New grants target two of West Coast’s most endangered species

Fall 2016

New grants of up to $2.5 million over the next three years from NOAA Fisheries’ Community-based Restoration Program run by the NOAA Fisheries Restoration Center will restore essential habitat for two of the West Coast’s most endangered species of salmon – Sacramento River winter-run Chinook salmon and Central California Coast (CCC) coho salmon.

These Coastal and Marine Habitat Grants are designed to help strengthen existing partnerships and forge new ones that make a lasting difference for the species and communities that rely on them.

“This is very good news for some of our species that need it most,” said Brian Ellrott, salmon recovery coordinator for NOAA Fisheries in California’s Central Valley. “This funding really lines up well with our priorities for habitat restoration and species protection.”

Photo: Naseem Alston, NOAA Fisheries

NOAA Fisheries has designated Sacramento River winter-run Chinook salmon and CCC coho salmon as two of eight national “Species in the Spotlight,” which are species listed under the Endangered Species Act that face a high risk of extinction. Biologists have developed action plans to promote their recovery, which in the case of these salmon call for restoring critical floodplain and other high-quality habitat they need to spawn and rear.

A major grant of $587,000 in 2016 and as much as $1.5 million over three years will help restore floodplain habitat for Sacramento River winter-run Chinook salmon, which have been hit hard by the persistent California drought. The partnership with the California non-profit conservation group River Partners will help revive the natural floodplain flows in an area known as Willow Bend.

Studies have found that floodplains provide rich habitat full of insects for juvenile salmon to prey on. “Juvenile salmon that use the floodplains grow faster and get larger, giving them a higher likelihood of avoiding predators and surviving their outbound migration through the river to the ocean,” Ellrott said.

Ruth Goodfield of the NOAA Restoration Center said the Willow Bend project was developed to help winter-run Chinook, but it will also benefit Central Valley steelhead and spring and fall-run Chinook salmon.

Another grant of $305,000 and up to $1 million over three years will fund several high-priority habitat projects in Mendocino County, Calif., for CCC coho salmon. The projects, in partnership with Trout Unlimited, include decommissioning forest roads to reduce erosion into streams, removing barriers to fish passage, and adding large wood to streams to provide refuge and hiding cover for juvenile salmon as they grow.

The habitat work will build on nearly $700,000 in previous investments by the NOAA Restoration Center in the same watersheds, promoting both CCC coho salmon and steelhead recovery across watersheds including the Noyo River, Big River and Navarro River watersheds in Northern California.

Trout Unlimited also plans to leverage the new funding to pursue other matching grants that could greatly increase the total dollars available and “get the largest benefit possible for the species,” said Joe Pecharich of the NOAA Restoration Center in Santa Rosa, Calif.

The grants are recommendations and not yet final, with funding for successive years contingent on appropriations and satisfactory progress on the projects.

The two grants for Sacramento River winter-run Chinook and CCC coho are among seven overall grants from the Community-based Restoration Program for West Coast species. For instance, another project in Oregon’s Coquille River Estuary received $1.2 million to reopen tidal channels and wetlands, which will provide overwintering habitat for juvenile coho salmon. Other awards from the program target additional West Coast species, including South-Central California Coast steelhead, and salmon in the Willamette River and Puget Sound.