Action Plan
Restoration of the South Fork Trinity River Watershed
Its Fisheries
prepared for
U.S. Bureau of Reclamation
The Trinity River Task Force
under contract No. 2-CS-20-01100
by Pacific Watershed Associates
P.O. Box 4433, Arcata, California
January, 1994
Table of Contents


We are hopeful that this fisheries and watershed restoration plan for the South Fork Trinity River will be widely read by fisheries professionals, land managers, private and industrial land owners, conservation organizations and the general public. We have labored to make the writing technically complete and accurate, yet entirely readable to our general, non-technical audience. The scientific references (in parenthesis in this report) represent the best of accumulated knowledge of numerous researchers, and help our professional readers keep track of the most useful guiding documents for managing the South Fork Trinity River and its tributary watersheds. They also help our peers keep us honest by checking the underlying professional assumptions of our findings and arguments.

We believe that a scientific approach offers the best way to choose the most effective restoration strategy to guide the recovery of a healthy salmon and steelhead population in the South Fork Trinity River basin. By using scientific methods in conducting and monitoring restoration activities, and not varying from them, we can tell whether or not the program is working. In this manner, managers can re-invest in winning strategies and "cut their losses" in other techniques which do not bear fruit. This process of learning-by-doing is termed "adaptive management".

Adaptive management does not mean that the restoration program for fisheries and watershed recovery in the South Fork Trinity River will be run by scientists, in isolation from the public. On the contrary, science must serve the program. We envision a Coordinated Resource Management Planning (CRMP) group steering this restoration program, with diverse representatives from the community, industry and participating land and resource management agencies as active members.

In preparing this action plan, we have gone well beyond a search of the scientific literature and past management of the basin's natural resources to determine the watershed's problems and to formulate a restoration strategy. We have reached out to the people in the South Fork Trinity River basin to gain the insight of those who have lived with the river and felt its pulse more intuitively (or on the end of fishing line). We did this because we recognized that the scientific knowledge base is incomplete. Our team strived to blend the best information, not only from scientific sources, but the collective wisdom of people in the watershed.

We also met with basin residents out of pragmatism, because we know that, ultimately, this plan cannot succeed without "buy-in," acceptance and aggressive implementation of needed actions by the people who live and work there, and the businesses who manage the land. Much more than mere cooperation is needed to make this restoration program a success, and to bring back the fish. Through our work over the last year, we have gained an understanding of the community and its needs, and we have tried to fashion this plan to serve the community while restoring the fish.

Restoring healthy, valuable runs of anadromous fish populations to the South Fork Trinity River basin does not mean an end to land use in the basin. To the contrary, we believe thoughtfully conducted land use activities can exist side-by-side with healthy fish populations. Land use, such as forest management and agriculture, must be conducted such that present conditions do not continue to deteriorate, and such that future water quality, water quantity and stream bed conditions improve dramatically and return to a highly productive condition. For fish to permanently return to the basin, land use activities must become far more sensitive to riparian and in-stream conditions. Management-related erosion and stream sedimentation must be reduced and controlled, and summer stream temperatures must be reduced.

As it is implemented, the restoration program will provide needed jobs in stabilizing watersheds, bring additional technology to local farmers and ranchers to operate their businesses more efficiently and help the Hayfork community with its critical water shortage and domestic waste water quality problems. Suggestions for changes in forest land use practices will point the way to an informed and sensitive utilization of valuable wood products while ensuring watershed protection and restoration of sensitive fish habitat. The revitalization of fisheries resources could provide an additional economic stimulus that has not been present in this basin and in these communities since the early 1960's; namely tourism related to sport fishing. We also hope that future generations of children in Hayfork can swim in a cool and clean Hayfork Creek during the long, hot days of summer.

South Fork Trinity River Fisheries and Watershed Restoration Action Plan
Executive Summary


The objectives of the South Fork Restoration Action Plan were to identify the principal factors limiting the recovery of anadromous salmonid stocks of the South Fork Trinity River, and to develop a listing of projects and actions needed to accelerate the recovery of stream habitat and fish populations throughout the basin. Recommendations included in this plan are based on the best technical information available for the South Fork Trinity River basin and its resources.

This Action Plan reviews our current state of knowledge regarding watershed conditions, fish habitat and the status of salmonid stocks in the 1000 mi2 South Fork Trinity River basin. It outlines appropriate land treatments, channel treatments, water conservation and pollution prevention measures, land use changes, fisheries management techniques and educational programs needed to affect fisheries protection and watershed stabilization, and begin the proactive process of fisheries recovery in the most cost-effective manner possible.

Development of the South Fork Restoration Action Plan involved five basic work tasks, culminating in the final restoration action plan.

A. Location and compilation of existing, relevant information on the South Fork watershed and its resources from a variety of public and private sources, including residents, technicians, specialists, scientists, regulators, and land managers, as well as a wealth of data and published and unpublished information concerning the South Fork and its resources.

B. Systematic cataloging and presentation of compiled information and documents into the various components that are presented as chapters in this assessment and restoration report. A lengthy list of the most valuable references has been included at the end of this document, but this listing includes only that information which has been directly cited in the report.

C. Analysis and evaluation of compiled data, personal and professional observations, descriptions, findings, conclusions and recommendations covering the South Fork and its tributaries. The goal of this analysis was to determine those factors which appear to be limiting populations and delaying the rapid recovery of South Fork fisheries.

D. Preparation and presentation of findings and conclusions concerning the status of in-stream habitat, fish populations, prior restoration efforts, watershed conditions and the effects of various land management activities.

E. Recommended strategies for watershed and fisheries restoration were then developed after intensive review of existing data, research documents and management reports. Water management, watershed management, forest management, fisheries habitat improvement projects and bioenhancement were all reviewed as possible tools for restoration of fisheries resources in the basin.

The guiding premise in prioritizing recommended tasks for fisheries restoration has been to first perform those tasks that are absolutely necessary to protect and retain viable stocks. These could include changes in land use, in-stream or watershed treatments, the delineation and protection of critical habitat refugia, or implementation of a lifeline program of small scale rearing using a native stock base. Protection is the critical first step that will help assure that native fish stocks will still be present when the benefits of other, longer term measures and restoration efforts have improved both in-basin and out-of-basin conditions that are necessary for full recovery.

2. South Fork Trinity River Fish Stock Identification and Population Trends

All populations of anadromous fishes in the South Fork Trinity River are described as "management units" by this Plan. This recognizes runs of spring chinook salmon, fall chinook salmon, coho salmon, summer and winter runs of steelhead trout as stocks, under Ricker's (1972) definition, but also that distinct sub-populations within the basin may have existed at one time. Pacific lamprey have also used the basin's streams, but their distribution, abundance and life history has not been well studied.

Populations of all salmonid species are thought to have declined substantially over the last three decades as a result of many factors, including habitat loss related to past floods. Recent counts of spring chinook, summer steelhead and coho salmon in the basin suggest remaining populations of a few hundred or less, giving rise to concerns that some stocks could be lost.

Historical records and personal accounts suggest that South Fork Trinity River summer steelhead may never have been numerous, even before historic floods and watershed disturbance. Spring chinook salmon declined dramatically from over 10,000 in 1964 to just a few hundred in recent years. The run in 1993, however, was the largest in decades. Fall chinook salmon returns between 1985 and 1990 ranged from 345 to 2,460 compared to a baseline of 3,400 just prior to the 1964 flood. High pre-spawn mortality of females and a sex ratio dominated by males suggest that this species also deserves close monitoring. The winter steelhead population in the basin seems to be in better health and has been estimated at 2,000 to 4,000 in recent years. Pacific lamprey are still present in colder tributaries throughout the South Fork Trinity River basin, but local accounts suggest that their population has also suffered substantial declines.

It is recommended that fall chinook population monitoring be resumed. This would probably be carried out by the California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG). Spring chinook and summer steelhead populations should also continue to be monitored and tracked, if not by CDFG, then by the U.S. Forest Service (USFS). Winter steelhead spawning counts by CDFG will help to discover if restoration measures, or other factors, are helping increase populations. Utilization of volunteer resources from schools and the community should be considered to augment staff and lessen program costs, if necessary. It is also recommended that the USFS continue monitoring juvenile steelhead populations in streams where they already have five years of baseline information. Additional chinook salmon genetics studies are already underway, but assessment of effective population size (Ne) should be considered.

Continue Executive Summary

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