Field trip a step forward in salmon habitat efforts
“Forward momentum” is the only way to aptly describe a Friday morning’s salmon-centered group field trip along portions of the Auburn Ravine.
The waterway has long been the focus of the Save Auburn Ravine Salmon and Steelhead and its government partners, but Friday’s casual tour of the area could very well be the first time they were all together.
With more than 25 people in tow, the grassroots organization led stakeholders on a tour of the ravine to discuss the challenges, successes and the literal obstacles for native fish species.
Jack Sanchez heads up the organization casually referred to as SARSAS and said the purpose of the trip was to “agree that an agreement needs to be made” when it comes to further improving the salmon spawning route.
At the gaging station, guide Jim Haufler explained the improvements made to a significant barrier to allow fish passage upstream.
The once impassable concrete structure was removed and replaced with a gradual “step-like” incline, he said.
Just downstream, less than ideal, sediment-rich stretch of the waterway spurred conversation about manmade repairs or simply allowing nature to run its course.
Salmon tend to rely on more gravel-rich environments when it comes to laying and fertilizing eggs.
At the Hemp Hill Dam, an impassible obstacle during low water flow times, discussion mounted about the potential for a permanent fix, funding sources and design options.
Representatives from Placer County, the Nevada Irrigation District, National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, the California Department of Water Resources and California Department of Fish and Wildlife were in attendance.
Maria Rae, with NOAA Fisheries, said the grassroots organizations are helpful for government agencies in recovery and restoration operations like this.
“I think this kind of local stewardship for restoring salmon is really important for recovering central valley salmon. We need more of these kinds of efforts to focus on one watershed, bring all the agencies together…,” Rae said. “We’re just here to learn and support them.”
County Supervisor Jim Holmes, who was in attendance, said many of sticking points the SARSAS has run into with organizing improvements for the salmon stem back to water rights agreements from just after the turn of the century.
“That’s the challenge. That’s why it takes so long to get some of these projects done.” he said of the various stakeholders involved.
Despite the barriers – figurative and literal – continued conversation between the groups is how SARSAS’s mission will ultimately be achieved.
Sanchez is hopeful the ongoing conversation and involvement between the community members and their government counterparts will lead to positive solutions for the fish they protect.
“With a little effort was can have salmon spawning in two parks in Lincoln and ultimately two parks in Auburn,” he said.