Press release from CalTrout:
For the first time in over a hundred years, winter steelhead and Chinook salmon can make their way up Woodman Creek, where they will find up to 14 miles of healthy spawning and rearing habitat. California Trout and several partners oversaw the restoration project that made it possible for fish to return to this high-priority area of the Eel River watershed. With winter rains now active in the region, these fish are finally able to take advantage of the work done to restore access to the creek.
Woodman Creek feeds into the mainstem of the Eel River near Dos Rios. When a now-defunct North Coast Railroad Authority (NCRA) line was built more than 100 years ago, the migration pathway for salmon and steelhead into Woodman Creek was permanently blocked. Due to high levels of geologic activity in the area, a portion of a train tunnel collapsed into the river, making the site impassable for fish and trains alike.
“Reopening access to historical creeks and streams like Woodman Creek provides tremendous benefits to migratory fish,” said Darren Mierau, Arcata-based North Coast Regional Director for California Trout, who oversaw the project. “It’s really satisfying to see this project finally come to fruition, after years of work went into making it happen.”
Fish and watershed activists, including CalTrout, have long identified restoring access into Woodman Creek as the #1 priority fish passage project in the North Coast region in terms of its value to imperiled migratory fish populations. More than $2 million in state and federal grants supported the project. Local contractors performed the work, including Pacific Earthscapes, Pacific Watershed Associates and Mike Love & Associates.
“The Woodman Creek project is unique in its scale and in the amount of fish habitat it’s opening up,” said Trevor Tollefson, CDFW Fisheries Restoration Grants Program North Coast Senior Environmental Scientist. “The project is the culmination of several years of effort and partnerships. We’re excited to see what happens this winter when the fish return – that’s going to be the fun part.”
California’s native salmon and steelhead populations are declining precipitously. If present trends continue, 74 percent of California’s native salmon, steelhead and trout species are likely to be extinct in 100 years, according to the 2017 CalTrout and UC Davis report, State of the Salmonids II: Fish in Hot Water. The Eel River is one of California’s most significant salmon and steelhead strongholds. The Eel and its tributaries, including Woodman Creek, have strong potential to support abundant wild fisheries for generations to come.
The funding for this project was provided by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife Fisheries Restoration Grants Program and The Steelhead Report and Restoration Card. Landowners Mickey Bailey and Ron and Jeff Christensen have generously supported the project and provide access to the site.