Let My Steelhead Flow

The National Marine Fisheries Service held the second of two public hearings late Tuesday afternoon on its recently released steelhead recovery plan for the 46 watersheds between the Santa Maria River and the Mexican border. The plan listed the Santa Ynez River-former home to one of the most abundant steelhead populations in the state-as the second most promising watershed for recovery in Southern California. The chief obstacle blocking the comeback of steelhead, which have been on the federal endangered species list since the early 1990s, is the existence of Bradbury Dam-also known as Lake Cachuma-which prevents the fish from making runs to and from the ocean, an intrinsic part of the steelhead life cycle. The plan calls for the creation of a fish passage to allow the steelhead to swim through the dam. In a good year, biologists are lucky to find 17 steelhead in the Santa Ynez River. For the recovery effort to be deemed a success, the odds of extinction during the next 100 years have to be less than five percent. Past studies put that number at 4,152 steelhead, but that’s now described as high. While the plan lacks the authority of either law or regulation, the recovery blueprint provides a guideline for water agencies, property owners, and a host of government agencies to consider.


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