As the new Executive Director of Friends of the Eel River, I understand and appreciate how important your support is to our ongoing success. Thank you for helping us secure a future for our Wild and Scenic watershed and its fisheries.
We are a small but fierce organization, which gives us the ability to respond quickly to changes and put up an uncompromising defense for the future of our wild fish. In the past year we have made meaningful strides toward our goal of watershed and fisheries recovery. In 2019 we learned our petitions to list summer steelhead under the State and Federal Endangered Species Act received positive findings. Both agencies are currently conducting 12-month status reviews. We are thrilled to have the opportunity to tell the story of these amazing fish, their unique life history, and their genetic lineage. Removing Scott Dam will provide unmatched recovery potential for these wild fish, the southernmost run of summer steelhead.
In the fall of 2019 we settled our lawsuit with Humboldt County challenging their insufficient cannabis cultivation regulations. Our settlement requires the County to fund road repairs and culvert replacements to address sediment pollution in the most sensitive salmonid streams in the South Fork Eel River. There is much work still to be done addressing the legacy and on-going impacts of heavy cannabis cultivation in the watershed.
As you know, the climate crisis is upon us. climate change is daunting, and often acting locally doesn’t feel like enough. However, we have an incredible opportunity in the Eel River and its wild fish to work with nature to protect a meaningful future for our watershed. Our work is critical to ensuring Eel River salmon and steelhead survive the coming century.
FOER is working hard both to strengthen ecosystem resistance to climate change, and to increase resilience wherever possible. Our work increasing resistance is all about habitat; by maintaining existing quality habitat, recovering and reconnecting habitat and refugia from the estuary to the headwaters, we increase the system’s capacity to absorb change. Establishing resilience is all about diversifying options for survival, for the wild salmon and steelhead in the Eel River
Planning for the Future
Friends of the Eel River remains committed to removing Scott Dam and restoring fish passage to the hundreds of miles of prime habitat lost behind the century-old infrastructure. The dam removal process has been a rough to ride, with a number of unprecedented events continuing to alter the path to dam removal.
In the next six months we must reach an agreement that secures dam removal in the Eel River. We feel hopeful about the process and will continue working hard to get there. Some of the work we have been doing and will continue in the coming year includes:
- Following up on our summer steelhead listing petitions. The California listing is very likely, but we are prepared for litigation to secure a Federal listing;
- Leading weekly calls with Tribal and conservation allies;
- Continuing our investigations of water rights in the Eel and Russian River watersheds; and
- Continuing to insist that dam safety and reliability are carefully reviewed before PG&E is allowed to pass along the liability of this project to a new entity. After much persistence on our part, Division of Safety of Dams is now conducting an independent review of dam safety at Scott Dam.
We are also closely following developments with Humboldt County’s implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. It is important that in the coming year we make progress toward developing meaningful groundwater management.
And of course, it is very exciting that the vision of the Great Redwood Trail is becoming a reality. FOER will continue to be involved in ensuring trail development provides opportunities to learn about and enjoy the river without damaging the rugged and beautiful Eel River canyon. We look forward to assisting with restoring fish access to more tributaries and expanding opportunities for the public to learn more about this magnificent river.
For wild salmon and for our future,