It begins high in mountainous pine forests, flows through deep canyons, cuts through majestic redwood forests and finally runs through a long, sloping valley into the Pacific. After damaging floods in 1955, these dams also received support for potential flood-control benefits. In 1981 – well before Behr's moratorium expired – Secretary of the Interior Cecil Andrus granted federal protection to the Eel River system and 1,235 miles (1,988 km) of streams along the North Coast, succeeding state legislation and placing the river permanently off limits to new dams.  The Middle Fork drains the greatest area of all the tributaries, but the South Fork is longer, and carries the most water because of the higher rainfall in its basin. Can alternative recreational uses such as fishing and mountain biking be developed? ", U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: South Fork Eel River, U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: North Fork Eel River, Summer water temperature conditions in the Eel River System, with reference to trout and salmon, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Eel_River_(California)&oldid=1001863037, Wild and Scenic Rivers of the United States, Articles with unsourced statements from December 2013, Articles needing additional references from December 2013, All articles needing additional references, Wikipedia articles with WorldCat-VIAF identifiers, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License, Middle Fork Eel River, North Fork Eel River, Van Duzen River, This page was last edited on 21 January 2021, at 19:02. The proposal was defeated with public initiative by the early 1970s, to protect the remaining relatively wild rivers in the state.  The river also carries the highest suspended sediment load of any river of its size in the United States, in part due to the frequent landslides in the region. A report issued last year by UC Davis and CalTrout estimated that nearly 75 percent of the state’s 31 salmon … About 155 miles (249 km) of the main stem are designated, from the mouth to a point just below Cape Horn Dam. Making up …  Monthly average flows at Scotia range from 19,700 cu ft/s (560 m3/s) in January to 138 cu ft/s (3.9 m3/s) in September – a 143:1 difference.  The non-native Sacramento pikeminnow is present; it competes with and preys on young salmonids. :272 Major dams proposed in the watershed included ones at English Ridge, Bell Springs and Sequoia (Alderpoint) on the main stem, and the infamous Dos Rios on the Middle Fork.  Under current agreements, the dams must release at least 100 cubic feet per second (2.8 m3/s) beginning every year on December 1 to aid salmon migration. While improved from the low point of 3,500 at the beginning of the decade, the runs have yet to again reach the high mark of over 30,000. Will disposal of mercury-laden sediments in the reservoir be a problem? The Upper Eel River Chinook salmon population includes all fish spawning upstream of the South Fork Eel River confluence, and all major tributaries including the Middle Fork Eel River (NMFS, 2011). However, Behr had been forced to compromise in order to get his bill approved from the state: as signed, it would only place a 12-year moratorium on planning for dams in the Eel River system. Reduction in flow occurs in part due to deliberate water diversion from the Eel to the Russian River watershed by the Pacific Gas and Electric Company's Potter Valley Project, located to the south in Mendocino County. While tributaries like Jack of Hearts and Redwood Creek ran low, they remained cold but had no coho salmon … Fish Species: Chinook Salmon, Rainbow Trout: Latest Fish Reports. River Information. The Eel River mouth is located 15 miles south of Eureka.  Nevertheless, logging, grazing, road-building and other human activities continue to significantly affect the watershed's ecology.  Further inland and south, soils are well drained, although landslides are nevertheless common because of the high rainfall and steep slopes.. , The Eel River forms a 7-mile (11 km) long estuary west of Fortuna, which has been identified as one of the most important and sensitive estuaries on the West Coast. Between the North and Middle Forks the Round Valley Indian Reservation lies east of the Eel River. :146 When exposed, this would end up becoming the "Achilles' heel of the project". The Eel River watershed lies within the Oregon and Northern California Coastal freshwater ecoregion, which is characterized by temperate coniferous forests consisting largely of Douglas fir and western hemlock. The Eel's major tributaries – the North Fork, Middle Fork, South Fork and Van Duzen Rivers, drain 286 square miles (740 km2), 753 square miles (1,950 km2), 689 square miles (1,780 km2), and 420 square miles (1,100 km2), respectively. PG&E’s license will expire on April 14, 2022, presenting significant risks, liabilities and uncertainty to local communities and the environment. A second chance for Eel River salmon and steelhead? Steelhead numbers during the early-1960s were estimated to have been 82,000 spawners for the entire Eel River …  Now listed on the National Historic Register, Fernbridge is the last major crossing before the Eel arrives at the Pacific Ocean. Rep. John Garamendi, whose district includes northern Lake County, has submitted formal comments to FERC announcing his categorical opposition to the removal of Scott Dam and demanding that Lake County be given a “full and equal seat at the table” by inclusion in the Two Basin Working Group, not just the committee, which has had representation from the Lake County Board of Supervisors all along. In late 2012, high water in the Eel River attracted a run of over 30,000 fish, the largest on record since 1958. One ship sailed up the Eel River and could not get out. Below the dam the river flows west, re-entering Mendocino County. Shad fishing during the late spring and early summer offers the angler an exciting … Wilson calculated that Dos Rios would have reduced the 35-foot (11 m) flood crest of the 1964 flood at Fort Seward by less than a foot (0.3 m). After the state legislature approved both bills, the final decision fell to Reagan, who signed the Behr bill, again in favor of the conservationists. The river was named after they traded a frying pan to a group of Wiyot fishermen in exchange for a large number of Pacific lampreys, which the explorers thought were eels. The Eel River offers year-round fishing opportunities, with fall and winter salmon and steelhead runs being the best known. The river flows generally northward through the Coast Ranges west of the Sacramento Valley, emptying into the Pacific Ocean about 10 miles (16 km) downstream from Fortuna and just south of Humboldt Bay.  Although located near the headwaters, these dams can cause a significant reduction of the flow of the lower Eel River because much of the river's summer flow originates from the mountains above Lake Pillsbury. Occasional large "blocks" of water are also released from Scott Dam to help juvenile salmonids migrate to the sea before temperatures in the lower river become unsuitable for their passage. The Eel River watershed is located entirely in the California Coast Ranges. However, among all the proposed dams on the Eel River, Dos Rios would have the lowest impact on flood control – a fact that the Army Corps took great pains to conceal, by greatly exaggerating its economic justifications for the dam. Due to huge earth-flows caused by the record rain in 1964, 105 million tons of sediment were carried down the Eel River between December 21–23 as measured at Scotia – more than in the previous eight years combined. One river, three forks and diverse landscapes – that is the Eel. The Eel River Could Save Wild Salmon – If We Can Save the River Itself July 11, 2017 June 16, 2017 The Eel River is on the brink of disaster, its ocean-going fish species threatened with … Large-scale commercial fishing began in the 1850s, with multiple canneries on the Eel River operating into the early to mid 1900s. Although most of the early settlements were made along the coast, some people spread south into the Eel River valley, which offered fertile soils along with other abundant natural resources. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proposed a series of dams on the river and its tributaries, the largest of which was the enormous Dos Rios Dam near the confluence with the Middle Fork, which would provide water for the California State Water Project and control flooding. :75–94 Except for Gregg who was a physician, naturalist and explorer, the remainder of the party were miners from a temporary camp on the Trinity River at Helena. There is a 12-mile (19 km) class IV–V run between the Scott and Van Arsdale dams. Since 2004 the dams used by the project have been used to provide additional flow to the Eel River during the dry season, primarily to support fish populations. The Eel was granted federal Wild and Scenic River status in 1981, formally making it off limits to new dams. The South Fork Eel River joins from the west, near Humboldt Redwoods State Park and the town of Weott. At the small Cape Horn Dam about 15 miles (24 km) east of Willits, water is diverted from the Eel River basin through a 1-mile (1.6 km) tunnel to the Russian River, in a scheme known as the Potter Valley Project. The Eel River basin has been inhabited by humans for thousands of years; some of the oldest concrete evidence of human habitation is at a petroglyph site near the upper Eel River discovered in 1913, which may be as old as 2500 years. An alternate proposal would have sent the water south from Dos Rios, through English Ridge and then a tunnel to Clear Lake, from which the water would flow down Cache Creek to the Sacramento River. , The Eel River estuary is recognized for protection by the California Bays and Estuaries Policy.  The Franciscan is part of a terrane, or crustal fragment, that originated at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. The Van Duzen River also has some class II–III runs beginning below Goat Rock. Most of these areas were appropriated for agriculture and grazing land. These dams would have been far bigger than those of the Potter Valley Project, and would create some of the largest reservoirs in California.  However, with better land management practices in the watershed, salmon and steelhead runs have shown signs of recovery. ":313 Collier's bill was supported by powerful agricultural interests in the Central Valley on the "dubious claim" that they would need the water of these rivers in the future. After this confluence the Eel flows briefly through southwestern Trinity County, past Island Mountain, before entering Humboldt County near Alderpoint. The human population of the watershed is about 32,000 – less than 10 people per square mile (26/km2). The bay had been seen by earlier Spanish and Russian explorers but never settled. Located on the North Coast allows fishing to take place on whatever river is fishing best. :175, The four forks of the Eel and their tributaries provide many opportunities for whitewater kayaking and rafting on their upper sections. The Project plan would result in unimpeded migratory access for salmon and steelhead into the upper Eel River, along with continued diversion of Eel River water to the Russian River. The river provides groundwater recharge, recreation, and industrial, agricultural and municipal water supply.. In response, they have formed a “Lake Pillsbury Alliance” which advocates for retention of the reservoir and development of alternative ways to provide fish passage. The annual means also experience huge variations, with a high of 12.5 million acre feet (15.4 km3), or 17,300 cu ft/s (490 m3/s), in 1983, and a low of 410,000 acre feet (0.51 km3), or 563 cu ft/s (15.9 m3/s), in 1977.. The railroad has been out of service since 1998 due to concerns of flooding damage. The Project Plan includes removal of Scott Dam, modification of Cape Horn Dam, continued power generation, and winter “run-of-the-river” water diversions.  That beaver were once native to the Eel River watershed is supported by the name of a tributary of the Middle Fork Eel River, Beaver Creek.  Prior to 2011, the Eel River basin consisted of 65.1% forest, 12.2% shrubland, and 19.2% grassland, with just 1.9% agricultural and 0.2% developed urban. Record flooding in 1955 and 1964, which destroyed or damaged large amounts of habitat along the Eel and its tributaries, was generally regarded as the final blow. , About 22,000 years ago, a massive landslide off Nefus Peak dammed the Eel River near Alderpoint to a height of 460 feet (140 m). The construction of Scott Dam on the Eel River completely blocked the passage of critically endangered anadromous fish. The Middle Fork is also Wild and Scenic from its confluence with the Eel to the boundary of the Yolla Bolly–Middle Eel Wilderness.  Although dam operators are required to maintain certain flows below the diversion during the dry season, these flows can be cut during exceptionally dry years, preventing salmonids from reaching certain spawning streams in the Eel River basin. At Fortuna, the river turns west across the coastal plain and enters the Pacific via a large estuary in central Humboldt County, about 15 miles (24 km) south of Eureka.. Originally conceived in the late 1800s and built between 1906 and 1922, the project provides about 159,000 acre feet (0.196 km3) of additional waters for the Russian River system, for about 500,000 people in Mendocino and Sonoma Counties.. :109–110, The Eel River watershed includes Admiral William Standley State Recreation Area, Smithe Redwoods State Recreation Area, Standish-Hickey State Recreation Area, Humboldt Redwoods State Park, Richardson Grove State Park, Six Rivers National Forest, and Mendocino National Forest, which are popular for camping and hiking. The party split in two and the survivors returned to San Francisco from where ships left to settle Humboldt Bay in early 1850, bringing lumber and supplies from San Francisco. Conservationists saw this as a backdoor attempt to resurrect Dos Rios Dam and endorsed the Behr bill. :51, Many of the people who settled in this region were prospectors from the Gold Rush who did not manage to find gold.  About 1,100 acres (450 ha) of the estuary are protected as the Eel River Estuary Preserve. The river cuts in a northwesterly direction across Humboldt County, past a number of small mountain communities including Fort Seward. The river's relatively large estuary and delta, which includes the Salt River tributary and related creeks, is located just one low ridge south from Humboldt Bay and 12 miles (19 km) south of Eureka, the main city for the entire region. The Eel River Recovery Project won a Proposition 1 grant in August 2018 through the California Coastal Conservancy to assist Tenmile Creek land owners with riparian restoration, gully erosion control and …  The proposed reservoir would have flooded the Round Valley Indian Reservation. Salmon canneries flourished on the lower Eel between the 1870s and the 1920s, and declined thereafter because of decreasing runs caused by overfishing and other manmade environmental changes. In contrast, during the dry months of July through September, the river achieves nearly zero flow. Below the dam the river turns north, flowing through a long isolated valley, receiving Outlet Creek from the west and then the Middle Fork Eel River from the east at Dos Rios. They are Cyclostomes (Circle mouths), a primitive fish-like creature, and are not related to eels. Humboldt Redwoods State Park leads paddle trips along that stretch of the river. In the hurry to be "first" in Humboldt Bay, they dragged a longboat through the sloughs on the north side of the Eel River mouth to the waters of the Bay where they were met by members of the Laura Virginia party. As with all other substantial hydroelectric generating systems, the Potter Valley Project requires periodic license renewal from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. After the South Fork turns due north at Cummings it is mainly a class II–III, changing mostly to a class II run below Piercy. Water exports would take place during high winter flows rather than in the summer as they do presently and would be stored in Lake Mendocino.  In December 2013, due to record low levels of water in the Eel River and the associated dammed lakes, levels of fish and lampreys in the rivers were at lowest recorded levels, and Pacific Gas and Electric Company sought to have FERC change their operating license to permit even lower releases of water to Eel until the drought eases. The watershed also contains many stands of Redwoodthat are among the largest such trees in California. :586 Beavers are confirmed in Outlet Creek (tributary to main stem Eel north of Willits), but may occur in other areas as well.  The river and its tributaries support at least 15 species of native freshwater fish. The Eel flows through some of the most beautiful redwood groves in the state, including Humboldt Redwood State Park. The main impacts to salmon and steelhead in the Eel River are sediment, temperature and flow, Higgins said. After the 1964 floods, much of the topography in the Eel River drainage has been permanently damaged, and landslides occur much more often, frequently damaging local road and rail infrastructure. :147 From the beginning, these dams were heavily contested by local residents as well as by environmental groups seeking the protection of California's remaining wild rivers.  Logging and grazing, which expose formerly forested land as bare ground, have had even greater impact on the populations of these fish. A total of 398 miles (641 km) of the Eel River and its major tributaries are protected under the National Wild and Scenic Rivers system, with 97 miles (156 km) classed as Wild, 28 miles (45 km) as Scenic, and 273 miles (439 km) as Recreational. For many years Pacific Gas & Electric Co. has operated the “Potter Valley Project,” a hydroelectric facility on the main stem of the Eel River consisting of Scott and Cape Horn dams and a tunnel diverting water into the Russian River watershed, where it is used to generate a small amount of electricity and for irrigation by farmers in Potter Valley and farther south in Sonoma County. :315, Over the next several years, Reagan continued lobbying for increased protection of the Eel River system. In 1914, after seven years of construction, the Northwestern Pacific Railroad completed a rail line running along much of the Eel River as an important transportation link connecting Eureka and the many small towns along the Eel River valley to the national rail network. The ceremonial driving of the golden spike was delayed by flooding and subsequent landslide damage to the rail line in October 1914.  Project water is disproportionately important to salmonids in the Eel River system as a whole because the water released from the bottom of Scott Dam is the only cold water available in the basin during the dry season. A second chance for Eel River salmon and…, Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window), Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window). :194 Governor Ronald Reagan formally refused to authorize the project. By some estimates, it is the most important producer of coho salmon in the state. Logging, grazing and other resource exploitation activities and their accompanying environmental changes have also increased the intensity of flood and drought.  About 1,550 acres (630 ha) consist of undeveloped wetlands while 5,500 acres (2,200 ha) have been converted to agriculture.  There is wilderness camping above Lake Pillsbury on both branches, the Rice Fork and Eel River, (also known as South Eel because it is south of the lake), which have plenty of swimming holes and camp sites. All these and many more questions will be addressed in detailed studies required to support a final licensing application. American negotiator Colonel Reddick McKee's treaty would have given the Indians a large reservation around the mouth of the Eel, but the treaties were never ratified. , Most of the Eel River watershed is underlain by sedimentary rock of the Franciscan Assemblage (or Complex), whose rocks date back to the Late Jurassic (161–146 million years ago). Beginning several million years ago, tectonic forces shoved the Franciscan assemblage against the North American Plate, pushing up the Coast Ranges.  However, the river basin also supports abundant forests – including some of the world's largest trees in Sequoia sempervirens (Coastal redwood) groves – and historically, one of California's major salmon and steelhead trout runs. :91 Explorers' reports of the fertile and heavily timbered region attracted settlers to Humboldt Bay and the Eel River Valley. Below Eel Rock the ocean winds make boating difficult starting in the early afternoon. The construction of Scott Dam in 1922 completely blocked passage of critically imperiled anadromous fish including salmon, steelhead and lamprey while simultaneously forming Lake Pillsbury, a 2,000-acre reservoir in remote northwestern Lake County used for boating, fishing and camping. This proposal would re-open the main stem of the Eel River to spawning runs of salmon and steelhead by removing Scott Dam, while maintaining electric generation and water deliveries to … U.S. Route 101 runs along the South Fork Eel River and then the lower Eel River below the South Fork. The deepest flood waters were nearly 70 feet (21 m) above the normal river level. Starting in the late 19th century the Eel River supported a large salmon canning industry which began to decline by the 1920s due to overfishing. REDWOOD VALLEY, 6/12/2020 — In order for the Chinook and steelhead, whose populations are plummeting up and down the West Coast, to rebound in the Eel River, there should be at least 26,400 fish returning from the ocean to the Eel to spawn annually, according to the State of Salmon, a salmon …  After the Christmas flood of 1964, chinook salmon populations plunged to less than 10,000 per year. Lake Pillsbury would disappear. In the same year, senator Randolph Collier proposed a measure that would block dams in the Klamath and Trinity Rivers but "permitted 'planning' for dams on the Eel River. At Cape Horn Dam, the majority of the water is diverted through a tunnel and hydroelectric plant, and then to the headwaters of the Russian River in Potter Valley and is known as the Potter Valley Project. Date: Report: Author: 1-14-2021: Predicted to Drop Quickly & Could Fish Late Next Week The Eel River (Cahto: Taanchow) is a major river, about 196 miles (315 km) long, of northwestern California. The annual chinook salmon run was estimated at 100,000–800,000, coho at 50,000–100,000, and steelhead may have numbered as high as 100,000–150,000. But the … , The river provides wildlife habitat for preservation of rare and endangered species including warm and cold freshwater habitat for fish migration and spawning. This proposal would re-open the main stem of the Eel River to spawning runs of salmon and steelhead by removing Scott Dam, while maintaining electric generation and water deliveries to … The estuary consists of some 8,700 acres (3,500 ha) of tidal flats, perennial and seasonal wetlands, connected by 75 miles (121 km) of river channels and tidal sloughs.  Flooding events have a large effect on the average amount of transported sediment: high water in the years 1969, 1983 and 1998 caused an annual sediment load 27 times greater than that of normal years. Dos Rios Dam would have flooded 110,000 acres (45,000 ha) of Mendocino County, creating a reservoir of 7.5 million acre feet (9.3 km3) – the largest in California, at nearly twice the size of Shasta Lake.:136. By 1969, a strong opposition movement had formed, led by a Round Valley rancher named Richard Wilson, who had studied hydraulics at Dartmouth College. The South Fork Eel River is the largest tributary of the Eel River in north-central California in the United States. In the Eel River basin, redwoods can be found further inland than other parts of the northern California coast because of the wide lower valley of the river, which acts like a funnel conducting moist air eastwards from the coast. , The flooding was also deleterious to rail service through the Eel River canyon. January 12, 2021. What would replace the lake’s function as a fire-fighting resource?  Water would be diverted through a 40-mile (64 km) tunnel to the Sacramento Valley, where it would join the water flowing down the Sacramento River to the California Aqueduct pumps in the Sacramento–San Joaquin River Delta. Many questions remain, starting with impacts on local recreational users and cabin owners. Logging companies also took hundreds of millions of board feet of timber from the basin, which were floated down the Eel River to the estuary. Archive Using Sonar to Count Fish on the Eel River  Much of the anadromous fish spawning habitat in the river system was covered by sediment or blocked by debris jams. Victoria Brandon is president of Tuleyome’s board of directors and she has lived in Lake County since 1981. The topography creates a general drainage pattern that runs from southeast to northwest, except in the Middle Fork basin and the Eel headwaters, where water runs from east to west. , Despite Reagan's veto, the door to Eel River dams technically remained open. Several thousand people were left homeless by the floods and over 4,000 head of livestock died.  By the 1890s, fish populations had already recorded a precipitous decline. During July, August and September, temperatures in the lower Eel River occasionally hit 85 °F (29 °C) or higher, creating fatal conditions for these fish. Seeing themselves on the losing end in either scenario are the Lake Pillsbury cabin owners and lessees, who would lose the reservoir-oriented recreation that presumably drew them to the area in the first place. A new major factor limiting Eel River Chinook salmon survival is ocean productivity in the area off northern California. In 1979, he requested the North Coast rivers be added to the National Wild and Scenic system. Later, the Pacific Coast Highway would be constructed along the South Fork and along the Eel River downriver of the South Fork. Since the deadline for any licensing application has passed, the only options FERC has are licensing to the Two-Basin Solution Partnership or decommissioning the facility altogether. Variable ; average flows in the 1950s, interest grew in damming the Eel River monthly mean at! 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