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 total runoff.
The Trinidad City Council on Tuesday will consider whether to
participate in a feasibility study for a project that would
bring a steady flow of water to the city from the Mad River via
a new pipeline. The Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District
(HBMWD), which supplies water to Eureka, Arcata, McKinleyville,
Blue Lake and other area communities, is in the early stages of
researching the possibility of expanding its service area north
via a waterline extension at least as far north as the Trinidad
Two out-of-state men were ordered by a judge to pay $117,373 in
restitution for water pollution violations stemming from an
overturned fuel tank that released an estimated 760 gallons of
diesel into Rock Tree Creek, a tributary of the Eel River.
About a mile of bare, cracked earth now lies like a desertscape
between the boat ramp at the north end of Lake Mendocino and
the water’s edge of a diminished reservoir that helps provide
water for 600,000 Sonoma and Marin County residents. The
human-made lake near Ukiah is about 30 feet lower than it was
at this time last year, and Nick Malasavage, an Army Corps of
Engineers official who oversees operations at the reservoir,
said the scene is “pretty jarring.”
Three people were appointed Thursday to the California Water
Commission by Gov. Gavin Newsom. The three are Amy Cordalis,
40, of McKinleyville, Kimberly Gallagher, 45, of Davis,
and Fern Steiner, 71, of San Diego.
You may know it as Dog Ranch or perhaps Dead Man’s Drop Forest,
but forget that. The parcels immediately to the west of Samoa
Bridge [near Humboldt Bay] are now officially the Samoa Dunes
and Wetlands Conservation Area. “We’re looking to re-introduce
this place to our community,” says Mike Cipra, who heads up
Friends of the Dunes, the new titleholder of the 357 acres.
“This property is a fantastic jewel for our local community and
we want to emphasize just how special it is with the name.”
For many years Pacific Gas & Electric Co. has operated the
“Potter Valley Project,” a hydroelectric facility on the main
stem of the Eel River consisting of Scott and Cape Horn dams
and a tunnel diverting water into the Russian River watershed,
where it is used to generate a small amount of electricity and
for irrigation by farmers in Potter Valley and farther south in
Sonoma County. The construction of Scott Dam in 1922
completely blocked passage of critically imperiled anadromous
fish including salmon, steelhead and lamprey…
For years, researchers have worked to solve the mysterious
cause of extreme coho salmon mortality in the Pacific
Northwest. A recent study by the San Francisco Estuary
Institute and the University of Washington has finally
identified the microscopic culprit as a highly toxic
contaminant associated with tire particles…The study focused
on water samples from the San Francisco Bay area and the Puget
Sound in Washington state, but scientists fear the contaminant
could affect coho salmon in the Eel and Klamath rivers as well.
In 2019 the Two-Basin Solution Partnership filed a Notice of
Intent to apply for relicensing and ownership of the [Potter
Valley] project, followed in the spring of 2020 by a
feasibility study and project plan that includes removal of
Scott Dam, and a commitment to provide water to Potter Valley
and the Russian River…. Many questions remain, starting with
impacts on local recreational users and cabin owners. By
Victoria Brandon, board president of Tuleyome, a nature-based
environmental organization based in Woodland.
By burning and brushing, nurturing important plants and
keeping lands around their homes clear of dead brush and
debris, Native peoples carefully stewarded the lands to sustain
the biodiverse ecologies California is known for. Their
work resulted in a richly productive landscape that provided
food and habitat for not only humans but many land, air and
water animals. That included the salmon, a staple of tribes in
the West for millennia. All that changed when California became
a U.S. state in 1850.
Plans to regulate groundwater for the first time ever in the
Ukiah Valley Basin are moving forward. And though the details
are wonky and a little esoteric, the results could affect water
and ag policy for years to come. Last week, the Ukiah Valley
Basin Groundwater Sustainability Agency discussed how their
mammoth project of sustainably managing the groundwater is
The Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District agreed on Thursday to
send a draft of an agreement to the Cher-Ae Heights Indian
Community of the Trinidad Rancheria to pursue a feasibility
study for an extension of water service. The tribe made the
request after the California Coastal Commission deemed the
tribe’s water supply inadequate for the proposed multi-story
Hyatt hotel at the Cher-Ae Heights Casino.
Using a system of radio tags and electrical fields, the
equipment is expected to give researchers more accurate counts
of coho salmon that will return to Lagunitas Creek to spawn
beginning later this month as well as the young salmon leaving
the creek and entering the ocean in the spring.
U.S. Rep. John Garamendi has filed an official objection to a
plan backed by Sonoma County and his House Democratic colleague
Jared Huffman to remove Scott Dam on the Eel River and drain
Lake Pillsbury, a popular recreation spot for nearly a century.
Completely dry riverbeds, record low flows, and diminished fish
populations — that’s what staff and volunteers from a local
environmental nonprofit found when they surveyed tributaries of
the Eel River earlier this month.
Congressman John Garamendi, who represents the northern half of
Lake County, on Friday submitted a formal comment to the
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission opposing removal of Scott
Dam on the Eel River at Lake Pillsbury and demanding that Lake
County have an equal seat at the table for determining the
future of Potter Valley Project and the lake.
Right now, the Mendocino County Sustainable Groundwater Agency
is writing up a groundwater sustainability plan for the basin.
The plan will regulate groundwater in the Ukiah Valley basin
for the first time ever, and will define how water is managed
in and near Redwood Valley, Calpella, and Ukiah for perpetuity.
The South Fork Eel River is considered one of the highest
priority watersheds in the state for flow enhancement projects.
Forested tributaries like Redwood Creek provide refugia habitat
for threatened juvenile coho salmon but suffer from the
cumulative impacts of legacy logging and unregulated water
Residents of Bolinas and Inverness must take further steps to
reduce their water consumption to stave off rationing. Both the
Inverness and Bolinas utility Districts lack significant water
storage in their systems; recently, they put increased pressure
on their customers to cut water use and warned of mandatory
restrictions should they fail to comply.
Landowners with access to underground water have been able to
pull as much water, at any rate, any time, and for any reason
without worrying about protocols or following government rules.
That is about to change. Last Tuesday, local officials and
environmental engineers introduced an outline for how to
sustainably manage and regulate groundwater in the region.
Samples with confirmed cyanobacteria were collected at three
locations on the Mad River spurring local Public and
Environmental Health officials to warn community residents to
keep themselves and their pets out of the water.
Jacob Pounds, environmental program coordinator with the Blue
Lake Rancheria, told the Outpost this afternoon that the
bacteria — well established in other local waterways, such as
the Eel and the Klamath — has never been confirmed in the Mad
Creek Week (starting the fourth week of September), and
California’s Coastal Cleanup Day all coincide in September to
encourage public participation in keeping our water free of
harmful pollutants, with a primary focus on removing trash from
Starting in mid-July, the flows in the Noyo River began
dropping faster than in any other summer on record. The river
flow is below 2015 low flows, when the entire state was in a
drought emergency. John Smith, director of Fort Bragg Public
Works, said staff had never before seen water levels in the
Noyo drop so precipitously.
At their regular meeting Tuesday, Sept. 1, the Siskiyou County
Board of Supervisors discussed issues that Big Springs area
residents are still facing regarding alleged privatized water
sale for illegal marijuana grows. Despite an urgency ordinance
prohibiting the trucking of water and a rally near one of the
alleged extraction sites on Aug. 22, residents say they’re
still noticing trucking going on.
The organizers of the Advocacy and Water Protection in Native
California Speakers Series are hosting a new webinar series
aimed at taking action against environmental racism and for
water justice in California. Humboldt State University Native
American Studies and Save California Salmon are organizing the
“Mobilizing for Water Justice in California” Webinar Series on
As darkness fell and a thick Pacific fog crept in over the
Point Reyes peninsula on Sunday, a small band of animal
activists waited for a National Park Service official to leave
his check-post… At 6 p.m., as his shift came to a close and
he drove away, the small bucket-brigade crept in. They were
transporting roughly 200 gallons of water to the park’s tule
To inform our conservation work on the Eel, CalTrout has teamed
up with partners on this new project – The Adult Salmonid Sonar
Monitoring Program – to tally the annual spawning run of
Chinook salmon, coho salmon, and steelhead on the South Fork
Eel River with a Sound Metrics Dual Frequency Identification
“The thirsty elk are currently beset by drought and wildfire
smoke and caged into the preserve by a fence which prevents
them from accessing alternative water sources,” the groups
said, asserting that most or all the ponds the elk should be
able to use have dried up.
Land-based seafood firm Nordic Aquafarms has submitted its
first permit application for the construction of its new
land-based salmon farm in Humboldt, California, the company
said on Tuesday. … Discharge from the farm will be sent
through an existing pipe into open waters where effective
dilution is achieved, with no impairment of waters identified,
the company said.
Sonoma Water Engineer Chris Delaney led development of a
forecast informed reservoir operations (FIRO) decision support
system for Lake Mendocino… Center For Western Weather And
Water Extremes… A proof-of-concept model was originally
developed by Chris in 2015 as a personal research project, and
has been refined over the past 5 years with research and
The California Advisory Committee on Salmon and Steelhead Trout
was re-established by the Legislature in 1983 in response to
public concern about declining populations of salmon and
steelhead. … At the July meeting, committee members received
an update on the Klamath dams, Matilija Dam, and the Potter
Valley Project dam removal projects.
A Marin County Superior Court judge rejected a petition filed
by a group of San Geronimo residents and golfers to halt creek
restoration work in the former San Geronimo Golf Course. The
ten residents and golfers, known as the San Geronimo Heritage
Alliance, filed the lawsuit in July alleging the creek
restoration work is illegal.
District Superintendent Ryan Rhoades reported that conditions
have not changed and that the district remains in a Stage 4
drought. He commended the community for their cooperation by
reducing their water use. Customers should strive for 50
gallons per person per day and cut overall use by at least 40
percent, he said.
While it’s fair to say that salmon and steelhead are dying the
death of a thousand cuts in the Eel River, Scott Dam is by far
the deepest and most damaging of these injuries. Dam removal
efforts from Maine to Washington State to here in California
have shown time and again that restoring access to historical
spawning grounds is key to rebounding fish populations.
I look at Trinidad more like a watershed than simply a square
mile of streets, homes and businesses. We provide water to our
residents, to some customers in Westhaven, and need to be able
to consider new water requests holistically.
A five-year battle over plans to log in the remote Gualala
River flood plain has taken a big step up with a powerhouse
environmental group’s declaration to take the case to federal
court, alleging the commercial tree harvest would harm
protected fish, frogs and birds.
The streams and creeks that supply West Marin are running low
after the extraordinarily dry winter, and local water system
managers are sounding the alarm. The Bolinas Community Public
Utility District and North Marin Water District have already
imposed water-use reductions, and the Inverness Public Utility
District may do so later this month.
The Eel River Recovery Project, also known as the ERRP, has
released the public draft of the Tenmile Creek Watershed
Conservation and Restoration Action Plan, which is the
culminating product of a two-year pilot project.
The feasibility study refers to removal of Scott Dam as a
foregone conclusion. The reason being salmon and steelhead are
not able to access spawning grounds above the dam. This area is
a small percentage of the overall spawning habitat of the Eel
River watershed. … A fish ladder around Scott Dam makes much
With dry conditions resulting in low flows and threatening the
survival of coho salmon, the State Water Board today sent
notices of water unavailability to110 junior water right
holders in the Scott River basin in Siskiyou County, urging
them to stop diverting.
In recognition of the immense opportunity for recovery in Elk
River, CalTrout, the North Coast Regional Water Board, and
several project partners joined together to form the Elk River
Watershed Stewardship Program. The purpose is to engage with
the Elk River community to develop a landowner supported
recovery plan to reduce nuisance flooding, address the severe
sediment impairment, and rehabilitate habitat for native
CalTrout and our partners have been working extensively with
landowners to figure out ways to leave some of their water
instream for the benefit of salmon. Often this means helping
the landowner improve their on-ranch irrigation efficiency to
decrease the amount of water needed maintain their agricultural
Having hit a roadblock in negotiations with the City of
Trinidad, the Trinidad Rancheria has turned a beseeching eye
toward the county’s largest water supplier — the Humboldt Bay
Municipal Water District — in hopes of securing a reliable
water source for future development, including a controversial
five-story, 100-room hotel near Cher-Ae Heights Casino.
In order for the Chinook and steelhead to rebound in the Eel
River, there should be at least 26,400 fish returning from the
ocean to spawn annually… Although the Eel salmon population
was larger this year than last, Fish and Wildlife’s June 1
report shows the population fell far below the margin for
species recovery. Only 8,263 made the journey, they wrote.
The researchers discovered that salmon survival depends in part
on how long isolated pools spend disconnected from flowing
water: the longer the dry period, the fewer salmon were able to
hang on until the wetter months of fall and winter. And though
fewer salmon overall survived the drought years, the
researchers did find reason for hope. In certain streams and
pools, which the researchers call drought “refuges,” salmon
survival was similar in both drought and non-drought years.
Thursday, the Redwood Coast Land Conservancy announced that it
has received three grants totaling over $2.1 million for the
Gualala River Mill Bend Conservation Project that they are
stewarding for the community.
The Trinidad Rancheria is alleging that the City of Trinidad
has failed to work with the tribe to provide water for its
proposed hotel. Because of this the rancheria has informed the
city that a much-anticipated stormwater project will be put on
hold until the dispute is resolved.
The building of a new hotel on the Trinidad Rancheria has
encountered another hurdle as the tribe is now demanding that
the City of Trinidad supply the water necessary to supply the
hotel or else the tribe will withhold required upgrades to a
stormwater management improvement project in Trinidad Harbor,
according to a letter the tribe sent to the City of Trinidad.
The Round Valley Indian Tribes, California Trout, Humboldy
County, the Mendocino Inland Water and Power Commission and
Sonoma Water have formed a group called the Two-Basin
Partnership and announced the filing of a feasibility report
with FERC on Wednesday.
A partnership of numerous Northern California agencies intends
to file an initial plan to acquire the Potter Valley project
from the Pacific Gas and Electric Co., multiple sources
confirmed. The coalition will submit a document to the Federal
Energy Regulatory Commission for its consideration. If
approved, the group may be able to form a partnered ownership
of complex water infrastructure dividing the Eel and Russian
While salmon counts are low this year, having accurate
information will better inform our conservation efforts.
CalTrout has been using a Sonar system to estimate abundance of
spawning Chinook Salmon, Coho Salmon, and steelhead on the
South Fork Eel River with support from the California
Department of Fish and Wildlife Steelhead Report and
Restoration Card Program.
The US Drought Monitor update released Thursday morning lists
far Northern California as the most impacted by a lackluster
rain and snow season. Some areas such as Eureka and Mount
Shasta are down more than 15″ of rain from their averages for
the season so far.
The funding will support projects such as groundwater recharge
and stormwater management located near Fresno and Bakersfield,
as well as California’s North Coast. More than half of the
funding will be awarded for projects that help disadvantaged
and underrepresented communities, including Tribal Governments.
Counts of Chinook salmon in the Eel River were lower during the
2019 – 2020 ocean runs than any previous count conducted by the
Eel River Recovery Project since the organization began
tracking in 2012, according a new report, with estimates the
entire Chinook salmon run below 10,000 fish.
The Hoopa Valley Tribe applauded Fresno County Superior Court’s
refusal to validate a proposed contract between Westlands Water
District and the Bureau of Reclamation. … The contract would
have allocated up to 1,150,000 acre-feet of water annually to
Westlands, most of which would be imported from the Trinity
River, which has sustained the Hupa people since time
The Infrastructure Retrofit Project would mitigate earthquake
hazards currently threatening the Redwood Valley County Water
District and protect infrastructure against significant damage
in the future. The 2017 Redwood Complex fire also destroyed
parts of the water infrastructure in the valley and increased
the need for the reconstruction project.
Summer streamflow in industrial tree plantations harvested on
40- to 50-year rotations was 50% lower than in century-old
forests, data from the long-term Alsea Watershed Study in the
Oregon Coast Range showed.
Likely just in time for the real thing, a “Mock Frost” event
was held this week to test the capacity of the city of Ukiah’s
recycled Water System, also called the Purple Pipe. … “It
went well,” Ukiah grape grower David Koball said of the test.
“There was lots of water pressure and we had no issues.”
The message was loud and clear for state water officials at a
public meeting Monday evening in Redding: Don’t send any more
water south through a proposed Delta tunnel project. A group of
more than 100 Native Americans rallied on the lawn of the
Redding Civic Auditorium before they marched into a scoping
meeting held inside the Redding Sheraton Hotel across the
Protecting the North Coast’s waters and the communities that
depend on them is a top priority, Congressman Jared Huffman
told a town hall at the Eureka High School auditorium Friday
night. Making sure fishermen get timely compensation when
they’re barred from fishing and ensuring there is enough water
in the area to protect fisheries are two key issues, the San
Rafael Democrat said.
The Eel River Recovery Project is hosting its first ever art
display at the Plaza Grill in Arcata this month and next.
“Visions of the Eel River” features photographs of the Eel
River and its many branches. Covering 3,600 square miles, much
of the Eel River watershed is inaccessible and unknown to many
Lamprey may tread the line between ugly and downright
frightening, but these underappreciated fish play similar
ecological roles as the salmon that always seem to capture the
freshwater fish spotlight.
Celtor Chemical Works and the Cooper Bluff Mine are part of a
priorities list for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s
Superfund program. The mine was formally added to the list last
year, while the processing facility is scheduled for
re-assessment after officials discovered more toxic waste
linking back to it. But the Trump administration this week
proposed reducing the EPA’s budget by 26%, cuts that would
include $113 million slashed from the Superfund program’s
“In many ways, summer steelhead are the most extreme athletes
of the steelhead, allowing them to get up to habitats higher in
the watersheds like the Middle Fork Eel River in the Yolla
Bolly Wilderness, their southernmost stronghold where they have
unimpeded access,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
biologist Damon Goodman. “Having clear routes of passage to be
able to make it up and express their life history is critical
to their survival.”
To inform our conservation work on the Eel, CalTrout has teamed
up with partners on this new project – The Adult Salmonid Sonar
Monitoring Program – to tally the annual spawning run of
Chinook salmon, coho salmon, and steelhead on the South Fork
Eel River with a Sound Metrics Dual Frequency Identification
One of the things that we humans have struggled with for
centuries, and some countries continue to do so, is how to
dispose of sewage and wastewater. People whose sewage is
treated in Arcata have a big advantage that has been copied
many thousands of times across the world. The Arcata wastewater
treatment center and the marsh are the result of science and
engineering that is currently under review.
Siskiyou County supervisors last week supported Sheriff Jon
Lopey’s assessment that illegal marijuana grows are detrimental
to the health and well being of local residents and approved
the extension of a local state of emergency through 2020.
The number of Coho salmon in Northern California’s Shasta and
Scott rivers in 2019 was too low to sustain a viable
population. That’s according to a just-released report from the
California Department of Fish and Wildlife. The most recent
count identified only 334 Coho on the Scott, and 61 on the
In the early days, these pot farms were small and scattered.
But in recent years the industry has intensified. A wave of
newcomers planted larger farms, using greenhouses and
artificial lights to extend the growing season and yield up to
three marijuana crops in a single year. The cannabis boom has
polluted waters with fertilizers, fuels and pesticides,
triggered erosion that buries the rocky habitats where salmon
and trout spawn and grow, and drained streams of water in the
The committee voted to recommend a less stringent definition of
wetlands for the Town Center area. The committee also
recommended a policy that would allow the wetlands located on a
vacant lot behind the McKinleyville Shopping Center to be
reconfigured or even relocated. The recommendations have the
potential to open up the property to more development…
West Marin ranchers and a local conservation group are teaming
up to plan habitat restoration projects along Walker Creek to
restore the once bountiful, but now diminished, runs of coho
salmon and steelhead trout. The California Department of Fish
and Wildlife awarded the Point Reyes Station-based Marin
Resource Conservation District a nearly $350,000 grant this
A move by the Trump administration to roll back landmark
environmental policy intended to ensure vigorous scrutiny of
federal infrastructure projects has struck alarm in the hearts
of California conservationists, particularly those striving to
safeguard North Coast waters from offshore energy exploration
Every year since 2014, I have petitioned the State Water
Resources Control Board to end the widespread practice of
irrigation, especially of cattle pastures, outside the legal
irrigation season. So far, however, State Water Board staff
have not taken effective action to end the illegal water use
and the resulting degradation of Scott River stream
Nearly two months after the Kincade fire was fully contained in
northeastern Sonoma County, Santa Rosa is struggling with an
after-effect of the massive blaze: its wastewater disposal
pipeline at The Geysers was disabled for six weeks, backing up
the Sebastopol-area plant with about 400 million gallons of
In the shadow of Mount Shasta lies the Butte Creek Ranch, its
alpine meadows carpeted in grass sprinkled with wildflowers and
bordered by forest. … For over 160 years, this summer scene
has played out for six generations of the Hart family. …
Recently, the Harts guaranteed the continuation of this legacy
by working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to develop a
plan that balances their land use with conserving the rich
natural resources of Butte Creek.
California’s coastal waters are acidifying twice as fast as the
rest of the oceans, a study published Monday shows. And some of
California’s most important seafood — including the spiny
lobster, the market squid and the Dungeness crab — are becoming
Lower Butano Creek had been clogged by a mile-and-a-half long
plug of sediment where the stream once flowed through the marsh
to meet the ocean. … In June, the resource conservation
district, in partnership with California State Parks and the
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, embarked on a
$7 million restoration project to remove the sediment dam
blocking Butano Creek.
Salmon are swimming back into the Lagunitas Creek watershed.
Not only is that a natural phenomena, but it is a sign that
hard work at restoring habitat and promoting greater public
awareness are paying off.
An all-out attempt to save the historic coho salmon runs
through Muir Woods intensified this year as the National Park
Service began a creek restoration and habitat enhancement
program in the famous redwood grove.
In August, the Lake County Board of Supervisors passed a
resolution of intent to join this group, now being called the
Two-Basin Partnership. But Lake County was recently denied
entry, with the partnership citing “expediency” concerns and
saying it would not admit any more members.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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 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.
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
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 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.
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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