Critical Fish Passage Section In Eel River Tributary Cleared

Eel River photo by Jason Hartwick/A River’s Last Chance

In September, when we featured Northern California’s Eel River and its historical importance as told in Shane Anderson’s wonderful documentary A River’s Last Chance director Anderson  said one of the important projects that was being worked on was clearing of tributary waters off the Eel that would allow more salmon and steelhead valuable fish passage space.

Here’s what Anderson told me about that in our story:

“And there all these habitat projects in the estuary being redone and dug out. CalTrout just pulled out a barrier in (Mendocino County’s Woodman Creek) and they’re doing it right now. It’s going to access another 14 miles (of spawning water). So we’re going to keep building with this restoration economy and we’re already seeing a lot of the spawning tributaries heal from a lot of the last wave of the timber boom in the mid-’90s.” 

Cal Trout put out a press release earlier this week to get into more details about the spawning habitat. Here’s a portion of the statement via Los Coast Outpost: 

For the first time in over a hundred years, winter steelhead and Chinook salmon can make their way up Woodman Creek, where they will find up to 14 miles of healthy spawning and rearing habitat. California Trout and several partners oversaw the restoration project that made it possible for fish to return to this high-priority area of the Eel River watershed. With winter rains now active in the region, these fish are finally able to take advantage of the work done to restore access to the creek.

Woodman Creek feeds into the mainstem of the Eel River near Dos Rios. When a now-defunct North Coast Railroad Authority (NCRA) line was built more than 100 years ago, the migration pathway for salmon and steelhead into Woodman Creek was permanently blocked. Due to high levels of geologic activity in the area, a portion of a train tunnel collapsed into the river, making the site impassable for fish and trains alike.

“Reopening access to historical creeks and streams like Woodman Creek provides tremendous benefits to migratory fish,” said Darren Mierau, Arcata-based North Coast Regional Director for California Trout, who oversaw the project. “It’s really satisfying to see this project finally come to fruition, after years of work went into making it happen.”