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Counties’ salmon program poised for new federal initiative
John Driscoll, Times Standard 9/3/05
A new federal initiative to open up streams and rivers blocked to salmon seems almost custom fit for a Northern California effort that has projects lined up and waiting for funding.

The Five Counties Salmonid Restoration Program could quickly benefit from President Bush’s Open Rivers Initiative. The program has completed 40 projects and opened up miles of habitat for salmon and steelhead -- and has another 16 projects being designed.

Restoration program director Mark Lancaster said the funding available for the nationwide initiative may be $6 million to $8 million yearly, though the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said the funding would be based on need.

”We’re well set up to actually be able to work with that money,” Lancaster said. “The timing is ideal.”

The program in Humboldt, Del Norte, Mendocino, Trinity and Siskiyou counties has been a model for barrier removal. Projects have been prioritized, and the California Coastal Commission has granted the program nearly $500,000 to design, permit and engineer the projects.

Most of the barriers the program deals with are salmon-blocking culverts on county roads, although it also deals with a range of habitat improvement issues. It may best be known for fixing a culvert on the Jacoby Creek tributary Morrison Gulch, which became a poster project for the program when dozens of salmon flooded up the creek the year the barrier was removed.

”It’s really a jump-start for a lot of these programs where we can just move down the list and get some of the priorities done,” said Leah Mahan in NOAA’s California Restoration Center.

The Open Rivers Initiative will consider all barriers, including small dams that communities want torn down. But NOAA is clear that its not interested in funding controversial efforts.

The agency will release a request for proposals this fall, Mahan said. The submissions will be evaluated and a request made to Congress. The president’s budget -- issued in February for the coming fiscal year -- will determine the amount the initiative will have to work with.




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