Tuesday July 9, 2024


An initial report on restoration and conservation of the Eel River lays out the complexities of the watershed and future efforts to rehabilitate it. The report, funded by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, was prepared by CalTrout and scientists working with Stillwater Sciences, Applied River Sciences, and UC Berkeley. While the upcoming removal of the Potter Valley Project is expected to restore habitat above Scott Dam, the report focuses mainly on the many other factors that have degraded the river over the last two hundred years.

Unregulated logging and fishing are historical impairments, as are the two massive floods of 1955 and 1964, which were intensified by the degradation of the forest around the river.

The plan is not a roadmap to re-establishing the historic bounty of the Eel, which is the third-largest watershed in the state. Rather, it’s a plan to prioritize and  restore a diversity of habitat, so that focal species like salmon, lamprey and green sturgeon have an appropriate environment for each stage of their lives. Restoring the hydrological connections between the river and the wetlands is part of that, and the report notes that stronger environmental regulations have had promising results. Tribes, non-profit organizations and grassroots efforts have carried out restoration projects the report characterizes as “game-changing.” But the pikeminnow, an invasive species in the Eel, present a persistent challenge, outcompeting, eating, and harrying young salmon as they try to bulk up for their voyage to the ocean.

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