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Shasta Trinity Cascades TU: Serious stewardship

When your local trout stream is the lower Sacramento River, one of the best tailwaters in the world, you might have extra incentive to take care of it. TU’s Shasta Trinity Cascades Chapter, based in Redding, Calif., is channeling that incentive into action.

STCTU recently celebrated the onset of spring and the amazing trout fishery in their backyard by conducting two major projects to improve habitat for juvenile salmon and trout and the fishing experience. First, the chapter organized and completed a two-day habitat improvement project in the Kutras Lake area of the Lower Sac.

The goal of the project is to help the endangered winter run of Chinook salmon in the Sacramento River by introducing new habitat to the river corridor near Redding that can be utilized by young salmon and trout.

With a variety of partners, in particular the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), the Bureau of Reclamation and the City of Redding, STCTU collected and installed piles of woody debris, engineered from dead trees, and anchored them to the bottom near both shorelines.

CDFW has monitored the Kutras Lake segment of the Lower Sac since 2003, finding that it consistently holds juvenile salmon and trout smolts year-round. These smolts tend to concentrate along the edges of the “lake” during the day, moving to the middle of the channel to feed at night. The new habitat will provide more holding water and shelter from predators.

A total of 22 volunteers turned out for this project, along with a squadron of trucks and dump trailers for hauling brush and debris. Numerous resource agency staff also supported the project.

The project involved bundling woody debris into massive piles on top of two barges, each bundle containing 10-12 “branches” of hardwood, primarily manzanita oak mixed in. Each bundle was some 15 feet long by 10 feet wide, with a web of branches to shelter young trout and salmon. A steel wire connected the branches at the base, and was clipped to a heavy-duty sandbag filled with local river rock.

Altogether, the project crew placed 17 of these structures in the Kutras Lake section of the river—exceeding by nearly 25 percent their goal of placing 13 structures. Resource agency personnel will snorkel-monitor the structures over the next few months, to make sure they stay in place and to assess their use by fish.

Not satisfied with this effort, STCTU conducted their second annual River Cleanup event on April 22. Dozens of volunteers used a variety of watercraft, as well as other modes of transport, to relieve the Lower Sac of 4.5 tons of trash (yes, that’s tons), 42 tires, 2 tires with rims, 4 truck tires, 3 five-gallon propane tanks, 1 car battery, and 3 mattresses.

The literary giant T.S. Eliot famously described April as “the cruelest month,” but for the Shasta Trinity Cascades Chapter, April is apparently something else: the most productive month. You’re invited to see for yourself the fruits of their labors—attending TU’s Annual Meeting in 2018, to be held in Redding on September 19-22 this year, is a great excuse to do so.

STCTU’s partners for these projects include the California Department of Fish & Wildlife; the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation; the City of Redding; the Kutras Family; the McConnell Foundation; the Shasta Trinity Fly Fishers; the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission; the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service; the Western Shasta Resource Conservation District; The Fly Shop; Aqua Golf; and a CalFire Inmate Crew.

— Sam Davidson