Summary of SARSAS Accomplishments
We began when Ron Ott told us Pleasant Grove Canal entrained up to 90% of smolt and other juveniles returning to the Pacific Ocean to mature. In 2016, with the help of Brad Arnold at South Sutter Water District, Placer County’s Placer Legacy and Family Water Alliance, a Double Cone Self Cleaning Fish Screen was installed in Auburn Ravine to keep all the fishes from dying in ag fields, allowing them to continue on their perilous journey to the Sacramento River, SF Bay and finally reach the Pacific. This is an achievement that took four long years trying to get power through wetlands to power the fish screens to keep them from clogging. The screen installed by ISI is now in operation.
Robert Hane, Coordinator on North Ravine Restoration, has been working with Damion Ciotti of the Fish and Wildlife Service to restore the four and a half mile long main tributary of Auburn Ravine. Mr. Ciotti has provided funding and expertise and oversees SARSAS’ restoration work. CCC and Sierra Native Alliance have provided manpower to remove invasive plants and debris accumulated in the ravine since the Gold Rush. Mr. Hane is currently working with the Taylor family of the Mt. Vernon Winery on detailed restoration viewable from Mt. Vernon Road.
Bob Johnson, new Coordinator of the SARSAS Citizen Science Program is revamping our ravine testing procedures and added youth to our team. He is very busy working to update our data and post in on the national data base on www.inaturalist.org. Our CS people do weekly measurements on Auburn Ravine from October 15 to April 15 while flashboard dams are down and the anadromous fish are running and spawning.
All in SARSAS are volunteers with no one being paid. All donations go toward our mission. We appreciate SARSAS Website Master Jerry Plummer, a recent addition to the team who not only keeps the website current. Jerry is one of our best additions to the SARSAS team of volunteers.
Salmon swimming toward Auburn continues incrementally. First, NOAA Special Agent Don Tanner contacts all flashboard dam owners below the City of Lincoln and brings them all into compliance with NOAA regulations stating all flashboard dam each year must be removed from Auburn Ravine no later than October 15 and stay removed until April 15 so salmon and steel head can return and spawn.
Next, Former NID General Manager Ron Nelson spearheads installation of a fish ladder on the Lincoln Gaging Station allowing fishes to reach Hemphill Dam, twenty-two miles up the thirty-three miles of Auburn Ravine. Then rancher Albert Scheiber installs a fish screen over the outtake of his canal immediately downstream of the new Hwy 65 Bridge.
But the real breakthrough occurred Tuesday, May 17 at NID Offices in Grass Valley. The Engineering Committee made up of NID Board Chairperson Nancy Webber and Board Member Scott Miller recommended to the NID BOD to remove Hemphill Dam and select Options 4 or 5, both including a type of Infiltration Gallery in which water is taken from the bottom of Auburn Ravine and directed through pipelines into Hemphill Canal. This technique eliminates the need for a diversion dam so the Hemphill Dam, an ancient and dangerous barrier for fish to negotiate, will be removed. This Committee recommendation will be voted on by the NID BOD on June 6, 2016, the next scheduled meeting. This vote will be a start for work on removing Hemphill Dam.
Fish Passage on Lincoln Gaging Station completed in 2012 took four years so we have a start on the long awaited Hemphill Dam Fish Passage Project. The next NID barrier to salmon and steel head on Auburn Ravine is Gold Hill Dam, a twelve foot high concrete dam built in the 1850’s.
NOAA and CDFW and Placer County District Attorney’s Office have been working for many months with NID in private talks.
Major high level individuals from state agencies attended this meeting. Marc Commandatore, Fish Passage Improvement Supervisor from Department of water Resources, spoke persuasively in support of the dam removal and installation of fish passage at Hemphill Dam. Colin Purdy, Environmental Scientist, also spoke for removal as did Jennifer Byous, Placer County Senior Planner with Placer Legacy, several SARSAS members and members of the newly formed Friends of Auburn Ravine, a group that splintered from SARSAS to deal with the entire ecology of Auburn Ravine.
With many people collaborating of fish passage on Auburn Ravine, many good things will continue to happen until finally salmon and steel head are spawning in the two parks in Auburn, Auburn School Park Preserve, located between Placer High and City Hall, and Ashford Park on Auburn Ravine Road.
Jack L. Sanchez