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Old Baldy, Canada | photo by Cameron Schaus
Conservation Issues of the Ventana Chapter | monterey county
What Coho need to recover
December 2009

by David Kossack

There are both short-term and long-term actions that can be taken to improve coho, salmonid, and anadromous fish survival. These actions need to be taken by public entities including the National Marine Fisheries Service, the State Department of Fish and Game, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, and City/County Planning Departments.

Short term actions
• Enforce existing laws which were passed to protect fish and fish habitat. There are many good laws already on the books to protect endangered species, water and air quality, and watersheds. They need to be enforced.

• Return water diverted without permit to creeks and rivers. Up and down the Central Coast water that is needed for fish survival is being diverted without permit. In many cases this activity has been documented by the California Water Resources Control Board during the investigation of water complaints. Examples include Carmel River (Monterey), San Vicente Creek (Santa Cruz) and Russian River (Sonoma/Mendocino).

• Modify city and county policies which automatically remove fallen logs and large woody debris from waterways without consideration of fish habitat needs.

• Require before and after “Upslope Erosion Assessments” as conditions of approval for certain land use permits that are at high risk of putting excess sediment in waterways. Such assessments could help quantify the amount of sediment generated from silt-producing land uses including logging, road building, mining, and agriculture. Guidelines for conducting such assessments are in the Fish and Game’s California Salmonid Stream Habitat Restoration Manual.

• Require a project applicant to pay for the staff review of an application and follow-up assessments and monitoring. At present, permits may be issued without adequate environmental assessments because of underfunding or other reasons. Project applicants should be required to post a bond for remediation should habitat damage occur. Such fees are part of the true cost of land use.

Long term actions
There are also critical longer-term changes necessary to complement immediate protection and restoration actions. These longer-term changes would allow watersheds to recover from human-caused impacts.

• Remove many human-made features from river floodplains, estuaries and
lagoons in order to restore streams to a more natural state and increase stream complexity.

• Build full span Bridges over rivers, estuaries, and lagoons to restore the natural watershed hydrology and land form. When old bridges are replaced, full span bridges which do not harm fish habitat need to be built.

• Permanently protect and restore trees in riparian zones through acquisition, carbon trading, conservation easements, or other methods. New programs to sequester carbon could be used to protect salmon habitat contributing to stream and river health. Public agencies (state and federal), as well as private entities that receive federal funding should be required to dedicate existing and historic forest lands to such a carbon sequester old-growth forest restoration program.

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