Salmon backers turn to Placer teenagers

Students’ senior projects can aid return to Auburn Ravine
By: Jenna Nielsen Journal Staff Writer
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Organizers of a local effort to restore salmon to the Auburn Ravine are reaching out to local schools. During a presentation to the Placer Union High School District Friday, the founders of SARSAS (Save Auburn Ravine Salmon and Steelhead) ” husband-and-wife team Jack and Valerie Sanchez ” presented an action plan, and different ways local schools and students can get involved in the salmon restoration plan. The Sanchezes are currently working with a handful of different organizations throughout the city and county to launch SARSAS, which would modify several man-made barriers currently inhibiting water flow in the creek and stopping fish. During Friday's presentation, the Sanchezes discussed how local students can help with the plan, such as by focusing on SARSAS for senior projects. Jack Sanchez said SARSAS organizers are in the process of raising $5,000 that would go toward a scholarship, which would be awarded to the district student whose project best fulfills the mission of SARSAS. For a nonprofit to connect with a district is really unique, Jack Sanchez said. We saw an opportunity to localize the concern. This is something that has long-range benefits. He also suggested ways teachers could get involved. Science teachers can include units on the life of salmonids, stream restoration, anadromous (swimming upward) fishes' life cycle and instincts, and stream alteration, Sanchez said in his presentation about how teachers could get involved. Units on aquatic habitat and predation and stream ecology can be included in the curriculum. Fish tanks can be placed in classrooms and fish eggs can be hatched, reared and placed into the Auburn Ravine with scientific and writing assignments attached to the observations. The Sanchezes' ultimate goal is to get fish to the Wise Powerhouse off Ophir Road 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. We have the opportunity to create something no other town in California has, Sanchez previously told the Journal. An anadromous fish run with salmon spawning in the center of the city. The Sanchezes have a plan to modify the existing dams to support adequate water flow. I am in no way arguing for the removal of any dams, Jack Sanchez said. We could simply retrofit them and modify them so that fish can get over it. The plan is in the very early, conceptual stages, he said. For the past several months, Jack Sanchez has been talking to officials with Placer County, the city of Auburn, the Nevada Irrigation District, Pacific Gas & Electric Company and the Placer County Water Agency. Both Jack and Valerie worked in the district for many years and they are lifelong residents of Auburn, said Bart O'Brien, superintendent of the Placer Union High School District, who was unable to attend last week's meeting but has talked to the Sanchezes. It would be natural for them to get the schools involved to stimulate student interest. And I love the idea for a scholarship. The Journal's Jenna Nielsen can be reached at or via a comment on this story at