Well, after weeks of grueling (but exciting!) work, we’ve pretty much got everything done on the Stanislaus River salmon spawning riffle restoration project I’ve been working with KDH Environmental on. The Cliff’s Notes version is this: we took a 1.5-mile stretch of virtually fishless water and transformed it, with lots of gravel, boulders, grunt labor and heavy machinery, into a fishy nirvana.
Here are some photos I took during the project. To see more, check out my essay in the the February issue of Salmon Trout Steelheader. Okay, on with the show…this is just some of the 18,000 tons of pristine spawning gravel we excavated, sifted, washed and placed into the river:
In addition to the mountains of gravel, we had approximately 160 boulders (in the 2- to 8-ton range) brought in for the project.
We had an expert crew working on this project and used some cool “Big Kids’ TONKAs” like loaders….
…and a giant articulated hauler:
Dennis Hood of KDH was the Big Enchilada on the project and proved to be one hell of a multi-tasking machine, working 16 hours a day — overseeing the crew, running a loader, maintaining all the equipment and working in conjunction with the land owners and various government agencies.
The boulders, like this 6-ton beast, will help add complexity to what was a featureless stretch of river before we got there. Thanks to the big rocks, the fish (juvenile and adult) will have new places to hold and seek cover — current seams, eddies, broken surface water, etc.
Here’s a stretch of river the way it looked before we rehabed it…
And the same area, from a slightly different camera angle, after…
We went back down to the river last week to see how things were looking. Here’s Dennis inspecting one of the new riffles for salmon redds.
Unfortunately, the Sacramento Valley has been experiencing its worst salmon run in recent memory this fall and numbers of Chinook returning to all rivers have been dismal. On the day we looked for spawners, only 304 fish had made it upstream though the counting station at the weir…compared to nearly ten times that many in 2006. We did see a few kings on the riffles and counted a handful of redds like this big one. So, apparently the fish are liking their new home…there just aren’t many around this season.
We’ll be adding some trees to the banks of the river to boost the area’s riparian zone and doing a few other minor things, but we’re pretty much done. Special thanks to all the crew and the Department of Fish & Game, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the Army Corps of Engineers and Department of Water Resources (to name a few!).
To see more, check out the River Restoration Projects Section of this website.