West Coast
James Creek after the restoration project in January 2019. Photo courtesy of the Mendocino Land Trust. Lake County News

Habitat restoration project yields unprecedented results for coho salmon

MENDOCINO COUNTY, Calif. – Scientists and conservationists are reporting the return of spawning coho salmon to the upper reaches of a tributary of Big River, thanks to a four-year habitat restoration project led by Mendocino Land Trust in partnership with California Department of Fish and Wildlife and Jackson Demonstration State Forest.

Initial post-restoration informal surveying has already shown increased coho salmon spawning activity, demonstrated by several coho salmon nests (known as redds) and coho salmon carcasses upstream from the restoration site.

“The transformation is blowing my mind,” CDFW environmental scientist Scott Monday said of the exceptional early results. “I’ve never seen anything like this.”

The manmade barrier that was the focus of the project was significantly restricting spawning coho salmon, cutting them off from miles of prime habitat further upstream.

Begun in 2014, the complicated project involved several phases of barrier removal, gradually replacing it with a series of weirs which slow and pool the flowing water while incrementally increasing in elevation.

“This was a challenging project, with amazing contributions from CDFW and our contractors,” said Doug Kern, Mendocino Land Trust director of conservation. “You couldn’t have a more inspiring or rewarding result than seeing fish spawning above the barrier so soon after project completion.”

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