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Conservation News

The Fish Trap
By Conservation Director Steve Rudzinski

We met today at the Rubber dam just upstream of Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park to get acquainted with the operation of the fish trap which was used last time six years ago that we released hatchery reared fish in Boulder Creek.
The MBSTP Steelhead capture research mission is to capture steelhead at the Felton rubber dam again this year, starting in January 2020 as per the agreement with Fish and Wildlife. Although our guide to the facility, Gordon Brofft, came out with his view for us to start with the fish trapping this weekend, (December 7th and 8th). We are all hoping to reach the goal of measuring and weighing and taking a small punch out of a fin for DNA analysis.
A group of 35 strong, all men and one female city worker to report on it all, walked through the routine of turning on the lights and waiting for them to slowly come on, unlocking the controls for the crane and climbing down a cold steel vertical ladder to a dock area holding a clever fish trap hooked to a two-ton winch on a track to roll in place and lower the basket into a slot to wait for fish to enter and be trapped.
There are four six hour shifts daily, signing up for the all-night shift being the least favorite and most likely the same people will do it, because nobody else wants to. The goal is to keep going daily till 350 fish are recorded and it is expected that most fish will be wild fish with no fish clips. What was explained today was that these fish are expected to live seven years maybe more (about the time since we released fish from the hatchery)
. I took some notes and our guide Gordon also explained a little about how it all works with the dam and pumping water to the Loch. Only one pipe goes both ways he said so no drawing of water while pumping and vice versa. The amount of electricity needed to power the motors used to pump water that far uphill are monstrous and gobble electricity (4175-volt pumps) and very costly to run. This year he said the reservoir is just 5 feet low and normal rains should fill it up this winter, so no pumping.
Pumps scare the fish, he said, which avoid the trap. When the pumps are turned off, the fish move through. He said he saw a fish leap over the 8-foot dam wall to avoid the fish trap one time. Built in 1973, it was the answer to keeping a year-round clean supply of drinking water. What was discovered, he said, was that the watershed of only about 27 miles long had the highest rate of leach fields per acre than anywhere in California.

NOTE: Don't forget to get your 2020 California Fishing License. Go to https://www.ca.wildlifelicense.com/ now!

Muir Woods Creek Restoration Project Wraps Up
By Will Houston - whouston@marinij.com

December 2, 2019 at 7:11 am
Just in time for the return of endangered coho salmon spawners, Muir Woods National Monument has completed an overhaul of Redwood Creek to give the struggling fish a better chance of recovery.
The latest achievement in the ongoing "Redwood Renewal" project overhauled a nearly half-mile section of Redwood Creek. A large part of the project sought to right the wrongs caused by past management of the creek.
"(The park) was managed for the visitor in mind and not necessarily, 'How is this going to affect the whole ecosystem?'"said park ranger Giessell Aguilar. "Natural resources management has definitely changed a lot in the park service over the last 100 years -for the better." "We're putting nature back to how nature should be," Aguilar added.
The work, which started in August, focused on restoring natural habitat for the fish by removing boulder walls called ripraps along the creek banks and placing large pieces of trees into the creek.
The riprap walls were installed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s for the purpose of reducing erosion and flooding at the park. The stabilized banks, however, channeled the water into a swift current during the rainy season, which scoured away salmon eggs and salmon fry that were attempting to survive the long year-and-a-half in freshwater.
In addition, park staff in the past used to remove trees and large branches that would occasionally fall into the creek so as to maintain a "clean and kept" look for the park guests, Aguilar said. However, these large pieces of fallen wood act as sanctuaries to the young coho as well as adult spawners working their way upcreek. The wood not only provides shade and cover from predators, but also interacts with the current in a way to form deep pools where salmon can take refuge.
To speed up this natural process, construction crews installed several large pieces of already-fallen trees at different points in the creek.
But the changes have consequences. No longer confined by the riprap, the creek is expected to begin carving a new route. "These were stabilizing the banks artificially," said Aaron Rotman, a park public information coordinator. "So with those out, (the creek) is going to resume its natural path. So some of these trails that are really close are getting redirected or removed."
With the national monument seeing a million visitors per year, park staff decided to keep the park open during construction. This resulted in parking, trail and camping site closures along with the sound of trucks and chainsaws resounding between the towering redwoods.
Farley, one of the public information coordinators hired by the park to explain the project to visitors, said most visitors were understanding after learning the purpose behind the racket.
"When people know that they're saving the fish and that the creek will function as it once did, that sound almost becomes beautiful," Farley said.
Redwood Creek's population of coho salmon has come very close to extinction in recent years, prompting biologists to capture and rear young coho at a Geyserville hatchery for several years. In the recent droughts, some salmon counts were in the single digits.
The National Marine Fisheries Service has set targets of 136 adult spawners to downlist the population to a threatened status. To be considered in recovery, the coho must reach 272 spawners. Last year, park biologists recorded about 30 salmon egg nests, known as redds, and about 88 adults in the creek's 9-square-mile watershed, though some of the adult counts may have been duplicates.
The work is far from over.
By early 2020, construction crews plan to relocate several water and wastewater pipelines farther away from the creek at several locations around the park. This has several benefits, Aguilar said, including preventing the possibility of a sewage spill, improving fire flow and replacing aging pipes.
Two of the bridges that cross Redwood Creek are also set to be replaced and raised when the construction resumes in the summer of 2020. The purpose is to ensure the bridges will be able to survive in the event of a 100-year flood, Aguilar said.
Eventually, the park plans to restore another half-mile of the creek in similar fashion in 2021-2022.
All told, the Redwoods Renewal project is estimated to cost roughly $15 million, said park ranger Mia Monroe, though the final cost is unclear.