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Hydrologist Randy Klein on Low Stream Flows on the North Coast

Dana Stolzman
Salmonid Restoration Federation

The ways that we manage (or fail to manage) our impacts on the land have left many rivers and creeks without enough water year-round to sustain fish and other wildlife. Randy Klein is a hydrologist who has studied North Coast streams for over 40 years. His research on flooding, erosion, and sediment dynamics in Redwood National Park helped identify the best ways to manage heavily-logged watersheds for stream health. More recently, he has focused on the solutions to low summer flows on the Mattole River in Southern Humboldt. 

In many California streams, low summer flows result in high temperatures that are dangerous to salmon. Less water also concentrates pollutants and increases the risk of toxic algae blooms. And climate change is intensifying droughts and changing rainfall patterns, threatening the survival of native salmon species that people have relied on since time immemorial. 

Sanctuary Forest is a non-profit organization in Whitethorn that works with residents to install water tanks funded by grants. In exchange, residents agree to stop pumping water in summer months, when low flows threaten fish that can be trapped in disconnected pools.

The Salmonid Restoration Federation in Eureka is working to expand this voluntary water conservation program to Redwood Creek, another Southern Humboldt stream that is heavily impacted by diversions.

For more info:

Salmonid Restoration Federation’s Redwood Creek Low-Flow Monitoring:

The most recent flow monitoring in Redwood Creek (Southern Humboldt) occurred on October 6. Out of the 9 sites monitored, only two sites have flows. Both of these sites are located on the mainstem Redwood Creek and have a slight increase in flows since they were last monitored (Sept 22). SRF's field monitor noted that the few remaining alive fish are trapped in small pools.

Salmonid Restoration Federation’s Redwood Creek Water Conservation Project:

The ongoing challenge of low water flows has galvanized many concerned residents and stakeholders in Southern Humboldt County to raise a challenging question: How can we become more resilient in a time of drought, and what can we do to keep more water in the rivers, tributaries, and streams so that people and fish have enough to survive?

Sanctuary Forest’s Storage and Forbearance programis for landowners in critical reaches of the Mattole River headwaters and tributaries. This innovative, voluntary partnership helps landowners get the water storage capacity they need in order to give up pumping from the river during the critical dry season—and keeps that water flowing when the river needs it most. To date, the program has installed tanks on 30 properties (storing approximately 1.7 millions gallons of water) of willing landowners along two key stretches of the Upper Mattole main stem.