TU California awarded $5.5 million in restoration grants

Key coho and steelhead streams like the Noyo River will get a big dose of restoration over the next several years.


By Sam Davidson

The winter of 2015 is shaping up to be another historically dry "wet season" in California. California's stubborn drought -- now in its fourth year -- is hard on trout and salmon. But it may actually be helping cold water fish conservation efforts, by giving urgency to investment in significant habitat restoration projects.

Such investment reached an impressive level in February 2015, when TU's California Program was awarded more than $5.5 million in 18 grants from the Fisheries Restoration Grants Program (FRGP) of the California Department of Fish & Wildlife.

These grants will fund restoration work in critical habitat for coho salmon and steelhead in the Eel, Noyo, Big, Ten Mile, Pajaro, and Big Sur river watersheds.

In the big picture, this work supports the vision and goals of TU's Wild Steelhead Initiative, launched last November.

The largest single grant -- $1.5 million -- was for barrier removal on the Big Sur River. On this lovely south central coast steelhead stream, the project will replace a concrete road across the river bed with a fish-friendly bridge, enhancing steelhead passage to six miles of good spawning habitat.

TU's North Coast Coho Project (NCCP), staffed by Lisa Bolton and Anna Halligan, continued an impressive streak of successful proposals to FRGP. Three NCCP projects in the Eel River watershed earned some $2,641,000 in grants, to decommission and improve forest roads, reduce sediment deposition, and improve fish passage.

On the upper Pajaro River, a "residential storage and forbearance" project will improve streamflows during the dry season in some five miles of stream. TU has proposed or implemented storage-and-forbearance projects across hundreds of miles of coho salmon and steelhead range, from Monterey to Humboldt counties.

Typically, such projects involve provision of off-stream storage facilities, which the landowner can fill with water at times of higher flows for use during the dry season. In return, the landowner signs a legal agreement not to divert water from the stream during times of low flows and warmer water temperatures.

Altogether, under these grants TU will achieve 18 miles of decommissioned forest roads; 10 miles of fish passage restored; 171 instream structures installed or improved; and preventing 52,617 cubic yards of sediment from being deposited into streams.


Sam Davidson is TU's Communications Director for California and Nevada.


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