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Another View: Good and bad news for salmon this month

Another View
By: Jack Sanchez, president, Save Auburn Ravine Salmon and Steelhead
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In its endless journey to accomplish the mission of returning salmon and steelhead to all 33 miles of the Auburn Ravine from Verona to the City of Auburn, SARSAS (Save Auburn Ravine Salmon and Steelhead) has some very good news laced with a bit of sad news. A total of six salmon have been observed at Dog Park in the city of Lincoln. All six fish were located from just below the Lincoln Gauging Station (a major and catastrophic barrier) to about 250 yards west of the barrier. The first sighting came on Sunday, Oct. 31 just a few days after the major rainstorm. Two young men were at the Lincoln Gauging Station and observed a large (over 36-inch) salmon attempting to gain passage over the barrier. The fish tried over and over but was driven back each time. On its last try the water flowing over the S curve washed this majestic fish back into the rocks. Wedged between two rocks the salmon was destined to a sure death had it not been for the efforts of the two men who lowered themselves down the cement wall. One of the men then managed to grasp the salmon between his body and his arms and carried it to the top of the barrier releasing it above the Gauging Station where it swam off. This fish had not even begun to change colors and other than some heavy bruising from the rocks seemed okay. The two young men continued to observe three smaller salmon trying to get above the barrier but unfortunately none of the three made it. Board member John Rabe and I, traveled to this site Nov. 4 with the two young men. We did not see any salmon attempting to go over the barrier and the water was probably too low anyway. However a high school student came up the middle of the Auburn Ravine, and we discovered he was with his high school water quality class taking their final exam. We joined the students and their teacher downstream of the gauging station and were informed that they had spotted one dead salmon, one dying salmon and three live salmon between them and the gauging station. The dying salmon was dead by the time we observed and photographed it. It was measured at 36-inch and other than the fact that it had battered itself to death on the gauging station rocks, it was a majestic chinook salmon that had not yet begun to change colors. The other dead salmon was smaller and in similar condition having also suffered severe battering on the rocks at the gauging station. The great news was that there were three remaining salmon and the rain on Sunday very likely produced enough water over the gauging station to allow them upstream passage. I returned to the location on Nov. 7 early in the day before the river began to rise and observed a large salmon about 200 yards downstream of the barrier. Hopefully that salmon was able to find its way upstream later in the day as the water went from around 20 cubic feet per second (cfs) to over 250 cfs later Sunday. John went to the location Nov. 8 and spent three hours observing from the barrier to about 200 yards west of the barrier but did not observe any salmon. The water was not high, but it was still a little cloudy from the rain. He reported that it was probably possible for salmon to move above the barrier with a lot of luck. So, the good news is there are salmon in the Auburn Ravine. Sighting six fish was very encouraging and we tip our hats to Brad Arnold, the manager of South Sutter Water District as he made sure all downstream barriers were removed by Oct. 15. SARSAS thanks Brad and appreciates his efforts to assist Auburn Ravine salmon and steelhead. It is very clear that SARSAS has a lot of work remaining, however. Realizing that precious salmon are being maimed and killed at the Lincoln Gauging Station is a grim reminder of the urgency of our actions to remove or mitigate dangerous and impassable barriers. Keep in mind that in the entire area where the salmon were sighted there was no gravel for spawning. They must get at least upstream of Highway 193 and preferably upstream of the Hemphill dam where habitat for spawning becomes superb for Chinook. Good and bad news. Jack L. Sanchez is the volunteer coordinator/president of Save Auburn Ravine Salmon And Steelhead (SARSAS). Reach him at (530) 888-0281.