South Yuba River Citizens League board rejects ‘trap and haul’ plan for Yuba River salmon
A local environmental board has voted unanimously to oppose a plan to “trap and haul” salmon from the lower to the upper Yuba River by trucks.
“We think we can do better than that,” said Caleb Dardick, executive director of the South Yuba River Citizens League, noting that building a “fish ladder” to allow salmon to swim upstream across Englebright Dam to spawn would be a healthier option.
“That way, the fish would be swimming on their own,” Dardick said. “We don’t think they can be handled by people and driven in trucks forever — that’s not a sustainable option.”
Dardick said his board is opposing the “trap and haul” plan announced May 7 by state and federal agencies and some conservation groups at a news conference in Sacramento.
SYRCL officials were not invited to participate in the news conference, which was called by the Yuba Salmon Partnership Initiative.
YSPI includes the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, NOAA Fisheries, Yuba County Water Agency, American Rivers, Trout Unlimited and California Sportfishing Protection Alliance.
SYRCL said the plan announced May 7 was “premature” in that “there were still so many unanswered questions about alternative ways to restore a self-sustaining wild salmon population in the Yuba River watershed.”
Dardick urged all parties to wait until 2018, when the results are released of a $3 million U.S. Army Corps of Engineers feasibility study now under way on the best way to get the fish to the upper river.
“We support reintroducing salmon and steelhead to the upper Yuba River watershed to save them from risk of extinction,” Dardick said. “However, SYRCL cannot support the plan announced May 7 to truck wild salmon to and from the North Yuba River.
“At an anticipated price tag of $700 million to construct vast concrete and steel facilities in the river and operate a fleet of fish-hauling trucks and boats, trap and haul is a scientifically uncertain means of restoring wild salmon and unsustainable over the long term.”
According to the terms of a draft agreement released at the May 7 conference, the Yuba County Water Agency has committed up to $100 million to the YSPI initiative over the next 50 years. YSPI expects to have a final agreement in place by the end of this year.
Dardick said SYRCL urges that the initial funding be spent on restoring the fish habitat in the lower Yuba River, instead of on “trap and haul” machinery.
“A fish ladder would be a good compromise,” Dardick said. “The dam can stay up and the fish can still get through — it’s a win-win.”
SYRCL has already planted more than 6,000 trees on the bars below Englebright and commissioned studies on floodplain restorations to improve fish habitat, said Gary Reedy, SYRCL’s senior river scientist.
“We support the part of the (YSPI) plan calling for the restoration of salmon habitat in the lower Yuba River,” Reedy said. “We believe it should commence immediately.”
According to Dardick, salmon and steelhead population in the lower Yuba has dropped from hundreds of thousands before Englebright was built in the 1940s to less than 10,000 now.
“Salmon are an indicator species, like the canary in the coal mine,” Dardick said. “If the salmon are healthy, then the river is healthy.”
To contact Staff Writer Keri Brenner, email email@example.com or call 530-477-4239.
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