Three fish species native to the Yuba River are threatened with risk of extinction: Spring-run Chinook salmon, steelhead trout and green sturgeon. The goal of the Yuba Salmon Now Campaign is to restore healthy conditions in the Yuba River so as to eliminate the risk of extinction and provide the ecological and cultural benefits to our watershed which are associated with healthy native fish populations.
These fish are anadromous, meaning that they live in the ocean during the primary growth period of their life, and migrate up rivers to spawn the next generation. Growing large, connecting the sea to our watershed – these anadromous species are of unique importance for economic, ecological and cultural reasons. For more information about each of these three amazing fish, see the following resources:
NOAA Fisheries is the agency responsible for recovering anadromous fish species from the risk of extinction. NOAA has produced a Recovery Plan for Spring-run Chinook and Steelhead Trout of the Central Valley (see Yuba Salmon Now resources) which lists 18 actions in the Yuba River that could be important to recovery of these species, including:
- Reintroduction to historic habitats above Englebright Dam by provision of fish passage.
- Rehabilitation of the Yuba River below Englebright Dam where spawning gravels are lacking.
- Restoration of healthy riparian and floodplain conditions in the lower Yuba River.
- Enhanced flows for the lower Yuba River.
- Fish passage improvement at Daguerre Point Dam
- Collaborative work with stakeholders in the lower Yuba River to plan restoration projects.
SYRCL is leading the way with planning and implementing these actions on the lower Yuba River. For more information, see restoring the lower Yuba River.
Reintroducing salmon and steelhead to the upper Yuba River watershed is the most challenging and complex of the proposed actions. Nevertheless, this action has been deemed a priority by NOAA Fisheries and is also a priority of SYRCL’s Yuba Salmon Now Campaign.
Reintroduction of salmon and steelhead to the upper Yuba River
More than 90% of the historic spawning habitat for spring-run Chinook and steelhead trout in the Yuba River watershed is found above Englebright Dam. The same is true for the historic habitat in the entire Central Valley watershed and the many dams without fish passage. Officials and experts agree that the Yuba River is one of the best places to restore passage of salmon and steelhead to ancestral habitats above dams.
Investigations into options for reintroducing salmon and steelhead into the upper Yuba River watershed began in 2001 when state and federal funding launched the Upper Yuba River Studies Program. By 2006 that program had generated limited amounts of information useful to its purpose and many important questions remained. SYRCL and others hoped that fish passage could be achieved through the re-licensing of the hydropower projects in the watershed, but the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the licensees (PG&E, Nevada Irrigation District and the Yuba County Water Agency) have so far kept fish passage out of those proceedings.
The Yuba Salmon Forum (YSF) is a collaborative stakeholder process that began in 2010 to seek to achieve salmon recovery actions in the Yuba River watershed. Under the leadership and funding of the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Yuba County Water Agency (YCWA), the YSF met regularly and in late 2013 produced valuable documents for evaluating options for reintroduction of salmon and steelhead into the upper Yuba River watershed. Also, from 2010 to 2014, NMFS commissioned and produced a number of reports including the Reintroduction Plan for Salmonids into the Upper Yuba River Watershed. See these documents under Yuba Salmon Resources.
Documents by the Yuba Salmon Forum are incomplete with regard to evaluating volitional fish passage options such as lowering Englebright Dam and constructing fish passage facilities. Despite a decision by the Yuba Salmon Forum in 2014 to continue to investigate volitional fish passage options, the Yuba County Water Agency and few other participants chose to instead create the Yuba Salmon Partnership Initiative for focusing only on the planning of “trap and haul” to the North Yuba River and lower Yuba River actions.
SYRCL remains committed to the development of volitional fish passage options that would provide sustainable connection of habitats in the upper Yuba River to the lower Yuba River. Learn more at the Yuba Salmon Now Campaign Plan.