[env-trinity] Trinity Journal- River restoration projects under fire

Tom Stokely tstokely at att.net
Wed Dec 7 11:31:19 PST 2011

River restoration projects under fire


Two Trinity River restoration projects are slated to go forward in 2012 in spite of concerns raised by an environmental organization and local fishing guides that past projects actually worked against the fish they were intended to help.

Work is expected in the coming year on the Upper Junction City and Lower Steiner Flat projects on the river, said Robin Schrock, executive director of the Trinity River Restoration Program.

Schrock said she was surprised recently to receive a letter from the Trinity River Guides Association and California Water Impact Network (C-WIN) indicating that the guides’ concerns have not been addressed. The letter was a follow-up to a March letter sent by the guides to the Trinity Adaptive Management Working Group, which advises the Trinity Management Council (TMC). The guides had expected a written response from the TMC, but got none.

However, Schrock said the concerns have been taken seriously.

“We have reached out to the guides since July,” said Schrock, who has headed the restoration program since May. “We found the letter surprising after all the outreach that’s been done.”

In one effort resulting from the first letter, Schrock said a liaison to the guides funded by the U.S. Forest Service was appointed.

The recent letter to Schrock and Brian Person, chairman of the Trinity Management Council, restates a request that Phase 2 projects on the river be suspended pending a review of the effectiveness of Phase 1 projects.

In all, about 47 projects are planned on a 40-mile stretch of the Trinity River, 24 of which have been completed.

In past projects, the guides say spawning gravels injected into the river near Lewiston did not disperse as planned and filled holes used by adult salmon. Also, the letter states that many side channels have failed.

Schrock said the guides’ concerns are being taken into consideration in the redesign of the two projects anticipated to go forward, although she did not have specifics about what changes will be made.

Also, she said, “In September the (Trinity Adaptive Management Working Group) asked that we move forward with projects this year.”

The chairman of the advisory group, Arnold Whitridge, put it somewhat differently.

“It’s accurate to say we gave tacit approval because we heard about it and didn’t object,” he said.

Some members may have been waiting to see what was proposed to be done in the projects, Whitridge said. He noted that members of the advisory group expect to learn more from restoration program staff at their meeting Friday.

Indications from restoration staff are that they are learning from past projects and incorporating the guides’ concerns, he said.

The Phase 1 review is under way. Schrock said a draft of the review by independent scientists is expected to be completed in July and there will be intermediate recommendations coming out, with a target date of August for the final report to be done.

Regarding the side channels, Schrock said although some have not turned out as expected, they can still benefit fish. In nature the channels can close and reopen, she said, and side channels open only at the bottom can still function like an alcove.

Amounts of spawning gravel added to the river have been reduced, Schrock said.

In their letter to Schrock and Person, sent also to North State members of Congress, guides and C-WIN say they have no option but to ask Congress and the administration to eliminate funding for mainstem projects until a scientific review is completed.

“This is something that’s been brewing for years,” said C-WIN water policy coordinator Tom Stokely, a former Trinity County planner who used to work with the restoration program.

Stokely said he has felt for several years that the program has strayed from the Trinity River Record of Decision signed in 2000. The decision increased flows to the river and also called for mechanical restoration projects.

Stokely noted that the Record of Decision called for only three side channels, and more have been built. It makes sense to pause now while the review is under way, he said, adding, “The idea was to learn from the mistakes of the past.”

Although a supporter of the program for over 20 years, Stokely said he has no choice now but to protest its direction.

“It’s doing things that may actually be harming the river,” he said.

He refers to the letter-writing campaign as “a last ditch effort to try to save the program” and get it back on track with public support.

Public river meetings

“Trinity River Community Conversation”

6 to 7:30 p.m. today, Dec. 7

North Fork Grange Hall on Dutch Creek Road in Junction City.

Attendees are asked to discuss their impressions of the current river restoration efforts and share observations about the Trinity River.

The meeting is hosted by the Trinity County Resource Conservation District, 623-6004, www.tcrcd.net. Light refreshments will be provided.

Trinity Adaptive Management Working Group

9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, Dec. 9

Trinity County Library in Weaverville

Topics include Phase 1 channel rehabilitation projects, 2012 projects, large woody debris and public safety, planning for 2013, etc.

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