Home SRA BBQ Projects News

Eel River


      The 14,900 to 25,000 fall Chinook estimated by ERRP in the 2013-2014 season is down somewhat from the previous year’s estimate of 20,000 to 50,000 fish. These recent returns are comparable to those of 1955 to 1958 when the last previous basin wide surveys were conducted.

      The percentage of jack salmon, which are smaller male salmon that feed for only one year in the ocean, was low in 2013-2014 compared to some recent years. This indicates lower juvenile Chinook survival and suggests the ocean and future spawning populations may also taper down. 

       Funding for this project was made possible by the Patagonia World Trout Fund, the Salmon Restoration Association, Pacific Watershed Associates, Mercer Fraser, and citizens contributing

to the ERRP “Penny for a Salmon” project.

Go the www.eelriverrecovery.org to get copies

of the report and/or to support this annual project.


 Kass Creek

Headline- Salmon BBQ funds help timber firms, regulators create new stream restoration industry




As a board member of the Salmon Restoration Association, this reporter voted several years ago to spend $30,000 from the 2008 World’s Largest Salmon Barbecue for stream restoration on Kass Creek.Our money would go primarily to inserting woody debris in the creek, with the supposed result being recreation of habitat for threatened Coho salmon. I hoped those who said putting logs into a stream was truly a fishy idea, but I confess I was a little skeptical.

My knowledge of the people involved found their credentials first rate and knowledge much greater than my own.  As a lifelong news reporter often unimpressed by committees,  I was inspired by the actual work done by the coalition of timber companies, environmental agencies, non profits and governments known as the Noyo Watershed Alliance.  So I voted to spend the money but decided to watch and listen and hope.The NWA brought in at least another $150,000 in grant funding to replace a low slung  bridge with a 60 foot steel structure with better clearance, now allowing salmon to get past the bridge to a restored Kass Creek. The SRA got everything started by pledging the funds for the stream work.  My doubts were lifted when I went on a tour of the ongoing work with about 30 other people involved in SRA last fall.  We all saw that the World’s Largest Salmon Barbecue funds had spawned more than just salmon habitat, but a process now helping put life back into rivers and streams all over Mendocino county.

Campbell Timberland and Cal Fire employees drove us all along the Noyo River just a few miles out of Fort Bragg, passing through dense forests and several locked gates.  Seeing the project in action was a dramatic lesson in how different something is in person rather than read on paper.   When I was an undergraduate at Humboldt State University, a professor there said to never write a news story about a piece of land until you put your two feet on its dirt.  When I did, the story from the government meeting never failed to change dramatically after my boots got muddy.

I could step across Kass Creek and walk it to where it met the Upper Noyo River. Along that stretch we all saw an ingenious creation lumbermen and environmental agencies partnered to create. I learned a lot but I also got angry at one point.  We were shown the remnants of railroad tracks that old time loggers put down in the middle of the creek.  This was an act of streamicide, assault with a very deadly weapon on the fishing industry and fish by the timber industry.  When was it done?  The 1950s was the best guess.  Someone ran a bulldozer up the creek, obliterating everything, unleashing tons of erosion.  Then a train track was used as the easiest way out of the forest for logs.  Did they close their eyes and simply not think of their grandchildren?

Modern lumber companies like Mendocino Redwood Company and Campbell Timberland Management spend a huge amount of their budget battling the mess left by loggers past.  After seeing the modern biologists/loggers in action it’s clear they have a plan now to create a sustainable future, where timber can increase in value every year, not become a gigantic liability for other industries, the planet, drinking water and on and on.

Dave Wright of Campbell Timberland Management told us how this log scattering business, which had seemed at a bit goofy to me when seen only on paper, has created a minor industry.

“A couple of years ago, I was looking for a cost effective way to do these kind of restoration projects. We worked with the Department of Fish and Game to come with this method,” Wright said.

He then described how two local entrepreneurs with both lumber and biology backgrounds came up with a method to reuse trees and recreate the salmon-spawning habitat. Their company is getting a lot of work.

“This work is now being done this way around there everywhere around here, Big River, Ten Mile, they have dialed it in as they have gone along,” Wright told us.

So we saw a process being used all over Mendocino County, but in locations so remote, the restoration will likely never be visible to the community volunteers and ticket buyers at the World’s Largest Salmon Barbecue, who helped make it happen.

Salmon, on the other hand, have an uncanny ability to find spawning grounds, even ones unused for generations, studies show.  What did we see?For one thing, the big logs are arrayed in a way that causes the stream force to dig deep pools, places where baby salmon can hang out while maturing enough to begin their trip back to sea.   There were already minnows in the pools, some of which were either trout or salmon.  Many more were expected after salmon season.

Kevin Faucher of Campbell Timberland stood over a log and showed how the positioning of the logs helps create scouring for pools. Perhaps more importantly, the logs are set up in a way to allow the natural water pressure to scour away mud and leave the gravel that adults need to spawn in.

The stream project represents major change in the thinking of timber companies and environmental agencies.  Ecosystem based management and wholesale restoration requires a flexibility that regulators have often failed to have.

Wright explained that the flexibility that came with grants that involve pre-planning among regulatory agencies is perhaps more important than the grant money itself to a company like Campbell.

“For us, it’s been easier to do this because the grants come with all the permits. As a timber company, we find the permit process is much more onerous than the grant process…..Getting the permits with the grants is worth more than the money,” Wright said.Part of the process involves keeping alders close to the stream to literally feed the life in the stream, trees that would have once been whacked like weeds for “more productive” species.“The duff leaf litter comes off these trees, the alders and the conifers, this is like high test fuel for the creek,” Wright said.A study by the Regional Water Quality Control Board found that returning streams to their natural state with lots of big logs available can not only help restore salmon but improve water quality.“The availability of large woody debris and deep pools appear to be two of the main factors limiting the success of salmonids in the Noyo River watershed. Coho populations today are probably less than 6 percent of what they were in the 1940’s and there has been at least a 70 percent decline since the 1960’s,’’ the RWQB documents state, citing numerous studies.   Steelhead, which are trout which migrate to the ocean like salmon have actually done better as the Coho populations have dropped, but not enough to create any fishery for steelhead.

While its true the logging companies clearly are spending a lot to fix the environment, its also clear they are getting tax grant money to pay for repairs that will help them keep logging.  The grant funds also allow many agencies to be involved and many more ideas to come to the table to fix costly damage that once enriched the entire.  Our $30,000 was actually brought to the table by Trout Unlimited.

The RWQB document shows how the abuse of streams and erosion has had big impacts on the water quality in Fort Bragg and created massive costs for the Noyo Harbor Commission and the federal government.

The City of Fort Bragg had to build a new water plant in 1987 to deal with the Noyo River’s choking sediment load. The water intake system was designed to frequently back flush compressed air through the intake screens to remove silt that was plugging the screens.

Noyo Harbor dredging volumes have increased dramatically over the years as the practices of historic logging have literally sunk in, the RWQB study states.

“The average dredging volume in 1994 was 236 percent of the average volume in 1957 and 127 percent of the average volume for the first ten years of dredging (starting in 1933), the RWQB document states. The Noyo River watershed is a 72,323-acre area that starts immediately west of the City of Willits with an average annual rainfall of 40 - 65 inches. Mendocino Redwood Company, Hawthorne Timber Company (managed by Campbell Timberland Management) and the Jackson Demonstration State Forest (run by CalFire) together own70 percent of the watershed. Old growth logging started in the mid 1800’s and continued into the early part of the 20th century. Second growth logging began in the 1960s and continues today. Removal of the last few isolated old-growth stands began in the 1960s and continued into the mid 1980s, the RWQCB study states.

Continued erosion of logging roads and the possibility of vineyard development are continuing threats, the RWQCB document states.
“The Noyo River under the Clean Water Act, is listed as impaired by excessive sediment loading associated with logging, overgrazing and road building. Hillside vineyard development is a concern for production of sediment as land is converted to new vineyards in the future.”

The timber and Cal-Fire tour guides from 2010 have offered SRA another tour, to see how its coming along. We are all looking forward to that, and I’ll provide an update when we do.



T- Shirt Sales

Mendocino High School SONAR Program

Salmon Restoration Association Grant Request


Date: September 23, 2011



Name of Organization:  School of Natural Resources (SONAR)


Name of Project:  Salmon Population Surveys Little North Fork Big River


Contact Names: Robert jamgochian   Doug Nunn


Address: 10700 Ford Street Mendocino, CA 94560


Telephone: 707.9375871  Fax:707.937 5629  E-mail: rjamgoch@mcn.org ,  dnunn@mcn.org


Grant Amount Requested:  $8000.  (to be matched by district)





Salmon have historically been found in large numbers throughout the Big River watershed, but for the past few decades salmon populations have suffered a major decline. In an effort to halt this decline, in 1996, Coho and Steelhead Salmon throughout most of Northern California were put on the Endangered Species list by the California Department of Fish and Game. But from our sightings this past year, it looks like salmon may slowly be making a comeback on the Mendocino Coast.


Since 2001 the SONAR (School of Natural Resources) program at Mendocino High School has been conducting annual salmonid population surveys in the Little North Fork of Big River to provide important baseline data for the California Department of Fish and Game.


In the 2010/2011 survey year the SONAR crew recorded 23 live Coho, 5 Redds and 7 Coho carcasses. These recordings are especially momentous since only one fish was recorded in the 2008 survey, along with three redds. Redds are spawning areas for the fish. In the 09-10 survey no fish were sighted, but nine redds were surveyed.


SONAR is an innovative field study environmental science taught by Doug Nunn and Robert Jamgochian that teaches students with hands-on science about the coastal area, rivers, estuaries and tidal regions.  SONAR students examine watersheds, conduct stream surveys, restore stream and riparian habitat, and collect baseline data on fish populations.



SONAR collaborates closely with State Parks, Fish and Game and other natural resource agencies to introduce students to the practical and logical applications of ecosystem management through these studies. By working with closely with these natural resource agencies, students take active roles as stewards of our environment.







The School of Natural Resources at Mendocino High school has been conducting salmonid surveys in the Little North of Big River since 2001. 


  • Salmonid populations are in decline


  • Cooperative ongoing studies between the CDFG and SONAR are being performed to collect information about the salmonid populations in the Little North Fork of Big River (LNF BR) in Mendocino County, California.


  • Protocols are developed by CDFG.


  • SONAR records the number, species, size, and gender of salmonids and their redds in the Little North Fork of Big River for each year of the study


  • Information is used by CDFG for management of salmonids in Big River


  • SONAR creates collaboration among students, teachers, and natural resource agencies.


  • This program benefits the students with real-life, meaningful learning experience.

Grant Request:
Presently funds have been cut from the SONAR budget and the ability to perform scientific studies has been greatly impaired.  The funding to team-teach SONAR has been cut.

Team-teaching creates a two period block (for a total of approximately 3 hours - twice a week) which allows SONAR to effectively perform scientific field studies throughout the year on a regular basis. This grant will help provide funds to restore team teaching



Expense Summary



Description                                       Budgeted amount            Actual                        expenditures    comments



Staff Salaries and Benefits:                    $8,000                         $16, 000          District will match




Salmon Spawning Survey in the Big River Watershed: Winter 2011 - 2012


Devin Dooley, Cyrus Maden; 3082012. School of Natural Resources (SONAR), Mendocino High School, Mendocino, California



Four surveys were conducted by Mendocino High School’s School of Natural Resources (SONAR) in the Big River Watershed. Each survey was performed alongside optimal water conditions to observe the arrival of upstream salmon populations for approximately two hours each day – on 1/12/12, 1/26/12, 1/31/12, and 2/2/12. Three surveys were done on the Little North Fork of Big River, and one was performed on the Big River Main stem: delayed varied seasonal rainfall caused this change in survey sites. These surveys estimated the adult salmonid populations in each area, by analyzing the total amount of live fish, salmon carcasses, and present redds. Seven redds and ten fish were observed (three Steelhead and seven Coho). The Big River Watershed is an important salmonid spawning habitat, providing a habitat for populations of Coho and Steelhead salmon. Coho and Steelhead salmon are an endangered species in the Pacific Northwest. SONAR has been conducting this survey each Winter since 2001, allowing salmon populations to be effectively compared; in the Winter of 2011-2012, Coho and Steelhead populations were relatively low.



            Mendocino, California, Big River, Watershed, Little North Fork, School of Natural Resources, SONAR, salmonid, salmon, Coho, Steelhead, Oncorhychus kitsutch, Oncorhynchus mykiss, Mendocino Woodlands, redds, salmon carcasses, spawning survey



            Healthy spawning habitats are necessary for the prosperity of salmon populations (Edwards, Richard T., Gende Scott M., et al, October 2002). Thus, it is important that the spawning habitats are observed, and the spawning adults are tallied: this task is regularly executed by the Mendocino High School’s School of Natural Resources (SONAR). Furthermore, this survey has been performed in the Big River Watershed since 2001 – a majority of the surveys taking place on the Little North Fork of Big River.

            Many situations in the Big River Watershed has adversely affected the salmon life cycle, specifically through spawning habitats; fishing, logging, agriculture, and ocean factors  such as commercial fishing are specific examples. Logging, foremost, creates excess sediment in Big Rivers tributaries, “which has contributed to severe [salmon] population declines” (United States Environmental Protection Agency, December 2001). Logging also creates ubiquitous canopy loss. This, in turn, creates a warming of the tributaries causing unsuitable salmon habitat. Moreover, ocean factors, such as the commercial competition for resources and exploitation of ocean populations, have created a disruption in food sources and a low rate of returning salmon, respectively. In addition, polluted runoff as a result of agriculture empties into the Big River Watershed, thus causing inadequate spawning grounds. Ultimately, such over exploitation creates a conspicuous limiting factor that has caused a severe drop in the Big River Watershed’s Coho and Steelhead salmon populations (http://zebu.uoregon.edu: Environment Science 202).



            Before performing studies, the SONAR class trained in many ways. Students were taught to identify different species and sexes by different characteristics, such as color or the general shape of the mouth. The class studied redd identification both in the class an on site. The class of 2011-2012 had also performed previous studies prior to their salmon surveys, which helped to prepare them for the process of salmon surveying.

            Upon the observation of a fish, different data was recorded based on the species, gender, size and habitat. If alive, students attempted to leave the fish undisturbed, and to allow it to continue, while observing what data they could through sometimes turbulent or murky waters. If a salmon carcass was found, more extensive data could be collected. If the entire carcass was intact, full length could be accurately measured, along with the previously mentioned data. Then a floy tag was clipped to its jaw, showing that it had been found. Additionally, when a fish was found, live or dead, a flag was taped nearby, with the label of SONAR, followed by the current date.

             Female salmon lay their eggs in nests which are known as redds. Redds are commonly noticeable through the water by a lighter color and depression of the streambed. This is due to the spreading of sediment by the salmon whilst digging the nest. If a redd was found by a student, its dimensions and substrate size were measured with a stadia rod, along with the width and depth of the stream. A flag was also taped as with the observation of a fish.


            The 2011-2012 executed a survey of spawning salmon in the Winter of 2011-2012, where seven redds and ten salmon were observed. This is comparatively good compared to recent years. The redd counts stayed similar to previous years, which is a good sign for upcoming class studies. Steelhead sightings also increased, due to the class’ survey occurring later in the season (because of late seasonal rainfall), since greater Steelhead populations travel upstream later than Coho in Winter.

The SONAR class’ surveys of the salmon populations in the Big River Watershed are beneficial to its salmon populations. These surveys attempt to see how current salmon populations are fairing, as well as notice trends. And, since the SONAR class has been surveying in the Big River Watershed since 2001, such attempts have been successful: an increase in salmon counts have been observed in the past two years. Nevertheless, one of the lowest total amount of redds was observed by the 2011-2012 SONAR class. This may be due to the lack of rainfall early in Winter, thus disallowing optimal water conditions for spawning sites in the Little North Fork of Big River (the site of three surveys) -- a downstream portion of the Big River Watershed.

            Mendocino High School’s SONAR class has performed surveys of salmon spawns in the Big River Watershed since 2001: the class travels along a specified tributary and tallies the amount of observed redds and salmon. Although, bias might be present due to a few factors. Foremost, there was a lack of rainfall prior to the conducted surveys, which delayed the migration of salmon upstream. Secondly, the SONAR class traveled in groups, and may have startled the salmon. Lastly, SONAR is conservative when observing redds: if the verification of a redd is questioned, it is omitted.


Since 1996 Coho and Steelhead salmon have been put on the endangered species list. (Arnold, Saraya, Dooley, Wyatt, et al. February 10, 2009.) In 2001, the SONAR class began monitoring the habitats and populations of these species in the Little North Fork of Big River and has continued recording their data to date. The results from previous classes has allowed trends to emerge in the data, and until the 2010-2011 SONAR class, increasingly fewer fish were being seen. However, in the 2010-2011 class they saw twenty five fish, which was more fish seen than in any year since 2004-2005. The 2011-2012 SONAR class is also seen as breaking the trend with ten fish seen, and though counts were not as high as the preceding year, possibly due to a lack of rainfall, this year's study still shows progress in the salmon populations. This is good to see, since for four years straight increasingly fewer fish were being seen, leading to a record year of zero in 2009-2010. Redds have been staying fairly stable though, with counts at an average of 8.66 annually in the past 6 years, with very little fluctuation. This shows that even though populations may have been decreasing, spawning rates were staying consistent, showing hope for upcoming years. With the growing amounts of data, and the increasing awareness of the situations regarding salmon in the Mendocino area, it seems that salmon populations may continue to rise in the future.



2011-2012: Redd Dimensions

Redd #

Redd Length (in)

Redd width (in)

Redd depth (in)

Redd substrate (in)

Tail spill length (in)

Tail spill width (in)



















































2011-2012: Salmon Data

Salmon Species

Gender (male; female; unknown)




Coho (Oncorhynchus kisutch)

2; 5; 1




Steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss)

1; 1; 1








Site Map