Projects to restore fish habitat get $2 million federal boost

  • 8/18/2009:B1: Workers break up a dam on Dutch Bill Creek behind the post office in Camp Meeker. The dam had formed a nice swimming hole since it was built in the 1950s, but also hindered the passage of protected steelhead and coho salmon.
    PC: Workers break up a dam on Dutch Bill Creek behind the post office in Camp Meeker. The dam formed a nice swimming hole that has not been used for a decade.

Projects by private landowners to boost salmon and other fish populations in North Coast streams are set to receive an additional $2 million this year from an arm of the federal government.

Federal and local officials on Friday announced the commitment of new grant money for six major river basins stretching from Sonoma County — and including the Russian River — to Eureka, in Humboldt County.

Development, dams, logging and water diversions for farms and cities have harmed the region's once-bountiful salmon and steelhead runs, with several species now listed as endangered or threatened.

The new funding, along with the patchwork of existing federal, state and local efforts, is aimed at repairing habitat the fish need to rebound.

"We're here to get results," said James Gore, assistant chief for the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the arm of the federal Department of Agriculture responsible for the additional grant money. Gore said the extra commitment is set to continue beyond 2013, but that the funding level in future years was unknown.

Friday's announcement came at a Camp Meeker press conference before two dozen representatives of local agencies and organizations involved in the issue.

Attendees later toured a $1.1 million dam removal and habitat improvement project on Dutch Bill Creek, a tributary to the Russian River. Completed in 2010, the long-planned overhaul has opened up more than three miles of stream previously blocked to spawning fish.

Several speakers hailed the new funding as the outcome of what they said was a broader collaboration between government, landowners and other interests on stream projects in the region.

Sonoma County Supervisor Efren Carrillo, who was joined at the announcement by board colleague Mike McGuire and Mendocino County Supervisor Dan Hamburg, called the new funding a "critical step forward."

"We're celebrating a lot of good that's happening in our watershed," Carrillo said of the Russian River.

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