A group gathers in the parking lot near Indian Ole Dam for a meeting of Friends of Mountain Meadows on Thursday, Feb. 20. Photo by Susan Cort Johnson

Oversight of Mountain Meadows fishery discussed

Friends of Mountain Meadows met Thursday, Feb. 20, at Indian Ole Dam to discuss the status of Mountain Meadows Reservoir.

Nils Lunder, the meeting facilitator, said the group meets to ensure proper oversight of the reservoir is occurring. In 2015, during a drought, the reservoir emptied destroying the fishery. Representatives from Pacific Gas and Electric Company and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife are invited to each quarterly meeting to report on oversight activities.

There was no representative from PG&E at the February meeting; however, Lunder said he spoke with Ann Marie Cannon, Land Agent for Hydro Operations. Due to the lack of snow, he requested that spill boards be installed earlier than usual to increase the amount of water held in the reservoir. He reported Cannon said the boards would be installed and crews were actually doing the work the day of the meeting. Cannon also reported that a hydro forecast would be released from PG&E soon.

A date for a meeting with staff from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife Northern region had been set. Monty Currier, an environmental scientist with the Northern Region California Department of Fish and Wildlife who oversees the restoration of the fishery at Mountain Meadows Reservoir, confirmed a meeting to coordinate operations was scheduled. These meetings provide guidance to PG&E on water releases downstream to keep a healthy fish habitat in Hamilton Branch Creek between the dam and Clear Creek.

Currier provided an update on the restoration of the fishery with data collected during five fish surveys conducted by electroshock. He said the department would do four additional surveys during the spring and summer of 2020. He is trying to get a better count of Sacramento Perch which the Department of Fish and Wildlife is working to establish in the reservoir.

The Sacramento Perch is a native sunfish and is considered a desirable sport species. It was first introduced to the reservoir in March 2016, and since that date perch have been planted on six separate occasions, with a total of 375 stocked.

It has been difficult to monitor the growth of the Sacramento Perch fishery because the fish are allusive in their capture and difficult to see when shocked due to their darker coloration and close association with vegetative cover, according to a report issued by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. In 2018 the survey found 18 percent of the total catch were Sacramento Perch averaging in length 6.1 inches. In the 2019 surveys 3.5 percent of the fish were the perch averaging four inches in size.

Currier is trying to get accurate angler information. He said it is best to survey for Sacramento Perch when the water temperature is 64 degrees, so he would like local volunteers to help him monitor the temperature of the reservoir since he works out of the Redding office. Also, he may put an angler survey box at the reservoir so anglers can report their catch, which would help with the perch count.

Lunder reported on the timeline for the planned upgrades to the Mountain Meadows Reservoir public access area at Indian Ole Dam. There will be a vault toilet, a walking trail, five benches and two picnic tables. He is gathering information on five interpretive signs and planning on installing two signs describing the Maidu Indians, another on the Red River Lumber Company and two on the habitat. An environmental study was completed and is being reviewed by all required agencies. Once it is approved by the California Public Utilities Commission, work can begin. Lunder expects approval by early April.

As stewardship manager for Feather River Land Trust, Lunder oversees the conservation easements on PG&E watershed lands in the region for which this non-profit organization was named the conservation easement holder. Mountain Meadows Reservoir and other local sites were conserved through a program established by the Pacific Forest and Watershed Lands Stewardship Council. Feather River Land Trust was founded to conserve the lands and waters of the Feather River Region.

An update on the Mountain Meadows Gateway Property purchased by Feather River Land Trust in 2018 with funds donated by a foundation was also given by Lunder. The eight-acre property provides a second point of public access to the reservoir and is within walking distance of Westwood. There will be a parking area and a kiosk with maps. Lunder told Chris Gallagher, the District 1 Lassen County Supervisor who attended the meeting, he needed information on county permitting to remove fill dirt from the property in order to restore the natural habitat.

Lunder is also director of Mountain Meadows Conservancy a nonprofit organization based in Westwood. The conservancy’s mission is “to conserve and enhance the natural beauty and environmental health of the Mountain Meadows watershed; protect its significant Mountain Maidu burial and cultural sites; and provide recreation and public access for generations to come.”

The next quarterly meeting for Friends of Mountain Meadows was scheduled for Thursday, May 14.