Coldwater champions of the California legislature

CA SSC Legislator Awards Ceremony -Karuk Vice Chair Brink, Rep Wood, Rep Bennett, Yurok Vice Chair Myers. Photo by California Salmon and Steelhead Coalition

The California Salmon and Steelhead Coalition celebrates ten years, legislative leaders for coastal streams and water policy

On February 26, Trout Unlimited and our partners in the California Salmon and Steelhead Coalition – The Nature Conservancy and California Trout – commemorated ten years of working together to protect and restore native salmon and steelhead on California’s North and Central coasts.

At a celebratory event in Sacramento, the Coalition honored Assembly members Jim Wood and Steve Bennett for their leadership in conserving and restoring salmon and steelhead and their home watersheds. 

An impressive lineup of life-size replicas of salmon and steelhead presided over a table on which the awards were displayed.

CA SSC representatives. Photo by California Salmon and Steelhead Coalition

Wood represents California’s 2nd District, which covers California’s North Coast from the state’s wine country to the Oregon border, and includes legendary fishing waters such as the Smith, lower Klamath, Mad, Eel, Gualala, Garcia, and Russian Rivers.

Bennett represents California’s 38th District, which includes the Ventura and Santa Ana Rivers and their headwaters. Tributaries such as Piru and Sespe Creeks offer rare trout fishing opportunities in this part of the state. Bennett has strongly supported efforts to remove the decrepit Matilija Dam on the Ventura, a priority action in the recovery plan for the endangered southern steelhead.

Matt Clifford, longtime TU water attorney and, new director of TU’s California Program, has worked closely with Assembly member Wood for years to improve state regulations and planning pertaining to drought, streamflows and water supply management in that region of that state to which Coho Salmon – now listed as endangered – are native.

Clifford called Wood “One of California’s true stream and salmon champions,” and lauded the legislator’s commitment to addressing the challenges of ensuring that both fish and people have enough water throughout the year, especially in drainages where climate change is intensifying the hallmarks of California’s Mediterranean climate: hot, dry summers, during which small stream systems often dry up, and wet winters.

Matt Clifford presents award to Rep Wood. Photo by California Salmon and Steelhead Coalition

Clifford also said Wood has been a staunch advocate for state funding for stream restoration and reconnection. State support has helped TU undertake and complete dozens of projects along the North Coast over the past twenty years, such as a fish passage improvement project on Yellowjacket Creek in the Russian River watershed, multiple streams in the Eel River watershed, and in famous steelhead fishing waters such as the Navarro River.

Karuk Tribal Council Vice Chairman Kenneth Brink and Yurok Tribal Council Vice Chairman Frankie Myers, key leaders in the long campaign to restore the Klamath River, attended the ceremony and spoke of the meaning of salmon and healthy rivers to their Tribes and their hope for the future now that four old dams on the Klamath River are being taken out. “We are a salmon people,” Myers said. “Without them, we have no reason to exist.”

Assembly member Wood revealed he will retire from the state legislature at the end of this legislative term. Myers recently announced his candidacy for the 2nd District seat.

Matt Clifford presents award to Rep Wood. Photo by California Salmon and Steelhead Coalition

The California Salmon and Steelhead Coalition

Since 2014, the California Salmon and Steelhead Coalition has worked collaboratively with a wide range of partners to recover salmon and steelhead populations by leveraging shared science and policy expertise to improve streamflow and freshwater habitat. The Coalition supports science and policy actions such as creating minimum instream flow standards for coastal watersheds and developing management plans to help communities meet those standards in drought years, refinement and implementation of the California Environmental Flows Framework, networks of streamflow gauges, and development of modeling tools to assist with management decisions.