backwash basins” were damaged during the flooding that
occurred because of the heavy rainfall in late February, and
they need to be repaired as soon as possible because they help
the city provide drinking water to its residents during the
peak demand months coming soon.
Independent farmers believe that the “marijuana Monsantos” that
are muscling in are only going to make things perpetually more
detrimental for the environment. The lack of sustainability,
vast amounts of water and electricity necessary for cultivation
is the elephant in the room of any smoke session.
On March 29, the State Water Resources Control Board announced
that cannabis cultivators with water rights are not allowed to
divert surface water for cannabis cultivation activities at any
time from April 1 through October 31 of this year unless the
water diverted is from storage. … It’s really just common sense
because it prohibits using water from surface sources, such as
streams, creeks, and rivers during California’s dry season.
Water gives us life, and water does not come easily to
California. It made sense to invite it to stay a while and help
nurture our Gravensteins, our white figs and pear. So I’ve
spent months cutting back bramble and digging out blackberry.
The creek has become my workout video. I spend mornings
contemplating the flow of water and noticing what mushrooms
grow in the leaf litter, what animal prints inscribe the mud.
The current dilemmas boil down to this: As the state punishes
cannabis growers in the Emerald Triangle for environmental
degradation, it is simultaneously pursuing an aqueduct project
in the Central Valley that environmental groups claim will
cause ecological harm of massive proportions. This project
stands to benefit the “big ag” industry, which California’s
newly legal cannabis companies are increasingly participating
The winter rains have caused the biggest surge of coho salmon
in a dozen years in the celebrated spawning grounds of western
Marin County, one of California’s last great strongholds for
the embattled pink fish. At least 648 coho this winter made
their way against the current up meandering, forested Lagunitas
Creek and its many tributaries on the northwestern side of
Mount Tamalpais, according to a new census by biologists.
Citing impacts to water, soil and people, Jackson County
commissioners are asking the state to block a proposed natural
gas pipeline through Southern Oregon. The Oregon Department of
State Lands is taking comments until Feb. 3 as it considers
whether to grant a key permit for the controversial 239-mile
pipeline that would stretch through Klamath, Jackson, Douglas
and Coos counties to a proposed export terminal north of Coos
Climate models using SNOTEL data predict a decline in Western
snowpack. … In December, University of Arizona researchers
presented new on-the-ground findings supporting these
predictions. … In parts of the West, annual snow mass has
declined by 41 percent, and the snow season is 34 days shorter.
Scripps Institute of Oceanography climatologist Amato Evan told
the San Diego Union-Tribune that “climate change in the Western
U.S. is not something we will see in the next 50 years. We can
see it right now.”
A coalition of groups interested in salmon recovery —
California Sea Grant’s Russian River Salmon and Steelhead
Monitoring Program (CSG), Russian River Coho Salmon Captive
Broodstock Program and Gold Ridge Resource Conservation
District (RCD) — are working together and with local landowners
to see if unexplored areas of these local watersheds might hold
the key to the recovery of native coho salmon populations.
The giant Douglas fir hit the water with a great splash just as
a powerful gust of wind from the Chinook helicopter rotors blew
across the river…. The charred trunk, weighing as much
as 25,000 pounds, was one of 300 fire-damaged trees that the
[Yurok Indian] tribe and its partners strategically placed in
the South Fork of the Trinity River this past week in an
attempt to alter the current, scour out accumulated sediment
and restore long-lost salmon habitat in the river.
California farmers are laboring under a daunting edict: They
must stop over-pumping groundwater from beneath their ranches.
The saving grace is that state law gives them more than 20
years to do it. Now, however, a landmark court ruling could
force many farmers to curb their groundwater consumption much
sooner than that, landing like a bombshell in the contentious
world of California water.
A $1.13 million restoration award from a state agency will buoy
efforts to excavate the Salt River watershed, the seven-mile
channel of the Eel River that local conservationists have spent
decades trying to restore. The money comes from the California
Department of Fish and Wildlife, which this year handed out
$27.8 million to a diverse geographical spread of water body
The defunct Copper Bluff Mine in the Hoopa Valley area could be
added to the Superfund program’s National Priorities List, the
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Tuesday. “Though
the Copper Bluff Mine closed decades ago, it is still affecting
the Trinity River, the Hoopa Valley Tribe and the tribal
fishery,” said EPA Pacific Southwest Regional
Administrator Mike Stoker in a statement.
Critical pools on the lower Eel River where migrating salmon
swim toward their upriver spawning grounds are once again
saturated with sediment, according to local researchers and
river surveyors. Eel River Recovery Project board member and
salmon surveyor Eric Stockwell said the shallow pools and
channels make it more likely fish will contract disease or
become stranded as had occurred in previous years.
A 90-year-old defunct copper mine along the Trinity River that
has been draining acidic runoff and heavy metals into the
Trinity River is now being eyed by the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency as a candidate to become a Superfund cleanup
The early 20th century wrought significant damage and changes
to the Eel River and its fish populations through zealous
overfishing and blockage of key tributaries by railroads and
dams, which limited salmon and steelhead’s ability to
recover. But projects are now underway to restore these
tributaries to their previous state with the hope of
simultaneously restoring the once bountiful runs in state’s
third largest river basin.
Imposing new regulations on an existing industry comes with
challenges, and in Humboldt, environmental concerns are among
them. Earlier this month, the environmental nonprofit Friends
of the Eel River, which works to protect fisheries and
watersheds in the region, filed a lawsuit against Humboldt
County’s Board of Supervisors.
Humboldt County tribes, fishermen, city officials and
environmentalists on Tuesday called for the Board of
Supervisors to support full removal of PG&E’s Potter Valley
Project dams Tuesday after the utility company announced last
week that it planned to auction off the project.
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday denied the North Coast
Railroad Authority’s petition to take up a longstanding court
battle regarding plans to restore nearly 150 miles of railroad
to the North Coast. … In July 2011, two separate
environmental organizations — Californians for Alternatives to
Toxics and Friends of the Eel River — filed lawsuits in Marin
County challenging the railroad authority’s environmental
review of its restoration project.
A controversial plan to log miles of Gualala River floodplain,
including nearly century-old redwood trees just outside Gualala
Point Regional Park, is back on track, setting the stage for a
showdown in court or perhaps among the trees themselves.
Federal documents and emails provided to the Times-Standard
contradict and call into question the Trump administration’s
reasoning for disbanding a citizen’s watchdog group tasked with
overseeing a multi-million dollar, publicly funded Trinity
River restoration project.
A third straight year of low king salmon runs is expected to
deliver another blow to one of the North Coast’s most iconic
and lucrative fisheries, wildlife managers indicated Thursday,
as both regulators and fishermen faced the prospect of a
federally mandated plan to reverse the trend and rebuild key
Seven cities and community services districts have backed the
Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District’s appeal of a
controversial Mercer-Fraser Company project that seeks to build
a cannabis manufacturing facility along the Mad River near
An award-winning documentary film on the long and storied
history of California’s third largest river basin, the Eel
River, is set to make its Humboldt County premiere Friday in
Eureka. The hour-long film, “A River’s Last Chance,” chronicles
the history of the river from its birth 7 million years ago up
to modern events such as the impacts of the “green rush” of
cannabis farms, discussions on dam impacts and the struggles of
salmon populations through the past 150 years.
The Eel River was once home to one of the largest salmon
populations on the West Coast. But for nearly a century, a
large share of its flow has been diverted for hydroelectric
power and irrigation, helping build Northern California into a
world powerhouse of winemaking. … So it should come as no
surprise that the prospect of ending those water diversions is
stirring concern across the region.
The governing board for Humboldt County’s main water supplier
is set to decide Wednesday whether to appeal the construction
of a Glendale cannabis edibles and concentrates manufacturing
facility that would be located near one of its drinking water
pumps on the Mad River.
Was it politics or paperwork that led to the Trump
administration’s decision last month to disband a public
watchdog group tasked with overseeing a multi-million dollar,
publicly-funded Trinity River restoration project last month?
The federal government can redirect water from a Northern
California dam to prevent mass die-offs of salmon in drought
years, water that otherwise would be shipped to Central Valley
farmers, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday.
After the state entered into its sixth year of drought on
Saturday, Humboldt County walked away with its best rainfall
total in the last five years. … A year ago at this time,
the Eel River was approaching record low flow levels with
salmon showing alarming signs of blindness and lethargy as they
waited for heavy rains.
The Eel River flows from the
Mendocino National Forest to the coast a few miles south of
Eureka, traversing a topographically diverse
area of mountains, canyons and redwood forests in Northern
California. Including its tributaries, it
drains more than 3,500 square miles and is the state’s third
Snow-capped Mount Shasta and the slumbering volcanoes of the
Cascade range hold reservoirs of life-giving cold water that
nourish threatened fish and could save the species when the
changing climate warms downstream rivers, UC scientists say.
A four-year effort by a coalition of diverse stakeholders along
California’s third largest river, the Eel River, recently
culminated in the completion of a new plan aimed at restoring
the watershed’s once thriving fish runs and ecosystems.
As part of an extensive effort to restore decades’ worth of
impacts to the mud-choked Elk River, the Humboldt County Board
of Supervisors unanimously approved a nearly $175,000 grant to
allow the watershed’s stakeholders to come up with solutions.
Abnormally large waves at the entrance of Humboldt Bay caused
by its shallow depth are creating treacherous conditions for
boaters and barges as well as impacting shipments in and out of
the bay, local officials state.
Millions of dollars from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will
allow for dredging needed to correct unusually heavy winter
shoaling that has nearly closed the entrance and channels of
Humboldt Bay. … Harbor district Executive Director Jack
Crider said sediment carried by the Eel River has drifted into
the mouth of the bay, blocking ships that draft deeper than 25
The flukes that some Eel River chinook salmon experienced this
fall were parasites that burrowed into their eyes and caused
them to go blind, according to a preliminary report from an
ongoing University of California Davis study.
The Environmental Protection Information Center announced
Tuesday that it has filed to intervene in a lawsuit to defend
the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board’s decision
to not authorize sediment discharge and other associated waste
from logging operations into the Elk River watershed.
This month’s rainfall and cooler temperatures have helped
lessen the strain on salmon migrating on the Eel River, but not
near enough to ease the concerns of local researchers. And they
have their reasons.
Despite some troubling signs of disease and blindness, this
year’s Eel River salmon run is so far shaping up to be on par
with recent annual runs, according to a recent survey by the
Eel River Recovery Project.
Recent high tides and brief mid-September rains gave some Eel
River salmon a fleeting chance to move closer to their spawning
grounds. But a lack of adequate flows on the river is causing
many fish to fall ill as they crowd within small pools for
weeks at a time, according to a recent survey by the Eel River
State agencies are currently assessing potential impacts to
Scotia’s drinking water system after three separate incidents
at the Humboldt Redwood Company sawmill caused water
contaminated with woody materials to infiltrate into the town’s
drinking water system on the Eel River.
A Mendocino County lawman and a former marijuana grower
defended small-scale cannabis cultivation Wednesday at a
legislative hearing on the impact of the drought and marijuana
on North Coast fisheries.
The Eel River Recovery Project is offering free field training
and public meetings to promote sustainable cannabis cultivation
in the Eel River watershed. The events will cover the best ways
to water gardens with the least amount of water and nutrients,
ERRP co-founder Patrick Higgins said.
Shasta County is ground zero for a new state program aimed at
cracking down on illegal marijuana grows polluting streams and
endangering wildlife in Northern California. Two state agencies
have teamed up not to cut down marijuana plants but instead to
go after growers, property owners and even contractors involved
in work that threatens the environment, wildlife and water
After several years in the field assessing cannabis cultivation
sites, counting plants from Google Earth views and calculating
stream flows, a California Department of Fish and Wildlife team
has released a comprehensive paper revealing the affects of
marijuana cultivation on the North Coast’s watersheds.
A multi-agency partnership, involving state and local agencies,
this week finished inspections of 14 private properties with
active marijuana grow operations along Sproul Creek within the
Eel River watershed.
The last Humboldt County Board of Supervisors meeting of 2014
on Tuesday focused on many aspects of the Mad River, with a
local water district presenting outlines to potentially
transport water out of the county and increase flows for native
species, and the board approving an update to its environmental
review of current mining operations along the waterway.
For over a century, the Klamath River Basin along the Oregon and
California border has faced complex water management disputes. As
relayed in this 2012, 60-minute public television documentary
narrated by actress Frances Fisher, the water interests range
from the Tribes near the river, to energy producer PacifiCorp,
farmers, municipalities, commercial fishermen, environmentalists
– all bearing legitimate arguments for how to manage the water.
After years of fighting, a groundbreaking compromise may soon
settle the battles with two epic agreements that hold the promise
of peace and fish for the watershed. View an excerpt from the
This 25-minute documentary-style DVD, developed in partnership
with the California Department of Water Resources, provides an
excellent overview of climate change and how it is already
affecting California. The DVD also explains what scientists
anticipate in the future related to sea level rise and
precipitation/runoff changes and explores the efforts that are
underway to plan and adapt to climate.
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