Steelhead Recovery Planning
Blueprint created to save steelhead
"Jenkin said the steelhead is a keystone species, one that tells of the overall health of the river...
Watershed planning continues today in Ventura
By Zeke Barlow, zbarlow@...
April 5, 2007
Ecologists, fishermen, environmentalists and bureaucrats gathered in Ventura on Wednesday to help draw up a blueprint of how to best restore steelhead trout populations in the coming decades.
The recovery plan will give local, state and federal governments guidelines on how to manage watersheds so the steelhead can once again run thick in Southern California rivers.
"This is where the rubber hits the road," said Paul Jenkin, environmental director of the Surfrider Foundation's Ventura County chapter.
The more than 60 people who attended the two-day conference were there to give feedback and express concerns over the plan. The plan is expected to be completed in the coming months and open to public comment early next year.
For the past three years, ecologists have been drawing up measurements that will be applied to watersheds, such as fish population levels and identifying what threats exist, such as river blockages and pollution. In the coming year, each river in Southern and Central California will be rated to see how much work needs to be done to restore it. Soon after, work will start to make the habitat better for the steelhead, which travel from fresh water to the ocean and return to spawn. Priority will be given to rivers where steelhead have the best chance of recovery.
"This gives us a footprint of where we need to focus," said Craig Wingert, a supervisor with the National Marine Fisheries Service.
While ecologists said this is a big step in the right direction, it will be decades before the steelhead recovers enough to be taken off the Endangered Species List. The steelhead in California are the only ones along the West Coast to be on the list, though many others along the Pacific Rim are threatened.
Measures are already being taken in Ventura County to help bring back the fish that was first listed in 1997.
Casitas Municipal Water District built a more than $8 million fish ladder so the steelhead can move up and down the Ventura River and not be blocked by the Robles Diversion. Last year 14 fish were seen moving up the ladder, about six of which may have been steelhead.
Farther upstream, approval has been given to tear down the Matilija Dam, although federal funding has stalled the project until at least 2013.
Jenkin said the steelhead is a keystone species, one that tells of the overall health of the river. Once the steelhead are back, it'll be good sign that the entire watershed is healthy, he said.
The conference continues today.
Surfrider Foundation Ventura County Chapter
Coordinator, Matilija Coalition
(805) 648-4005 pjenkin@...