Orca Conservancy Submits Scoping Comments on Eel River Dams to FERC
August 02, 2017
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The Eel River is on the brink of disaster, its ocean-going fish species threatened with extinction, its nurturing estuary diked, drained and diminishing.
Historically, the Eel River contained the third largest run of salmonids in California, behind the Sacramento and Klamath Rivers, collectively totaling over a million fish returning annually. The Eel River is home to fall-run California Coast Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha), Southern Oregon Northern California coho salmon (O. kisutch), winter-run and summer-run North California Coast steelhead (O. mykiss), resident rainbow trout (O. mykiss), anadromous coastal cutthroat trout (O. clarkii), Pacific Lamprey (Entosphenus tridentatus) and Green sturgeon (Acipenser medirostris). Of these populations, Chinook salmon, coho salmon and steelhead have all seen dramatic declines in historic populations and are currently listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act.
At the same time, this massive watershed in California’s northwest corner offers the state’s best hope of ensuring a future abundance of wild anadromous fish.
Based on the natural history and behavior of the endangered Southern Resident killer whales (SRKW) it is imperative that prey species, specifically Chinook salmon, are of sufficient quality and quantity are available to support not only individual growth, reproduction, and development, but to further encourage the overall growth of this population. Prey depletion is recognized as one of the major threats to the survival and recovery of the SRKW community, and rebuilding depleted salmon stocks is listed as a top priority for the population.