Stream bank restoration aimed at boosting fish habitat
How to help:
For a $100 donation, SARSAS will plant two trees along Auburn Ravine and include a plaque with the donor’s name. For more information visit Sarsas.org.
It’s a hard-knock life for a fish these days, but Save Auburn Ravine Salmon and Steelhead has a plan to make the life of a fish a little bit easier, at least as they travel through Auburn Ravine.
The group is working with residents to restore the stream bank along close to 40 miles of North Auburn Ravine and Auburn Ravine as it runs from here to Verona, according to Robert Hane, North Ravine restoration coordinator for SARSAS.
“It’s an ambitious project,” Hane said. “We won’t be working (near Verona) in my lifetime.”
Swimming from streams to oceans isn’t what it used to be for Chinook salmon and steelhead because of the warmer water, pollution, water diversions and an abundance of invasive plants to overcome, Hane said. These obstacles have landed the fish on the endangered species list.
With a $7,000 grant from U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife, another $2,000 from SARSAS’s own fundraising efforts, volunteers from the California Conservation Corps and permission from local landowners, the non-profit is working to remove blackberries, plant redwoods and red twig dogwoods along stream banks.
“Where shade exists, moisture persists,” is Hane’s motto.
Shade and moisture are good for fish and good for streams, he said. The idea is that if the trees and shrubs are planted close enough to the ravine, they won’t need to be irrigated.
Why put so much effort to restore habitat for fish that are currently stuck on the other side of a dam?
“If you’re planning to go to Mars, you have to have the environment prepared before you can get there,” Hane said.
There are anecdotal accounts from people who, as late as the 1960s, saw salmon moving through Auburn Ravine, according to a 2013 memo from the Community Development Resource Agency to Placer County Board of Supervisors.
SARSAS is hopeful that Nevada Irrigation District will one day retrofit Hemphill, east of Lincoln and Gold Hill dam in Newcastle with salmon ladders or notching that would allow the fish to swim upstream and into Auburn Ravine.
“We’re not a group that’s interested in tearing out water storage,” Hane said. “There are very easy ways to (support the fish).”
Improving the lives of salmon and steelhead means improving an entire ecosystem, he said. The fish that die after spawning become food for land animals and subsequently fertilizer for their habitat, according to Joseph Merz, an environmental scientist at Sacramento State University.
SARSAS’s stream restoration began near Atwood Road, and the latest installment of 10 redwood trees took place at the home of Richard and Sam Nielsen on Miller Town Road.
“We’re all for it,” Sam Nielsen said. “It’s great to bring the fish back.”
The Nielsens, who moved to Auburn from Elk Grove three years ago, had already removed blackberry bushes near the ravine that runs through their close to two-acre property, so all that needed to be done was the hole-digging and planting, she said.
“They delivered the trees and dug the holes,” Sam Nielsen said. “There wasn’t much work for us.”
Jim Taylor, owner of Mt. Vernon winery, donated his time and back hoe to dig the holes, according to SARSAS President, Jack Sanchez.
SARSAS finished planting dogwoods on the Nielsen property on Tuesday, Hane said. Now the group will begin work on Taylor’s property farther down Mt. Vernon Road. From there they’ll continue downstream.
“It’s a slow process to reverse what humans have done over the years,” Hane said. “By the time the trees are up, we’ll have salmon here.”
Reach Tricia Caspers-Ross at firstname.lastname@example.org