California seeking help from landowners to save coho salmon

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife is hoping to foster partnerships with Sonoma County landowners in four critical coho salmon spawning watersheds to help juvenile fish survive a fourth year of drought.

The department is hosting two informational meetings in the coming week. The first is Thursday at Salmon Creek Elementary School in Occidental. A second meeting will be held May 21 in Windsor.

The renewed effort to engage property owners in the fight to keep the endangered salmon species alive comes a month after the agency and state water regulators mailed urgent pleas to 654 landowners, asking them to voluntarily reduce water diversions and maintain flows in four key coho breeding streams - Mark West, Green Valley, Mill and Dutch Bill creeks.

The state wants to ensure that juvenile coho ready to leave the creeks have enough water for passage into the Russian River and on to the Pacific Ocean between now and June 30, and that younger fish born this spring have enough cool water to survive the summer in shrinking streams.

The department also hopes providing additional information on the status of the fish will boost landowners’ willingness to allow wildlife personnel onto their properties to monitor creeks and fish and, if needed, mount rescue operations.

Agency spokesman Andrew Hughan said wildlife officials “want to have an honest, frank discussion with landowners about what the current situation is,” including the possible need for mandatory curtailments of water diversions if voluntary efforts aren’t sufficient.

The department is seeking significant water-saving efforts from everyone in the affected watersheds and will have representatives from local community resource conservation groups on hand to discuss conservation strategies and technical assistance available to landowners.

Both meetings are scheduled for 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Thursday’s will be at Salmon Creek Elementary School, 1935 Bohemian Highway in Occidental. The second is May 21 at the Mary Agatha Furth Center, 8400 Old Redwood Highway in Windsor.

You can reach Staff Writer Mary Callahan at 521-5249 or On Twitter @MaryCallahanB.

Mary Callahan

Environment and Climate Change, The Press Democrat

I am in awe of the breathtaking nature here in Sonoma County and am so grateful to live in this spectacular region we call home. I am amazed, too, by the expertise in our community and by the commitment to protecting the land, its waterways, its wildlife and its residents. My goal is to improve understanding of the issues, to find hope and to help all of us navigate the future of our environment. 

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