[env-trinity] TRRP shares Trinity River flow, gravel plans

Tom Stokely tstokely at att.net
Wed Apr 17 08:27:32 PDT 2019

TRRP shares Trinity River flow, gravel plans
   - By AMY GITTELSOHN The Trinity Journal
   - 1 hr ago
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The spring high flow releases on the Trinity River are under way, and gravel is being added to the channel in the Lewiston area.

Today, April 17, the release from Lewiston Dam to the river is set to peak at 9,850 cubic feet per second before slowly ramping down. Another peak later in the month will hit 10,900 cfs on April 29. A smaller peak will follow May 18.

Also, 3,500 cubic yards of gravel is to be added to the river at Lewiston.

In a meeting that started off very heated, Trinity River Restoration Program staff presented their plan for this year to the public Thursday night. A security officer announced her presence at the outset although she took no actions during the meeting.

Acting TRRP Executive Director Mike Dixon later told the Journal security was brought in for everyone’s safety due to a threat made against staff recently. That person didn’t attend the meeting.

Right off the bat, members of the audience protested the planned format of presentations followed by informal stations where individuals could talk to various staff members.

“We’ve talked one on one and you’ve not been straightforward,” one man said, adding that the program has hurt the area’s reputation as a fishing ground and hurt businesses.

Fishing Guide Liam Gogan also asked that the meeting be conducted as a public forum, which is basically what ended up happening.

With the “wet” year designation, this year 701,000 acre-feet of water out of the 1.6 million acre-feet forecast to pass through Lewiston if it wasn’t for the dams is to be released to the river for fisheries restoration.

Hydrologist Todd Buxton noted that the fisheries restoration flows released under the 2000 Trinity River Record of Decision deal with approximately 46 percent of the river’s natural inflow blocked by the dams. Approximately 50 percent is diverted for Central Valley Project use, and the other 4 percent is released for reasons such as the Hoopa Valley Tribe boat ceremony, and to improve conditions in the lower Klamath River.

The flow schedule with its peaks and valleys is meant to serve many purposes, including cut away at unnaturally steep banks formed by low flows, form bars and other habitat that fish use, encourage riparian growth where it’s needed but not in the channel, and put bugs in the water for fish to eat.

“We’re trying to get function back into this river so it can sustain the fish,” said program Data Steward Eric Peterson.

He noted that the restoration program doesn’t control dam operations and diversions, the Trinity River Hatchery, fish harvest, regulations, and conditions in the Klamath River and ocean where Trinity River fish also spend part of their life cycle.

The program has counts demonstrating that the number of naturally spawned fish migrating out to sea has significantly increased since the restoration flows began. However, that hasn’t always resulted in more returning adults.

The Trinity fish have to migrate through the Klamath River to get to the ocean and back. Conditions on the lower Klamath and the ocean have been too warm in recent years.

“With things changing on the Klamath we are very optimistic,” Peterson said, referring to the planned removal of dams on the Klamath.

The program has already started to add gravel at the Sawmill and lower Lowden sites in Lewiston. Totals are to be 2,100 cubic yards at the Sawmill site and 1,400 cubic yards at lower Lowden, for a total of 3,500 cubic yards.

The injected gravel is meant to replace that which is trapped by Trinity and Lewiston dams, to form bars and provide salmon spawning and rearing habitat.

Under the 2000 Trinity River Record of Decision, gravel addition in a wet year was to be 10,000 to 18,000 cubic yards. However, the Record of Decision allowed for change on this as more information was gathered. Now the amount is determined using several computations, including the natural gravel transport rates at Douglas City which is below several tributaries.

Tracking transponders in some of the rocks are used to monitor the progress.

The fishing guide, Gogan, was pleased that the gravel augmentations have been reduced. He’s expressed concerns that the additions of gravel cause unhealthy water temperatures for the fish.

Program staff were asked if any of the allotted flow in this wet year can be banked for drier years. The response was there are some scientists who would like to see that, but it’s not allowed.

The program also wasn’t able to release additional water earlier in the year to save salmon egg nests, redds, in the upper river that were covered with thick mud washed down from the Carr fire area during storms.

“This is something we looked at in detail,” Dixon said, and legal counsel said a new environmental impact statement would be needed to release more water before mid-April.

Gogan said more of the program’s budget needs to be put into watershed restoration. Currently, that figure is $500,000. This year’s restoration program budget is approximately $14 million, dropping to $12 million next fiscal year.

“The largest part of this river where wild fish can be restored is in the watershed, the creeks of the Trinity River,” Gogan said.

“I think we all agree it would be really valuable to do more watershed restoration,” Peterson said.

Peterson said the bulk of the natural chinook salmon spawning does occur in the mainstem Trinity River whereas coho spawn primarily in the tributaries.

Environmental scientist Brandt Gutermuth noted that the original environmental impact statement for the restoration program targeted mainstem restoration.

“We have an obligation,” he said. “The water users pay and the mainstem is the priority.”

It was suggested during the meeting that persons interested in a new environmental impact statement call their Congress members.
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