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Efforts made to save salmon

Transplant may be the way to rescue trapped fish
By: Jenna Nielsen Journal Staff Writer
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Salmon suffering in the low-flowing Auburn Ravine will find temporary relief through the weekend. Because of low water flows associated with the end of irrigation season, salmon swimming through portions of the Auburn Ravine have found it difficult to make it through portions of the creek above Gold Hill Road in the Virginiatown Road area in rural Auburn/Newcastle. Following the efforts of one area salmon restoration group and officials with the Pacific Gas & Electric Company and the Nevada Irrigation District, flows have been increased from four cubic feet per second to 10 cfs through Sunday. “This should take care of the immediate concern and provide water flow,” said Jack Sanchez, the founder of SARSAS (Save Auburn Ravine Salmon and Steelhead), a program aimed at modifying several man-made barriers currently inhibiting water flow in the creek and stopping fish. “Thanks to the rapid efforts of PG&E and the irrigation district, it will give us some time to work on a permanent solution to keep the fish alive in the Auburn Ravine.” Sanchez said SARSAS is currently working with officials from the Department of Fish & Game to coordinate a fish transplant. “We are hoping to work with them to move the fishes up into Ophir, which has great water flow,” Sanchez said. “It would be a big operation, but with Fish & Game’s help we could get it done.” Beginning next week, PG&E will be shutting down a hydrosystem to conduct annual canal maintenance, further inhibiting flows. “We hope the extra flows will do (the fish) some good,” said Kevin Goishi, principal project manager for PG&E. “We hope to scrape up some water and make those releases until the canal is taken out.” Goishi said that since the irrigation season has been coming to a close recently, most of the water releases conducted by the electric company are limited. “Most of the water we release is through a contractual agreement with the Placer County Water Agency and the Nevada Irrigation District,” Goishi said. “We either sell them water or deliver their water through our system. Water is diverted downstream for irrigation use and those diversions are getting cut back because the irrigation season is winding down.” SARSAS’ ultimate goal is to get fish to the Wise Powerhouse off Ophir Road and to the recently daylighted Lincoln Creek at Auburn’s School Park Preserve behind City Hall. But the current water flow is not adequate to support salmon. SARSAS officials have a plan to modify the 12 existing dams to support adequate water flow. This week, SARSAS officials were able to get the Lincoln Ranch Duck Club Dam completely removed, opening up a 10-mile stretch of the Auburn Ravine. “The next barrier to be addressed will be the Gold Hill Diversion Dam,” Sanchez said. “And once salmon reach the Wise Powerhouse one mile downstream from Auburn, the real work begins because this reach needs additional water and major habitat restoration.” The Journal’s Jenna Nielsen can be reached at jennan@goldcountrymedia.com or comment on this story at auburnjournal.com.