California Trout awarded $4.77 million from CDFW for salmon habitat restoration and drought resiliency

California Department of Fish and Wildlife funds will support projects to restore freshwater habitat for threatened coho and Chinook salmon and redband trout in the Klamath and Upper Sacramento River watersheds

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife announced they are awarding nonprofit research and conservation group California Trout and partners $4.77 million for four salmon and trout habitat restoration projects that will contribute to drought resiliency in the Klamath River watershed and Upper Sacramento River watershed. The funds will support projects to restore freshwater habitat for threatened coho and Chinook salmon and redband trout in the Klamath and Upper Sacramento River watersheds. These rivers and their tributaries are strongholds for the state’s native salmon populations. The projects bring together landowners, agricultural producers, universities, and Tribes to enhance water availability for both fish and farms.

“The funding awarded to California Trout and our partners today is great news,” said Curtis Knight, Executive Director of California Trout. “Climate change is putting tremendous stress on our native fish and wildlife populations as well as on the watersheds and natural systems that support our economy and communities. Fortunately, these new grants from CDFW will significantly advance our work to protect our state’s watersheds, native salmon, steelhead, and trout populations and increase California’s climate resiliency.”

For the Shasta Safe Harbor Habitat Improvement Project, CalTrout was awarded $2.81 million and will work with state and federal agencies, the Yurok Tribe, Karuk Tribe, and Quartz Valley Tribe and seven agricultural producers to implement voluntary habitat improvement projects on private land. The CDFW grant will support habitat improvement projects to enhance and expand instream salmon habitat along 26 miles of Shasta River and its tributaries and will actively restore 40 to 50 acres of instream and streamside (riparian) habitat. The grant will also increase education opportunities for school children in Siskiyou County, including in local Tribal communities.

“Just this past summer, we saw ranchers, tribes and state officials fighting over Shasta River water,” said CalTrout Mt. Shasta/Klamath Regional Director Damon Goodman. “I’m thrilled that these projects were awarded funding by CDFW and will give CalTrout the opportunity to bring some of those same individuals and others together to work towards a common goal. We all depend and rely on water – including our fish – and my team is excited to get to work to create a future where we all have the water we need. This could be a real win-win for fish, farms, and some of California’s tribal communities.”

The goal of the Process-based Restoration Techniques Feasibility Study, awarded $219,000, is to begin to restore stream function and groundwater-dependent habitat in the lower reach of the Little Shasta River, to help mitigate drought effects and support salmon recovery in the Klamath Basin. Stream flow in the Little Shasta can decrease drastically during irrigation season, especially as climate change moves California toward hotter, dryer conditions. But cold groundwater from springs creates pockets of good stream and streamside habitat, called climate refugia.

These refugia support a rich diversity of native species, not only Chinook and coho salmon but also special status bird species like the greater sandhill crane, Swainson’s hawk and golden eagle. The project will study the feasibility of using a technique called process-based restoration to improve stream and streamside habitat and enhance stream flow. This type of restoration includes actions such as building in-stream structures that mimic beaver dams (beaver dam analogues) and placing logs (large woody debris) to create instream salmon habitat.

The Improving Drought Resilience for Water Supply and Native Fishes Project, awarded $1.73 million, includes research on groundwater and on fishes in springwater habitats, as well as an outreach and education component to engage the two local tribes and other local communities. The groundwater springs in the Upper Sacramento River Basin provide up to a third of the water in Shasta Reservoir each year. This consistent supply buffers annual changes in precipitation and temperature. However, despite the critical importance of these springs, we know little about their ongoing supply reliability during drought, and their ability to support native fish in an increasingly variable climate.  The project will help inform water security management and protect biodiversity at regional and local scales and will help enhance recovery efforts for severely endangered  winter-run Chinook salmon and drought-threatened McCloud River Redband Trout.

For the McCloud River Redband Trout Refuge Pool Habitat Enhancement Project, awarded $69,000, CalTrout and partners will design and construct instream pools on two McCloud River tributaries to serve as refuges for McCloud River Redband Trout, a Species of Special Concern. This fish uses natural pools during periods of low stream flow, but natural pool habitat has become increasingly scarce due to climate change. The project’s goal is to enhance drought resiliency of Redband Trout habitat.

CalTrout is also a partner on a fifth project, awarded $7 million in funds, called the Scott River Tailings Reach Watershed Restoration Project. Led by the Yurok Tribe, this project will work to restore fish habitat and improve water diversion infrastructure on farms. The goal is to increase water use efficiency on the mainstem Scott River to benefit fish and farmers.

“As the Klamath dams come down and the river begins its recovery, fish will be looking for somewhere to go,” added Goodman. “These projects will improve fish habitat on the Klamath’s two biggest tributaries, the Scott and the Shasta, providing surrogate habitat for these imperiled fish populations.”

 Background
The Shasta and Scott Rivers are a crucial source of water for farms and ranches, but they also provide unique and highly productive habitat for fish including Chinook salmon, federally threatened coho salmon, steelhead, Pacific lamprey, and a host of other native fishes. As two of the largest tributaries to the Klamath River, these rivers will be especially important for repopulating fish in the Klamath after dam removal and subsequent river recovery. The Shasta River is the primary producer of wild Klamath River Chinook salmon populations. However, the Chinook salmon population today is less than a third of its historical size. State and federally endangered Southern Oregon and Northern Coastal California (coho salmon and other native fish populations have also significantly declined as over a century of land use changes have altered the rivers they inhabit and years of prolonged drought have reduced river flows.

A StoryMap showing all of these projects as well as others receiving funds from CDFW today can be found at storymaps.arcgis.com/stories/fe65083f824b4356b684219c1a4fc779.