Ott holds key to ravine restoration

Volunteer’s research charts how salmon and steelhead may run again
By: Colin Berr Journal Staff Writer
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Ron Ott may soon hold the key to the Auburn Ravine restoration in his hands. After months of tireless research, Ott is creating a unique book on the Auburn Ravine which lists every dam, diversion and pump from Auburn to Verona on the Sacramento River. “Ron’s book will allow us to completely restore the Auburn Ravine to salmon and steelhead runs for spawning and return to the Pacific for maturation,” said Jack Sanchez, president of SARSAS (Save Auburn Ravine Salmon and Steelhead). “His work is absolutely key to what we’re doing.” Salmon have been a major part of Ott’s life. Growing up on the Sacramento River, Ott went on to receive three advanced degrees from Stanford, which included specialties in hydrology, hydraulics and water resources. He has since worked nationwide on stream, river and lake restoration projects for fisheries for 43 years. “One of the most exciting parts of my career happened when I was jogging through a neighborhood in Seattle. I turned to go by a stream that was no bigger than 6-feet-by-3-feet, and I saw hundreds of salmon thrashing and spawning,” Ott said. “It was just incredible to see nature flourishing within the confines of an urban community.” Ott’s work seeks to counter the damage created by human diversions, such as flashboards and dams, which are set to divert water flow during certain times of the year. Salmon and steelhead are caught in the diverted water flow, and end up dying, often on the banks of farmland. Illustrated with photographs, the book describes the maximum flows and owners of each pump, diversion and dam, cost of screening, and more extensive details. With the information supplied by Ott, SARSAS will work to implement fish ladders and screens throughout the Ravine to divert the salmon and steelhead back along their desired route to the ocean. “So far, SARSAS has been successful in phase one of its mission, which is to remove diversions from the Sacramento area to the city of Lincoln,” Sanchez said. “Ron’s really boosting up phase II, which runs from Auburn to the Sacramento River.” If all goes as planned, Auburn will be one of two cities in California to see salmon spawn within city limits. “Seeing salmon spawn and travel upstream in large numbers is very uplifting for the community,” Ott said. “In a way, the health of a salmon run can reflect the health of society.” --------------------------- Get to know Ron Ott Profession: • Started his career working for the California Department of Water Resources • Joined major international consulting firm CH2M HILL and served as Director of Environmental Sciences, followed by Director of Water Resources and lastly the Director in Integrated Water Management. • Fish Facility Coordinator for the California Bay Delta Program (CALFED) for 12 years • Stared his own firm, Ott Water Engineers, which specialized in anadromous fishery restoration projects, especially fish passage projects. • Currently owns and operates a hydro-electric plant in Northern California Resumé highlights: • Led science and engineering studies for water supply, water quality and fisheries on major river and estuary systems in California, Washington, Oregon, Florida, Wisconsin and Alaska. • Published extensively in professional journals • A registered civil engineer in eight states • Received several awards from the American Society of Civil Engineers for his publications on fish passage engineering. Favorite Pastimes: Gold prospecting while swimming in streams; also riding ATVs throughout Northern California and Nevada with his family.