Watershed, Summer 2000
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FSCR Joins Southern California Steelhead Coalition

In an effort to protect and restore native steelhead trout populations, Friends of the Santa Clara River has joined the Southern California Steelhead Recovery Coalition, a broad-based collaboration of over 25 groups in the Southern California area. The Coalition is dedicated to restoring southern California's free-flowing rivers and streams to promote the recovery of steelhead and other native species that depend on healthy watersheds. The Coalition will seek to focus additional governmental attention on southern steelhead, which receive only a tiny fraction of the state's steelhead and salmon funding despite their status as California's most imperiled steelhead population. Jim Edmondson, Conservation Director of California Trout, is chairing the group.

Southern steelhead are believed to be closely related to the ancestral stock for all steelhead populations on the Pacific coast, and may thus hold the key to the survival of all steelhead. Their numbers, however, have declined by 99% during this century. Southern steelhead are threatened by a range of impacts, including dams that block access to high-quality spawning and rearing habitat, water diversions, destruction of in-stream habitat, and flood control activities. Dams that constitute the most significant barriers to the migration of southern steelhead include Bradbury Dam on the Santa Ynez River, Robles Diversion Dam and the obsolete Matilija Dam in the Ventura River watershed, Vern Freeman Diversion Dam on the Santa Clara River, and Rindge Dam on Malibu Creek. A top priority for the Coalition will be the removal of Matilija and Rindge Dams.

Mary Nichols, State Resources Secretary, attended the Coalition's May 6 meeting along with Maria Rae, Assistant Secretary for Watershed and Salmon Restoration. Ms. Nichols expressed strong support for significantly increased resources devoted to the southern steelhead. She agreed to send Ms. Rea and Cathy Blier, Special Assistant for Salmon, on a two-day tour of the Southern California area, including a visit to the Ventura River, Malibu Creek and other watersheds closer to San Diego.


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