Local Salmon Fly Free as Another Dam is Removed

Caltrout researcher standing atop the Cedar Creek Dam before it's removal.
Caltrout researcher standing atop the Cedar Creek Dam before it's removal.

Salmon can swim free once more down the currents of the Eel River. The long abandoned 8-foot-high Cedar Creek Dam was finally removed through the collaboration of Caltrout and the State Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Darren Meirau, the Northcoast Director for Caltrout and the project’s manager, explained the history of the dam.

“The barrier was a concrete dam built in the late 1940s as part of the Cedar Creek Experimental Fish Hatchery,” he said. “It was built by the Department of Fish and Game at the time. They were experimenting with hatchery operations and the release of salmon and steelhead into the South Fork Eel River to determine the size that needed to be released to maximize the returning adults.”

The dam, which once existed to help local fish populations, now served only to hinder salmon and steelheads in their yearly migrations. Plans to remove the dam began as early as 2017 when studies officially confirmed the negative impacts of its continued existence.

“It turns out that Cedar Creek is incredibly important in the South Fork Eel River.,” Meirau said. “The watershed is very unique. It has [a serpentinite soil geology] that stores groundwater at a higher rate than other watersheds in the [Eel River]. So, consequently in the summertime, it has higher sustained base flow of cold-water coming in.”

The removal process itself took almost 3 months and required fish biologists to safely remove all fish and amphibians from the area before deconstruction could begin. 

The project has already proved to be wildly successful. Earlier this month Caltrout staff had already observed adult Chinook salmon spawning above the former dam’s location.

“It was welcomed news for sure,” Meirau said. “We did a fair amount of recontouring of the channel after the dam was taken out so that we could ensure some potential for fish passage, but you never know. It responded really well and the fact that we saw Chinook above that was really great news.”

This has been Matthew Taylor with Redwood News.

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