North Coast residents encouraged to report salmon run on the Eel River

Redwood Times
Posted: 10/19/2011 01:33:09 PM PDT

Friends of the Eel River has issued a call for local residents to watch for and report sightings of Chinook salmon migrating up the Eel River and its tributaries. The non-profit advocacy organization will use “fish-watcher” reports to build a more detailed picture of salmon spawning and migration patterns on the river.

The fall salmon run up the Eel has begun, but low water levels upstream have led to concern about potential fish kills if this threatened species are left stranded by insufficient flows. This information could also help federal and state fisheries agencies decide whether to release additional water from the Potter Valley Project to augment flows in the mainstem Eel in the next few weeks, if the area doesn’t get more rain soon.

The group is asking the public to call or e-mail their main office to report sightings. Reports should note the date and time, specific location, and the number and condition of the fish sighted when calling in reports. If possible, observers should take note of whether salmon were bright silver or dark, strong or struggling, and whether there is any evidence of or potential for stranding. Friends of the Eel River can be reached at (415) 332-9810 or by e-mail at foer@eelriver.org.

The Eel River is California’s third largest watershed, third largest salmon producing river, and second largest steelhead producing river. The vast majority of Eel River water is diverted into the Russian River through the dams and diversion tunnel that comprise PG&E’s Potter Valley Project. This highly controlled river system is vulnerable to insufficient flows unless the river system either experiences high levels of rainfall or water is released into the river under the direction of California’s Department of Fish and Game (DFG).

”Salmon runs on the Eel River are an important part of our local heritage and our economy,” said Nadananda, executive director of Friends of the Eel River. “Local residents helping to track and count these fish will assist greatly in our work to preserve these fish and improve river conditions on the Eel.”

The Eel River is proving to be a rare bright spot in efforts to recover endangered Coho and Chinook salmon, in part because the migratory fish returning to this watershed are wild and not of hatchery origin. The fall run of salmon in 2010 was the largest seen in 77 years due to increased flows to the Eel River mandated by FERC and advocated for by Friends of the Eel River. Friends of the Eel is greatly concerned that this recovery will lose ground if DFG does not release sufficient water to support consistent water flows on the river during these important weeks.

_Friends of the Eel River (FOER) is an environmental advocacy organization with more than 2,200 members. The organization strives to restore the Eel River and its tributaries to a wild and natural state of abundance. FOER works with scientists, fisheries experts, sport fishing alliances, river recreationalists, and concerned citizens to advocate for an increase in flows to the river that would enable native salmon and steelhead to once again thrive in the watershed. Friends of the Eel River can be reached by email at www.eelriver.org