Save Auburn Ravine Salmon and Steelhead
Save Auburn Ravine Salmon and Steelhead
Auburn Ravine Preservation Committee, and Ophir Property Owners Association, Inc.
Among the many reasons to be thankful we live in the Sierra Nevada foothills are the lovely streams that flow through our communities and ultimately to the sea. Auburn Ravine, Coon and Dry Creeks have a rich history of resident trout and migratory (anadromous/sea-run) salmon and steelhead. We will focus on Auburn Ravine in Ophir where surprising numbers of fish—up to nearly 8,000 estimated rainbow or steelhead trout per mile—have been found with California Department of Fish and Wildlife surveys. Local residents and fishery professionals have observed juveniles ready to travel toward the ocean, in addition to very small young-of-the-year fish and larger adult rainbow or steelhead trout in Auburn Ravine. Many fish have been caught there over the years.
Longtime Ophir resident, Slim Goodall, who began fishing Auburn Ravine near the end of the Great Depression, said it “was a known fact that steelhead and salmon came up to the Wise Powerhouse (in Ophir) back in those days.” Although greatly diminished from historical levels, these iconic fish once ascended Auburn Ravine in considerable numbers and are the subject of extensive community and agency restoration efforts. For example, the Ophir Property Owners Association has worked tirelessly on this for three decades or more.
With the dramatic alteration of Sacramento-San Joaquin River, Bay-Delta system flows and other stressors, migratory or sea-run Central Valley steelhead populations have plummeted. However they and more numerous resident rainbow trout can occupy the same stream and form a single inter-breeding population. Further research including Auburn Ravine and similar streams is needed to clarify the relationship between--and potential mutual benefits to—healthy populations of resident rainbow and migratory steelhead trout, which share rivers or streams. We are early in our journey toward more fully understanding these remarkable fish, as well as other imperiled anadromous and resident fish that inhabit the Sacramento-San Joaquin Rivers, their tributaries, the Delta and San Francisco Bay. We hope this information has whetted your appetite for more…and that you will support the local organizations fighting the good fight (Ophir Property Owners Association, Save Auburn Ravine Salmon And Steelhead, the Dry Creek Conservancy, Newcastle Community Association, et al.)
SARSAS Update on the Progress in Returning Salmon and Steelhead to Auburn Ravine
By Jack Sanchez
The goal of Save Auburn Ravine Salmon and Steelhead (SARSAS) is to return salmon and steelhead to the thirty three mile length of the Auburn Ravine with salmon spawning within Ashford Park and Auburn School Park Preserve, the two parks in the center of Auburn. To that end SARSAS is a 501#c, non-profit, public benefit corporation active to that goal. The SARSAS General Meeting is held at the Domes, 175 Fulweiler Avenue in Auburn and features an expertise speaker in some aspect of stream restoration. Meetings are held the fourth Monday of each month at 10 a.m. in Room CEO 1 and are open to the public.
The Auburn Ravine is a tributary of the Sacramento River; It starts in Auburn, flows through Ophir and Lincoln, through miles of agricultural fields into the Eastside Canal, the Natomas Cross Canal and enters the Sacramento River at the fishing hamlet of Verona, just downstream of the mouth of the Feather River.
SARSAS has accomplished much toward its goal. A 1.2 million dollar fish ladder was installed in 2012 on Nevada Irrigation District’s (NID) Lincoln Gauging Station Dam, allowed three hundred salmon to reach Hemphill Dam, about two miles above Lincoln. About thirty salmon made it over Hemphill Dam and spawned. To view the fish ladder at LGS, go to Lincoln and drive west on Ferrari Ranch Road across railroad tracks, turn right onto Green Ravine Road, turn right on second Southbridge Circle and left on Mossdale. Walk the trail about one hundred and fifty yard to fish ladder at Lincoln Gauging Station.
CaFW has just finished a yearlong study of Auburn Ravine, spurred on by Auburn Ravine become an active salmon spawning stream once again, but has not yet published its results, which are anxiously anticipated for its new and factual information of aquatic life in Auburn Ravine, adding to our understanding of fish and other aquatic life in Auburn Ravine.
A fish screen has been installed on the Scheiber Ranch paid for by Rancher Albert Scheiber. Darryl Hayes, of Instream Screens, Inc., designed, built and installed the fish screen. The Schreiber Ranch was crossed by the new Highway 65 Bypass over Auburn Ravine. The new screen is located immediately downstream of the new bridge. Albert Schreiber conducted a tour for several SARSAS members. The fish screen with its small holes that water can flow through but prevents salmon from being entrained, is a self-cleaning single cone electric powered screen; it keeps fish in the Auburn Ravine and allows the rancher to take water out of the Ravine through the screen without the screen clogging with debris.
Now all eight dams below Lincoln are in compliance with NOAA regulations, thanks to NOAA Special Agent Don Tanner’s diligent and thorough work of contacting flashboard dam owners. Flashboard dams are dam which are removed each year and reinstalled. That means all dams are taken down No Later Than Oct 15 and stay down until April 15 each year to allow salmon and steelhead to reach spawning grounds as far up as they currently can get, which is the Hemphill Dam at Turkey Creek Golf Course...
Fish are now able to swim 22 of the 33 mile length of Auburn Ravine. Located two miles upstream of the City of Lincoln and adjacent to Turkey Creek Golf Course, Hemphill Dam is the next major barrier to be dealt with to get salmon to Auburn to spawn in Auburn School Park Preserve between Auburn City Hall and Placer High School and Ashford Park on Auburn Ravine Road. Since 2013 had a very meager rainfall, only a few fish reached Hemphill Dam and none that SARSAS knows of made it over to spawn in the pristine waters above it. Hemphill Dam is the current barrier to fish upstream migration.
Remleh Scherzinger, the new General Manager of Nevada Irrigation District, met with SARSAS Members on Wednesday, May 27, 2014, to work out details to get some kind of fish passage on the Hemphill Dam in place for the current Fall Chinook Run which begins in October. NID has a three step plan to achieve fish passage over Hemphill Dam and last year modified the water flow over the dam to increase water flow on the north side for fish to use to negotiate the dam. Since rainfall was lacking, the modification met little success. Further streambed and dam modifications are being prepared for the fall Chinook run and next year a fish ladder will be installed or the dam will be removed, whatever NID decides.
South Sutter Water District and Family Water Alliance are working with the agencies to install conical fish screens on the Pleasant Grove Canal located a few miles downstream of Lincoln. Ron Ott, SARSAS Fish Expert, indicated that this canal entrains up to 90% of all salmon smolt swimming down Auburn Ravine to return to the Pacific to mature. Funding is in place but the installation has been delayed for two years while a power source over wetlands can be achieved; the new target date is fall of 2014. We still need a notch in the Coppin Dam for steelhead downstream passage and a fish screen over the Auburn Ravine Canal near the Coppin Dam off Eastside Canal.
Any rancher/farmer living on the Auburn Ravine who takes water from it is encouraged to call Family Water Alliance (530 267 7743) and speak with Executive Director Nadine Bailey to inquire about securing funding to install a fish screen on his canal or pump. Fish screens allow water to be taken from the Auburn Ravine without entraining the fish that can continue returning to the Pacific to mature and return to Auburn Ravine to spawn. The more fish screens on out-takes on Auburn Ravine, the healthier the fishery will be.
Much is happening and with each addition, salmon and steelhead can swim and spawn farther up Auburn Ravine, getting ever closer to the SARSAS mission of returning salmon and steelhead to the entire thirty-three mile length of the Auburn Ravine.
If you are interested in helping with SARSAS or attending meetings to gather additional information on our efforts, please visit www.sarsas.org or contact Jack Sanchez at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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