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The Eel: Restoring the River-Part 2


Yesterday in my special report, I told you about an organization helping to bring the Eel River back to its former glory.

The Eel River Recover Project is using science and information to help enlighten and inspire the community to be conscious about their impact on one of the North Coast’s largest ecosystems.

Here’s part 2 of: The Eel – Restoring the River.

Part of the evolution of the Eel River Recovery Project is partnerships with like-minded organizations. Friends of the Van Duzen is empowering youth to be a part of the process. An innovative program called “Kids in the Woods” was made possible by a grant from Six Rivers National Forest and other partners which helped get young people involved as citizen monitors of the watershed. The guiding force of the program is Sal Steinberg, it’s director.

A 30-year school teacher in Scotia, Steinberg is a passionate advocate for learning and passing on an appreciation of the river and its tributaries; the Van Duzen being one of the most important. He was thrilled how the kids took to the project.

Sal Steinberg:

“We brought about 400-people...400-kids to this spot to see salmon spawning and that is phenomenal...That is what you want to do. You want to share nature with the kids so that they gain a better understanding...So that they get a better respect and they become stewards of the watershed.”

One part of the project was getting kids to install temperature probes up and down the Van Duzen. Once that was accomplished, readings were taken and data collected in the classroom. The health of the river was scientifically studied and the kids

helped make it all happen. By understanding the causal affects that can harm or help a river system, kids learn what needs to be done and as adults they can make better informed choices.

Sal Steinberg

“I think if we get back to the idea of changing consciousness and understanding...for the last 5-6 years, I’ve been able to go into schools and I can at this point sense and see a difference in kids and their understanding of the salmon cycle and their understanding of the river...and they’re taking care of the river. When I go to a 5th grade classroom and ask them, what is the ideal temperature for a salmon? And out of 25 people in that class, 24 people got the exact right answer; the range of approximately 40 to 60-degrees. That’s amazing. That’s amazing.”

But it takes a village as they say to make one of the largest ecosystems in the state get back to running on all cylinders. It’s going to take a lot of work by a lot of people. But what’s particularly gratifying is seeing indicator species begin to come back. I hadn’t seen a crawfish in the river since I was a kid back in the 1960’s but Pat Higgin’s underwater camera catches this one going about its business. Even huge sturgeon are coming back in the watershed. No, they’re not in massive numbers like the Chinook but they’re back and that’s encouraging progress.

The Eel River watershed is healing itself after being severely damaged with help from motivated people who care.  Maybe a full renaissance can happen. Maybe when you’re thinking about what you want to do for the weekend you might think about volunteering your time installing some temperature gauges or snorkeling to count some steelhead or salmon. Maybe if you get some extra money from Aunt Bertha, you might think about giving it to one of the non-profits working for so much good.

The Eel River is a living, breathing miracle of life and diversity but it needs our help.