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Auburn Ravine salmon restoration effort aims for Auburn

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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The goal is clear: To allow salmon to move upstream along the Auburn Ravine to spawn at two Auburn city parks. But for Save Auburn Ravine Salmon and Steelhead President Jack Sanchez, what looks like a quixotic quest to some can be done with determination and cooperation. Sanchez outlined the organization’s movement toward the ultimate goal of spawning salmon turning the Auburn Ravine shades of gold and red on a future fall day. The Nevada Irrigation District has been working to retrofit two dams – Hemphill and Gold Hill – before salmon can reach Wise Powerhouse, at the corner of Ophir and Wise roads in Ophir, just outside Auburn city limits. The Wise Road powerhouse is one mile downstream from Auburn, but Sanchez said that the groundwork to plan for restoration of that last mile should start now to ensure that both the community of Auburn and Placer county residents are aware of the benefits. Sanchez met with a group of Auburn leaders and SARSAS supporters Friday to share the vision and garner support. The salmon would be able to spawn at the Auburn School Park Preserve, across High Street from Placer High School, and at the Terry Ashford Park on Auburn Ravine Road. “We have a dream and a vision but we’re also moving toward implementing a plan,” Sanchez said. “I urge you all to find a reason – some personal self-interest – to support this.” To get salmon to Auburn from the Wise powerhouse, at least seven fish ladders must be funded, designed and installed. Parts of Ashford and the Auburn school parks preserve must be reconfigured for salmon spawning. Sanchez said the cost will be roughly $15 million, with most – if not all funding – coming from grants. One of the economic opportunities SARSAS foresees could result from drawing visitors to watch the spawning run. Taylor Creek, a tributary of Lake Tahoe attracts thousands of people each year to watch the Kokanee freshwater salmon spawning run. “Those visitors spend money on food, lodging and recreation in the South Lake Tahoe area,” Sanchez said. Auburn City Councilman Mike Holmes said he sees an economic benefit from a salmon run that could be helped along by opening up more recreation in the Auburn State Recreation Area. “It will be a teaching opportunity as well as a chance for people to visit to watch the run,” Holmes said. Encouragement was also given by Katie Burdick of the Cosumnes, American, Bear and Yuba (CABY) Rivers Integrated Regional Water Management Plan, who said that funding was possible because – unlike work on larger dams – working to restore habitat in the western Placer County creek regions would be considered “low-hanging fruit.” The CABY group last year funded $3.4 million in projects. Sanchez said that salmon are now swimming past Lincoln on the Auburn Ravine but that upstream to Auburn will be suitable for spawning. “We do not believe conditions are right in Lincoln for spawning but will in Auburn Ravine above Fowler Road,” Sanchez said.