Issues



Hydrologic energy in the Salt River has been seriously reduced and is dysfunctional;

The dysfunction of Salt River is largely a product of past and present land use;

There are current socio-economic impacts from the dysfunction of Salt River;

Fish and wildlife have been adversely impacted from present Salt River conditions.

Findings



Hydrologic function has been reduced and the system is currently dysfunctional through:

Hydrologic energy in the Salt River has been reduced through the:

Loss of tidal prism through historic agricultural conversion of wetlands, sloughs and salt marshes;

Exclusion of periodic Eel River flood waters by the Leonardo Levee;

Diversion of the eastern 42% of the watershed into Perry Slough and Old River,

Prolific growth of nuisance instream vegetation, lessening water velocity and resulting in further sediment deposition;

Highly erodible soils dominate the upper watershed;

Seismically very active area and close proximity to the Mendocino Triple Junction;

Potential of subsidence and uplift within in the Eel River Delta;

The dysfunction of Salt River is largely a product of past and present land use:

The majority of the Salt River Delta is in agricultural production;

Livestock has access to streams in many locations within the Basin resulting in: stream bank erosion, no recruitment of riparian plant growth, direct input of fecal and urine contaminants, and trampling of stream banks;

There have been negative impacts to streams and fish habitat from historic timber harvest practices;

Channel realignment in the trans-delta reaches of some of the Wildcat tributaries from a distributory flow regime to a channelized flow regime has resulted in greater input of sediment in the mainstem Salt River;

Urbanization and channelization has altered discharge and sediment deposition patterns of Francis Creek;

Dairy farm waste management infrastructure is, in places, inadequate;

Unknown, but suspected high quantities of nutrients from pastoral land use may present water quality problems in the mainstem of the river as well as in the estuary;

Erosion from roads and stream banks in the Salt River tributaries is a significant by indeterminate source of suspended sediment;

Extensive system of levees, tidegates, and berms throughout the basin disrupt channel connectivity with adjacent floodplain, and reduced tidal prism;

Sand quarries may have contributed to the amount of sediment in the Salt River.

There are current socio-economic impacts from the dysfunction of Salt River:

The Salt River is no longer a navigable waterway;

Flooding has increased because a reduction of channel capacity of all watercourses in the Salt River Basin due to sediment deposition;

Degradation of Francis Creek and the Salt River channel has resulted in the Ferndale Wastewater Treatment Plant to be in violation of water quality regulations leading to a cease and desist order issued by the North Coast Water Quality Control Board;

Health hazards are posed through water quality degradation;

Agricultural production and land values are decreased by flooding;

Most domestic and irrigation wells are less than 30 feet deep. Nitrates, fecal contaminants could easily contaminate the shallow ground water;

Lack of incentive for farmers to invest in waste management infrastructure;

There is a general feeling of frustration and hopelessness amongst all parties involved, in that, nothing short of massive restoration can solve the multitude of problems within the Salt River Basin.

Fish and wildlife have been adversely impacted from current Salt River conditions:

Canopy cover and riparian vegetation is lacking in some portions of the Wildcat tributaries;

2,900 acres of tide land in the Salt River Basin were “reclaimed” in the late 1800’s;

Salmonid access into the Salt River system is severely impaired, and access to Williams Creek and Coffee Creek has been eliminated;

Salmonid habitat throughout the entire basin is poor;

Aquatic macroinvertebrate populations in basin indicate instream sediment impairments;

Potential large woody debris (LWD) recruitment is generally poor;

Spawning habitat is inadequate due to excess fine sediments;

Mercury contamination has been found in the flesh of fish in the Eel River system (Stokes, 1981).

Recommendations



What watershed and habitat improvement activities would most likely lead toward more desirable conditions in a timely, cost effective manner?

Flow, Drainage and Water Quality Improvement Activities

Re-establish mainstem Salt River from river mile 5.1 to 8.3 (Francis Creek to Coffee Creek), and improve channel conditions from river mile 3.4 to 5.1 (Reas Creek to Francis Creek) to improve drainage and allow access for salmonids;

Restore estuarine habitat and estuarine wetlands from river mile 0 to 3.4 (confluence of the Salt River with the Eel River to Reas Creek);

Removal or modification of tide gates and levees in the Salt River Basin for the purpose of improving fish passage, water quality, habitat diversity and channel flushing;

Assess whether the re-introduction of the Eel River through the Leonardo levee is feasible;

Improve coordinated planning efforts concerning drainage, wastewater treatment and development with the City of Ferndale;

Re-introduce east side drainage into Francis Creek downstream of Port Kenyon Road;

Implement Ferndale Drainage Master Plan;

Establish a Market Street Drainage Plan;

Obtain compliance at the Ferndale Wastewater Treatment Facility;

Decrease sediment contributions to the mainstem Salt River;

Continue to implement dairy waste reduction plans and encourage the use of Best Management Practices for dairy waste management;

Enhance and protect wetland areas and floodplain forests for the purpose of nutrient assimilation, flood storage capacity, sediment deposition and fish and wildlife enhancement.

Erosion and Sediment Delivery Reduction Activities

Conduct an upslope erosion inventory in the Wildcat tributaries. Potential stream bank and road related sediment sources should be mapped and prioritized. Identified sites should then be treated to reduce the amount of fine sediments entering the stream;

Design, install and maintain sediment basins on tributaries where sediment loads, stream alterations and infrastructure limit opportunities for restoring natural processes, such as lower Francis Creek;

Encourage the use of Best Management Practices for all land use development activities to minimize erosion and fine sediment delivery to streams;

Provide technical assistance and incentives to landowners/ managers in developing and implementing fine sediment reduction plans;

Limit additional road building in the Wildcat Range.

Riparian and Habitat Improvement Activities

Increase tidal influence (tidal prism) for the improvement of salmonid rearing habitat and for developing and maintaining channel structure;

Replace or modify culverts or barriers that create fish passage problems;

Where necessary, increase the canopy in the Wildcat tributaries by planting appropriate native vegetation like willow, alder, Sitka spruce and Douglas fir along the stream where shade canopy is not at acceptable levels. In many cases, planting will need to be coordinated to follow bank stabilization or upslope erosion control projects;

Encourage the use of temporary riparian exclusion fencing where there is evidence of stream bank erosion caused by grazing of livestock;

Where feasible, design and engineer pool enhancement structures to increase the number and quality of pools. This must be done where the banks are stable or in conjunction with streambank armor to prevent erosion;

Suitable size spawning substrate in the Wildcat Tributaries is limited to a few limited areas. Projects should be designed at suitable sites to trap and sort spawning gravel;

Improve fish habitat conditions in the trans-delta reaches of Reas Creek and Williams Creek;

Utilize set back levees for the improvement of flood control, riparian function and to establish channel meander and habitat diversity in the trans delta reach of Reas Creek;

Enhance riparian protections for the improvement of ecosystem benefits;

Utilize USDA/ NRCS Wetland Reserve Program or Farm and Ranch Land Protection Program.

Education, Research, and Monitoring Activities

Encourage and promote Salt River Advisory Group as the lead entity to help facilitate restoration funding efforts and monitoring activities;

Improve educational and community outreach;

Continue and expand water quality monitoring efforts of surface waters in the Salt River Basin to include a robust assemblage of water quality parameters;

Conduct systematic assessment of biological resources in the Salt River Basin;

Continue to monitor fish populations in the Eel River Delta and the Salt River system;

Continue to monitor Salt River Basin salmonid habitat;

Determine ownership boundaries along the Salt River within areas identified in alternative development;

Analyze Salt River hydrology and hydrodynamics to include the estuary portion and portions of the Wildcat tributaries;

Analyze Salt River geomorphology in the Salt River Basin;

Conduct topographic mapping of the Salt River Delta;

Analyze geomorphic change in the Salt River Basin to include analysis of changes in channel dimensions, sedimentation, channel location and shore lines over the past 130 years.