Yurok Tribe awarded $4 million from California Dept. of Fish & Wildlife

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California Construction News staff writer

The Yurok Tribe recently received a $4 million grant from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife for an urgently needed, large-scale river restoration project on the Trinity River.

“These funds will help us transform a severely damaged section of the Trinity into diverse, dynamic and complex habitat for salmon and steelhead,” said Frankie Myers, the Yurok Tribe’s vice chairman and president of the Yurok Tribe Construction Corporation. “I sincerely thank California Governor Newsom and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife for investing in our effort to rebuild these invaluable fish stocks and make the Klamath Basin more resilient to climate change. These funds could not have come at a better time.”

The Trinity River is the largest Klamath River tributary. Dams, widespread habitat degradation and water diversions have reduced the Trinity’s salmon and steelhead runs to a small fraction of their former sizes.

The Yurok Tribe is leading work to restore habitat, improve water management and rebuild fish stocks on the Klamath and Trinity Rivers.

“We are extremely grateful for the considerable investment in the Oregon Gulch project on the Trinity River,” said Yurok Chairman Joseph L. James. “This project is part of our long-term plan to recover our fish runs and preserve an essential part of our culture.”

The Yurok Fisheries Department’s multidisciplinary team of restoration biologists, engineers and hydrologists, along with geomorphologists, wetland ecologists and botanists, designed the Oregon Gulch Project. The Yurok Tribe Construction Corporation is leading the implementation of the monumental rewilding initiative with the following goals:

  • Restore complex floodplain habitat and natural river processes for the benefit of salmon and steelhead
  • Increase habitat diversity for all riparian species (fish, frogs, turtles, birds, insects, etc.…) year-round within an approximately one-mile river segment
  • Remove for than 500,000 cubic yards of mine tailing and restore 32 acres of degraded floodplain, wetland and riparian habitat for fish and wildlife
  • Increase juvenile salmon and steelhead habitat by up to 1000 percent within the project reach
  • Increase groundwater retention and restore riparian corridor
  • Establish conditions for the river to access its valley

Heavy equipment work will wrap up this fall. After the machines move out, a crew will establish a wide variety of well-adapted plants, including native grasses/forbs, shrubs and trees, at key locations within the project site. The vegetation will further improve habitat for salmon and steelhead as well as many different native wildlife species.

While increasing salmon and steelhead production is the primary goal of the Oregon Gulch Project, the restoration of the immense riparian corridor will benefit other culturally important fish species, such as Pacific lamprey and threatened coho salmon. The restored river valley will also aid a myriad of native amphibians, birds and mammals, due to the abundance of food, water and shelter.

The Yurok Tribe Construction Corporation is owned and operated by the Yurok Tribe. Informed by western science and Traditional Ecological Knowledge, the tribally owned business holistically converts severely degraded aquatic ecosystems into highly productive habitat for salmon as well as many other native fish and wildlife species. The Yurok Fisheries Department regularly plans, designs and monitors the Yurok Tribe Construction Corporation’s projects.

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