Salmon Restoration Program
The Salmon Restoration Program is a series of success stories stretching back more than 30 years. The program began in January 1980 as a partnership between the CCC, California Department of Fish and Game, and private and public landowners. The goal? To enhance and restore California’s salmon and steelhead habitat, fully restoring the productivity of Chinook salmon, coho salmon and steelhead trout streams through habitat improvements.
During the last three decades, the partnership has improved more than 1800 miles of stream and estuary habitat, worked in hundreds of watersheds and planted well over two million trees.
Since 1980, more than 1.6 million corpsmember hours have been spent working in North Coast streams and tributaries to the Albion, Bear, Eel, Klamath, Mattole, Navarro, Noyo, Russian, Smith and Trinity rivers. The emphasis on partnerships continues to this day and accounts for the program’s success, providing environmental improvement, economic benefits and stories of personal triumph for the corpsmembers involved.
A partnership with the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration enabled the CCC and DFG to build capacity for additional collaborative efforts and expand the CCC’s fisheries restoration activities from California’s remote North Coast south to Ventura County in Southern California.
Since 2004, the Camarillo Center has been involved in developing and implementing restoration projects to benefit endangered steelhead trout in Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. While working closely with the California Department of Fish and Game, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and other federal, state and local partners, the Camarillo Center has worked on fish passage barrier removal/modification, invasive species removal, stream-bank stabilization, bioengineering, habitat and barrier assessment, in-stream habitat improvement, livestock exclusionary fencing, native riparian planting and more.
San Antonio Creek water diversion set-up in Santa Barbara County
How Does it Work?
A stream assessment is conducted by California Conservation Corps fish habitat specialists, Fish and Game biologists, CCC/AmeriCorps Watershed Stewards and other watershed restoration experts. A second, more detailed survey is conducted if initial findings determine a stream or watershed will benefit from restoration. The scientific data collected during these visits is then used to develop a site-specific restoration plan.
Guided and supervised by California Department of Fish and Game and CCC habitat staff, the CCC Fisheries Restoration crews implement the restoration site plan. Once completed, biologists check the site, add it to the restoration database, and monitor it for effectiveness and structural integrity for up to ten years.
The aim is to restore North Coast streams by adding structures that mimic nature. Made primarily of wood and rock, these structures provide shelter for both juvenile and adult fish, help reduce water temperatures and add complexity to the stream channel. Combined, these elements ensure that adult salmon have the habitat they need to spawn and juvenile salmon have a healthy environment in which to grow.
Typical CCC restoration projects include modifying barriers to fish passage; planting trees in the riparian zones; reducing upslope sediment sources; stabilizing stream banks through bioengineering and log/ boulder structures; building livestock exclusion fences; constructing in-stream habitat structures for pool development and spawning gravel retention; and installing logs and root wads that serve as cover structures in pool and flat water habitats. Restoration work is focused on streams and watersheds that have the greatest ability to increase threatened and endangered salmonid populations over the long term.
Working in Kenny Creek, Mendocino County
The fisheries populations benefiting from the Restoration Program are the source of more than $17 billion in revenue to California. Commercial, sport and subsistence fishing is enhanced by improved fish runs. Local businesses such as motels, restaurants, sporting good stores, gas stations and fishing guide services also benefit from restoration efforts as they are dependent on money generated through restoration project work. The scientific information compiled on the health of the watersheds is shared between large and small landowners and state and federal agencies, fostering cooperation and partnership among entities working together to protect fish populations.
In addition to learning about the technical aspect of fisheries restoration work, CCC corpsmembers learn how to better care for their natural environment while developing a strong work ethic, marketable job skills, and a sense of community. Corpsmembers also reap the rewards of becoming part of something bigger than themselves, achieving a sense of responsibility to society as a whole.
The Restoration Program was honored for its “conservation excellence” in 1996, when it received an award from the Chevron Corporation and the Times Mirror Company. Four years earlier, Renew America presented the Program’s Fortuna Center with a National Award for Environmental Sustainability. Renew America said of the program, it “is successful because it provides quality service at a reasonable cost to a broad group of Californians, young men and women learn valuable job skills, thousands of miles of anadromous fish habitat are restored, and citizens who rely on the revenue generated from salmon and steelhead for their livelihood continue to have jobs.”