Friday, September 18, 2009

Steelhead Recovery Plan

On Wednesday evening I was the guest speaker for the Sespe Flyfishers at their monthly meeting in Ventura. I presented photos and video of fish in the Ventura river, and a discussion of how water supply, water quality, flood control, land use, fishing, etc affect this endangered species.

The bottom line - there is good news and bad news - we are seeing lots of fish in the river, but we also lost a lot this year. Much of the presentation was information taken from this blog, click on 'steelhead' from the label cloud...

My presentation illustrated many issues in the watershed through photos and news clippings. Most of these problems are included in the Southern California Steelhead Recovery Plan, now available on the NOAA website here.

Because of their life cycle, which includes time in both fresh and salt water environments, the steelhead may be seen as an indicator species for how we manage our watersheds and coastal resources. Throughout the region, similar issues threaten the survival and recovery of this species. In general these may be summarized as:

  • DEVELOPMENT: urbanization, dewatering and channelization of rivers and creeks
  • DAMS: spawning and rearing habitat of the major river systems has been rendered inaccessible as a result of dams, debris basins, road crossings, and other in-stream structures
  • FLOOD CONTROL: Development of the floodplains has altered the natural fluvial processes which facilitate migration and in some cases sustain over-summering habitat for juvenile steelhead. Associated flood control structures and activities
  • LAND USE: erosion and sedimentation of river and stream channels, and remaining estuarine habitat.
  • NON-NATIVE invasive plants and aquatic species also has further degraded habitats for steelhead, particularly rearing juveniles
  • ESTUARY LOSS: lost approximately 90% of its pre-historic estuarine habitat through dredging and filling. The degradation of remaining estuarine habitat as a result of both point and non-point sources of pollution and artificial breaching of sand-bars
  • FISHING: Introduction of exotic fish, and the stocking of non-native steelhead fish stocks to support recreational fishing have in many coastal rivers and streams also contributed to the decline of native steelhead and related resident trout

The Ventura River is identified as one of the primary core populations and recovery priorities for the southern steelhead. Specific actions for the Ventura River include removal of Matilija Dam and modification of flows.

The public comment period for the Southern California Steelhead Recovery Plan has been extended to *November 19, 2009*.