Chinook Season: A Yuba Salmon Now Policy Update

Breaking News: Yuba Salmon Score Legal Victory at the Ninth Circuit

Last week, SYRCL’s partner organization Friends of the River scored a key legal victory for Yuba salmon and steelhead at the Ninth Circuit. The Court declared that the National Marine Fisheries Service (the Service) needs to review whether two dams on the Yuba River affect threatened Chinook salmon, steelhead and green sturgeon.

“We are excited to hear about the recent decision at the 9th Circuit,” said Melinda Booth. “On behalf of SYRCL, the salmon and the Yuba River watershed – we are grateful to Friends of the River and attorneys for their leadership and advocacy on this important issue.”

Since 2002, there has been active litigation in the Yuba River watershed over key federal actions and infrastructure that impede or completely block fish passage, like the 260-foot-high Englebright Dam. Despite consistent advocacy, flow modifications, restoration planning, and consultation with relevant agencies and stakeholders, salmon populations in the lower Yuba River have continued to decline over the last ten years. Now Friends of the River has achieved the next step in addressing the crisis. 

The Court declared that “[g]iven the Service’s failure to provide a reasoned explanation for why it changed positions on whether the continued existence of the dams and the hydroelectric facilities abutting Englebright constitute agency action, the district court erred in finding that the Service’s 2014 BiOp and LOC were not arbitrary and capricious.” In other words, the Ninth Circuit is requiring a District Court to re-examine the question of whether Daguerre Point and Englebright dams violate the Endangered Species Act by affecting threatened fisheries in the Yuba River watershed. For more information, check out the Courthouse News Service’s article.

The Yuba Salmon Now Campaign in 2019

The Yuba Salmon Now Campaign envisions a day when wild salmon swim freely from the summit to the sea― liberated from the threat of extinction and restored to their ecological prominence in our natural heritage―and once again provide jobs, world-renowned fishing, and a source of healthy food. Through advocacy, science, restoration and education programs, SYRCL leads a comprehensive effort to recover salmon and steelhead populations for the Yuba River watershed. But what does that mean in 2019?

Today, SYRCL is working on a number of key actions to help restore and strengthen native fisheries in the Yuba River watershed:

  1. Plan and implement active fish habitat restoration in the lower Yuba River watershed through projects such as Long Bar and Hallwood that remediate the effects of hydraulic mining and create more habitat for salmon and steelhead.
  2. Conduct outreach and education to increase awareness regarding Yuba Salmon restoration. SYRCL will utilize Salmon Tours, media, online platforms and present at local venues to promote the importance of a healthy watershed and fisheries.
  3. Produce information and analysis necessary to develop supported actions for Yuba Salmon in the lower Yuba River watershed. Actions include finalizing important management reports such as the Lower Yuba River Restoration Action Plan. SYRCL will also continue to monitor water temperature and other water quality parameters throughout the lower Yuba River.
  4. Advocate for early implementation of new hydropower licenses in the Yuba and Bear River watersheds that will help fisheries by increased flows and habitat restoration.

Take Action for Yuba Salmon

We were very disappointed to hear that Governor Newsom vetoed SB 1, despite overwhelming support from California’s legislative bodies, environmental organizations, and our community. We look to California for leadership to protect our watershed in order to achieve a sustainable water future for the state, and this bill would have served as an “insurance policy” against attacks on environmental protections from the Trump Administration. Thank you to the 2,500+ members who took action to have the voice of the Yuba River heard in Sacramento. SYRCL will continue to advocate through our Yuba Salmon Now campaign and as your local Waterkeeper to make sure the Newsom administration protects the Yuba River watershed. Stay tuned for more opportunities to take action for Yuba Salmon. In the meantime, defend the Clean Water Act by signing a comment here to protest EPA’s rollbacks of a key protection for salmon the Yuba River watershed.

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