Activist Corner

24th Annual Coho Confab on the South Fork Eel River

Cedar Creek and the South Fork Eel.
The Coho Confab will be held at the confluence of Cedar Creek and the South Fork Eel. Cal Trout is leading a fish passage barrier removal project on Cedar Creek that will open up nine miles of habitat. Photo courtesy SRF

Evolving Strategies to Enhance Coho Salmon Habitat

Salmonid Restoration Federation

Salmonid Restoration Federation (SRF) is coordinating the 24th Annual Coho Confab that will take place September 9–11, 2022 on the South Fork Eel River in Mendocino County. This year’s Coho Confab will be held at the Rangjung Gomde Buddhist Retreat Center, which is nestled in the forests where the spectacular Cedar Creek enters the South Fork Eel River. This is the ideal tranquil location to safely meet outdoors while we continue to be mindful and practice COVID protocols. This will largely be an outdoor event, and we are requiring proof of vaccination and booster shots / recent test results. Due to the uptick in COVID cases in Humboldt and Mendocino counties, we will strongly encourage all Confab registrants to get tested prior to the event.

The Coho Confab is a field symposium to learn about watershed restoration and techniques to restore and recover coho salmon populations. The Confab provides an opportunity to network with other fish-centric people and to participate in field tours that highlight innovative salmon restoration practices. This year, SRF is collaborating with several groups to produce this educational event, including Cal Trout, the Eel River Critical Observatory Zone, Redwood Forest Foundation, Pacific Watershed Associates, NOAA Fisheries, CDFW, Trout Unlimited, and other restoration partners.

Gomde Buddhist Retreat Center
The South Fork Eel River near the Rangjung Gomde Buddhist Retreat Center. Photo source gomdeca.org

The Coho Confab will open Friday evening, September 9, with a community dinner and inspiring orientation presentations. Gabe Rossi, PhD, UC Berkeley Post-doctorate, and David Dralle, PhD, Research Hydrologist, will co-present Understanding and Recovering the Drivers of Salmon Productivity and Resilience in the South Fork Eel River. This co-presentation will draw from their vast experience doing research in Elder Creek in the Angelo Reserve in Branscomb. Darren Mierau of Cal Trout will also give a keynote presentation titled How Many Coho Salmon Did, Does, Could the South Fork Eel River Produce?

On Saturday, there will be three full-day tours including a rugged tour of Anderson Creek led by Tom Leroy of Pacific Watershed Associates highlighting paired road decommissioning and wood loading. This tour is not for the faint of heart, and will include strenuous hiking in the Anderson Creek watershed to see various phases of wood loading.

Gabe Rossi and David Dralle will lead a full-day tour of the Angelo Reserve Eel River Critical Observatory, base of a multi-disciplinary research collaborative that studies hydrologic processes from the treetops to bedrock. This tour will “focus on watershed hydrology—following a raindrop through the critical zone, and showing folks with tree and vadose zone monitoring equipment at the Reserve—and it ends with a discussion of the ‘consequences’ of that hydrology on salmon,” according to Rossi.

The third tour option on Saturday will be an Upper South Fork Coho Restoration Variety Tour led by Anna Halligan of Trout Unlimited and Isaac Mikus of Eel River Watershed Improvement Group to visit a variety of restoration projects in the upper reaches of the South Fork Eel.

The Open Forum on Saturday evening will describe work of the Salmon Habitat and Restoration Prioritization Program (SHaRP) that has primarily focused on the South Fork of the Eel River. This forum will include presentations by Coho Recovery Coordinator Julie Weeder, and CDFW SHaRP representatives Allan Renger and Kaydee Bouzel, as well as a lively group discussion.

The last day of the Confab will offer a tour of the Cal Trout Cedar Creek Barrier Removal project that will be under construction and will open up nine miles of Chinook, coho, and steelhead habitat in this significant cool-water refugia creek. Additionally, Gabe Rossi and Stillwater Sciences will lead a workshop and tour on Pikeminnow and Salmonids in the South Fork Eel that will explore interactions, ecology, and management, including a visit to the Indian Creek weir. The final tour will be of Usal Creek Watershed with Redwood Forest Foundation, Pacific Watershed Associates, and Trout Unlimited.

To register for the Confab or to view the full agenda, please visit this website: www.calsalmon.org