This is a response to "A story of Six Rivers" (cover story, January).
Yes, the fisheries and watersheds on the North Coast have been degraded by a century of more of poor management practices. These activities included mining, logging, road building (and lack of maintenance), damming, water diversions, urbanization, overfishing, hatcheries, channelization, loss of wetlands and estuarine habitat. Natural events such as El Niño, floods, drought and wildfires have also contributed to the decline of fish stocks.
Yes, one of the major problems facing our watersheds is excessive hill slope erosion that has severely aggravated reaches of some watersheds. And yes, the success of restoring our rivers and fisheries will require a cooperative effort between private landowners, agencies, restoration groups and environmentalists.
However, (writer) Marie Gravelle's advocates a biased position with opinions, speculations and false statements (granted, not always her own).
My main disagreements are:
1. Greg Bryant is the NMFS biologist, not Gary Bryant.
2. Brown et al's (1994) "Historical Decline and Current Status of Coho Salmon in California" reported a 94 percent decline in coho since the 1940s, not a 99 percent decline since the 1950s.
3. No salmon made it upstream to spawn in the Klamath two years ago? False. The escapement estimated of naturally spawning chinook for the Klamath for the past five years are 1994, 25,900; 1993, 17,100; 1992, 7,500; 1991, 7,100; 1990, 9,000. The hatchery return of chinook averaged 8,480 between 1990-1994, with 21,700 returning two years ago.
4. The "three ugly sisters," Terwer, Hunter and Wilson creeks? First of all, Wilson Creek is not a Klamath tributary; it flows directly into the ocean a couple miles north of the "Trees of Mystery." Yes, Terwer Creek is fairly devoid of mature timber. However, a large and extremely hot forest fire in 1989 was a major factor affecting the Terwer Creek watershed. To date, successful spawning and rearing of chinook, coho and steelhead occurs in Terwer Creek.
5. Yes, channelization, erosion, sedimentation and gravel extraction are all issues of importance in the Mad River watershed. However, I had trouble visualizing the same section of river radically downcutting from gravel mining and becoming wide, shallow and braided at the same time. The instability of the lower channel probably impacts fish movement and rearing rather than spawning as the article suggested. I doubt very little spawning has ever occurred in the main stem of the Mad River downstream of Blue Lake.
6. Yes, the Eel River suffers from sedimentation that has filled pools and elevated summer water temperatures. But stating that "anything deeper than a bath tub toy would hit bottom" is absolutely false. I surveyed numerous pools on the lower Eel River in the summer of 1993 while organizing a squawfish census for Trout Unlimited. Try wading across the Eel River at the bluffs downstream of Scotia or the pool at Holmes. Good luck!
I agree with Dr. Terry Roelofs that the degradation of local watersheds has occurred from a long history of abuse and neglect. The effects of these impacts will not disappear quickly either. Management and restoration plans for these watersheds must be long-term commitments that involve a cooperative effort by all concerned.
I believe the best path toward cooperation and public education is to provide accurate information and not spread misinformation - or "black humor" - to advocate one's position.
Fisheries Consultant, McKinleyville
Your article on rivers brought an important focus to local aspects of a much larger problem - the precipitous decline of fisheries worldwide. Clearly, something beyond business as usual is called for if current trends towards fishery extinctions are to be averted.
It was in this spirit that the Mattole Watershed Alliance was formed. It has been my privilege to serve this group as coordinator since its inception, and to facilitate more than 40 public meetings in numerous locations throughout the watershed.
The Alliance agreed to use consensus as its decision making process early in its existence. A common and accurate critique of consensus is that it requires lengthy communication and deliberation for all participants to be heard. Yet it is this very communication that gives consensus its great strengths - informed decisions based on mutual trust, participant buy-in, and commitment to decision implementation. These factors often lead to rapid and effective implementation of the change decided upon, a payback for the time invested during the decision-making process.
The concepts of working together, seeing the common ground we inevitably share, recognizing our inherent diversity as a true asset, and using the tools of communication, cooperation and education empower any of us to take part more effectively in forming decisions which affect our lives and the future of our progeny.
This is what the Mattole Watershed Alliance experience has taught me. In the Mattole, we are low in number and high in diversity. When the need arises, we know how to stand together and make our voices heard. To paraphrase Mark Twain, reports of our demise are greatly exaggerated.
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