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Historic Coho Salmon Breeding Ground Re-opened in California

Restoration also provides flood relief for residents

After opening 7 miles of Willow Creek, 11,000 tagged juvenile coho salmon now swim freely upstream. NOAA Restoration Center and its partners brought back a historically vibrant spawning and rearing area for coho salmon in the creek, part of the Russian River watershed in California. The project also reduced flooding—a relief to local residents.

Before the restoration, Willow Creek passed through a series of 3-foot culverts, which had become clogged by sediment and debris. Salmon and other fish were completely blocked from migrating upstream, and the blockages also caused frequent flooding of Willow Creek Road. Fish actually had to swim over the road to try to go upstream.

Removing the culverts, rechanneling the creek, and installing a 43-foot clear-span bridge to reconnect the wetlands, not only will reduce flooding , but endangered coho salmon and threatened steelhead trout once again have access to 7 miles of prime nursery habitat.

11,000 tagged juvenile coho salmon from Warm Springs Hatchery have been released into the creek to help jump-start production. They will be tracked and monitored in 2012 to determine their survival and growth rates.

Biologists with the Restoration Center anticipate that restoring Willow Creek will have an impact on salmon production in the entire Russian River watershed. The project will open the watershed to spawning migratory fish and re-open wetlands in the lower section of the creek, which serve as important nursery habitat for growing fish. They expect both native and non-native fish to be drawn to Willow Creek for spawning because of its exceptional habitat.

Posted December 13, 2011

Deep-Sea Coral
Before the culverts were removed, fish had to swim over the road to try to go upstream