Please tune in to KMUD on Thursday, Aug. 29 at 7 p.m. for the Sanctuary Forest quarterly radio hour. Hosts Tasha McKee and Galen Doherty of Sanctuary Forest will be speaking with Michael Pollock, NOAA fisheries ecosystem analyst, and Sam Flanagan, Bureau of Land Management geologist, about the health of the Mattole River during this drought year, and how the drought is impacting both the people and the fish that dwell in its environs
In particular, they will talk about the Baker Creek Project and it’s goal of restoring stream health and salmon habitat, especially for the coho, who are currently facing an increasing risk of extinction. They will discuss solutions to this problem, including Sanctuary Forest’s water forbearance program, which is helping to make a difference in streamflows in the Whitethorn area. They will also talk about the recent Coho Confab and how the solutions and feedback that were offered there can be put into action on the Baker Creek streamflow restoration project.
BLM geologist Sam Flanagan says that he became involved in the Baker Creek project when he realized that coho salmon in the Mattole were on the brink of extinction, largely due to the degradation of their habitat. Of particular concern is the lack of winter habitat for the juvenile coho, who need off-channel habitat such as ponds and side channels in which to over-winter.
Instream habitat has decreased as well because the streambed has basically been scoured down to bedrock, severely reducing the number and depths of pools, leaving a “flume-like” setting in winter where fish face adverse conditions during high water. Flanagan explains that the Baker Creek Project has three main goals: (1) to create more winter habitat by raising stream water levels to connect floodplain and off-channel habitats, (2) to create more instream habitat by promoting gravel and wood accumulations to create pools for the fish, and (3) increasing late summer stream flow by raising groundwater levels. The plan is to create a series of log weirs and debris jams that locally raise stream and groundwater levels, create wetlands and reconnect historical floodplains.
The Baker Creek Project started in 2012 and Flanagan says they are already seeing results. “Juvenile coho are using the project area in large numbers, and they look fat and healthy,” he said.
He sees the Baker Creek Project as a pilot program that can become a model for other communities that are looking for ways to adapt to lower streamflows and loss of habitat due to climate change and other man-made problems. “Coho salmon in the Mattole are a unique population and long-standing partnerships between the BLM and restoration groups have allowed us to tackle some of the more complex issues facing the watershed.”
For more information about this and other Sanctuary Forest programs tune in to the KMUD radio show this Thursday evening.
Sanctuary Forest is a land trust whose mission is to conserve the Mattole River watershed and surrounding areas for wildlife habitat and aesthetic, spiritual and intrinsic values, in cooperation with our diverse community.
PHOTO COURTESY OF SAM FLANAGAN
Baker Creek step pools.