Eel River Project Would Clear More Space For Fish Passage

I was recently able to watch a documentary on the ups and downs of the North Coast’s iconic Eel River, A River’s Last Chance,  which chronicles a history of resurgence and decline of the river’s runs of salmon and steelhead (look for a feature story on the film in a future issue of California Sportsman ). 

The Eel’s fish population has been stymied by everything from overfishing to dams to drought, but a project to clear blockage points on the water created by railroad construction is in the works. Here’s the Eureka Times-Standard:

Groundbreaking has already begun at Woodman Creek in Mendocino County where the construction of the Northwestern Pacific Railroad blocked off about 14 miles of prime fish habitat for more than a century, according to CalTrout.

Mierau said railroad workers at the time filled in about 500 feet of the creek and blasted a large hole in the bedrock in order to complete a bridge. These changes altered the mouth of the creek so that fish would now have to leap 12 feet vertically to access the creek, which Mierua said essentially cut off access to most fish.

With the aid of local businesses like Pacific Earthscapes, Pacific Watershed Associates and Mike Love & Associates, the project is now working to shift the mouth of the creek back to its original outlet, which will be done by exhuming the sediment placed there more than 100 years ago, Mierau said.

The hope is that the construction will be completed by September.