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New grant will help Van Duzen River coho, steelhead

Floodplain habitat connectivity improvement project site, Lawrence Creek

TU’s North Coast Coho Project has been awarded a major grant to underwrite the first year of a three-year project to restore floodplain habitat connectivity in Lawrence Creek, a tributary to Yager Creek in the Van Duzen River drainage in Humboldt County, California.

The Lawrence Creek Reconnection of Critical Off-Channel Salmon Habitat project will quickly benefit ESA-listed Coho and Chinook salmon and native steelhead by restoring some five acres and 1,000 feet of off-channel habitat, and connectivity with the mainstem creek.

The grant comes from the Community-based Habitat Restoration Program of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service. This program supports active engagement of communities in on-the-ground restoration of local habitats. The project is one of only ten funded in this grant cycle out of hundreds of applicants.

According to Anna Halligan, director of the North Coast Coho Project, the “real story” of this project and recent grant award is the partnership it supports between TU, private timber companies, consulting firms and resource agency field staff who are working collaboratively to implement high priority actions under the federal recovery plans for Coho and steelhead in this region.

For this project, TU will handle grant administration and project coordination. Humboldt Redwood Company and Pacific Watershed Associates will tag-team design, implementation and monitoring, while NOAA Fisheries staff will provide technical feedback on designs and help with monitoring. Among other benefits, this collaboration will drive costs down substantially.

The Van Duzen River is a major tributary to the Eel River, California’s third largest watershed and a legendary wild steelhead and salmon fishery that is the focus of intensive restoration efforts. Despite historical landscape alterations (mainly from legacy timber harvest practices and road building), the Yager Creek sub-basin contains some of the best potential for high quality salmonid habitat in the Van Duzen drainage.

Recovery of Coho salmon in Yager Creek depends on rapidly acting to protect or improve conditions in Lawrence Creek (CDFW, 2017). The objectives of the proposed project are to assess, design, permit, and enhance two off-channel floodplain habitat restoration projects in the Lawrence Creek sub-basin within three years.

The Humboldt Redwood Company (HRC) is one of TU’s most important and long-standing partners in habitat restoration, road repair and decommissioning, and fish barrier mitigation projects along the North Coast.