Sunday, October 14, 2012

Cherish the Chetco — a success!

By all accounts, “Cherish the Chetco,” a 2-day river event held on Sept. 21-22, 2012 was a great success. It was co-sponsored by Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest and South Coast Watersheds, and many public agencies, community groups, and volunteers pitched in to help out.

On Friday evening, the library was packed. Noted author and river expert Tim Palmer spoke and showed slides about the history of the National Wild & Scenic Rivers program, which protects the Chetco and three other Curry County rivers (Elk, Rogue, Illinois), and he explained the special significance of the Chetco.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Invitation to Cherish the Chetco: Sept. 21st & 22nd.

South Coast Watersheds and the U.S. Forest Service are co-sponsoring a community river event—Cherish the Chetco--to promote stewardship of the National Wild & Scenic Chetco River. Everyone is welcome.

The event will kick off on Friday Sept. 21 at 7pm with “Wild Rivers Night” at Chetco Library in Brookings, featuring noted river author and photographer Tim Palmer, speaking about the Wild & Scenic Rivers system, and biologist adventurer Slade Sapora showing slides from his recent kayak trek down the Chetco.

On Saturday, Sept. 22, there will be activities up river all day.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Return to the Chetco

This week Zach Collier and friends explored the lower gorge of the National Wild and Scenic Chetco River in inflatable kayaks. On their last trip they took out above this challenging part of the Scenic River Area. So they came back. Only this time instead of 1300 cfs (June 15, 2011), the flow was 90 cfs!

Conehead Rapid on the lower gorge of the Wild and Scenic Chetco River, Northwest Rafting Co. photo

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Invasive species and our rivers and watersheds

Click here to enlarged Jack Ohman's cartoon.
new Oregon Sea Grant report found that teachers and classrooms may be vectors for invasive species. According to the research, one in four teachers who use live animals in the classroom release them into the wild. Read about the report at Breaking Waves and indelibly stamp Jack Ohman's cartoon on your minds.

The problem of invasive species is serious, national and local. It affects us right here in Southwest Oregon. Read more below about the efforts of volunteers and agencies to prevent the spread of a highly invasive plant in the Illinois Valley. We also provide links to government websites about the threats that invasive species pose to the State of Oregon, including invasive marine aquatic species from the Japanese tsunami debris. Watch Oregon Field Guide's program on the problems that common gold fish are causing when released into our streams and lakes.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Saving the Chetco River, salmon ecology 101

The recent Frontline documentary Alaska Gold chronicles many heroic and inspiring stories in the struggle to save Bristol Bay and its wild watershed from a mega copper mine. We provide a link to another one below. Bristol Bay serves as a reminder that the job of protecting our own wild salmon river from mining is far from done.

The Chetco River Protection Act has not been passed into law and the Forest Service's proposed temporary mineral withdraw still faces many hurdles before it's even decided on by the Secretary of Interior. If these efforts fail, we could once again be faced with proposals to mine the entire length of the Chetco—from Boulder Creek to the Forest Service boundary. Please go to How to Help and send a reminder to Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley that we need their help. Go ahead. Please nag the Senators for the Chetco and read about "salmon ecology 101" and what others are doing below.

Recently hatched salmon and salmon eggs from Pebble Science's Salmon Ecology 101.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Hatchery salmon threaten wild populations, scientists say

All the citizens and organizations writing the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife out of concern over the high percentage of hatchery salmon allowed on the Chetco are to be congratulated for standing up for the river's exceptional wild salmon populations. Here's an excerpt from a new post, "Hatchery salmon threaten wild populations, scientist say," on Breaking Waves, Oregon Sea Grant's news blog that provides even more science supporting the need to reduce hatchery supplementation:

Watch Frontline documentary—citizens fighting to preserve one of the world's greatest salmon fisheries

If you missed it on PBS, you can watch Frontline's Alaska Gold in full online. Frontline's website contains other resources of interest too. Go to Alaska Gold. The documentary is about great salmon watersheds, how they work and people coming together to protect one of the world's greatest salmon runs. It equally presents the multinational mining company's arguments to develop a mega mine in the watershed. The footage is excellent. The film inspiring. Highly recommended.

Photo courtesy of Felt Soul's Red Gold website. See the Red Gold trailer below.
This is how frontline describes the documentary:

Celebrate our beautiful undammed rivers

Here on the Wild Rivers Coast we are blessed with the most beautiful productive, undammed salmon rivers between the Olympics and Baja.  As river lovers like Phyllis Clausen celebrate the removal of dams on their rivers, it should be a reminder to celebrate and take care of our free flowing rivers—the Elk, Chetco, Illinois and Smith River—and their wild watersheds.

Phyllis Clausen celebrates the removal of the Condit Dam on the White Salmon River.
Below are two powerful short videos about dam removal—one the trailer for DamNation, a new documentary by Felt Soul on dam removal and the other Andy Maser's short film for Outside Magazine on the spectacular removal of the Condit Dam on the White Salmon River.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Support Chetco River's wild chinook salmon—one day left

The Chetco River's chinook salmon are legendary. Preserving the river's wild fish populations and the habitat that sustains them should be the highest priority.

Native fish and wild river advocates are urged to send a short email to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife by Friday June 29th asking them to make the management of hatchery populations in the Chetco consistent with other coastal rivers.  Currently the agency's draft fall chinook conservation plan allows for a much higher percentage of hatchery fish in the Chetco River—out of all other populations in the Rogue Species Management Unit (SMU)  If you can't make the Friday deadline, comments submitted by Sunday, July 1st should still count.

To make it easy, we've provided a sample paragraph (below) that you can just copy and paste and the email address of where your comment should be sent. It will only take you a few minutes to help preserve the integrity and health of the Chetco's famed wild chinook salmon runs.

Map of ODFW's Rogue Fall Chinook Species Management Unit (SMU).

Monday, June 4, 2012

ODFW's Draft Fall Chinook Salmon Conservation Plan

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife have released their draft conservation plan for fall chinook salmon in the Rogue Basin and the coastal rivers and streams between Euchre Creek and the California border. It includes Chetco, Winchuck and Pistol Rivers. The Elk River will be part of the Coastal Fall Chinook Species Management Unit.  The public comment period for the Rogue/Chetco SMU closes June 30th. There are two public meetings between 7:00 to 9:00 p.m.:
  • Grants Pass: June 5 at the Marie Hill Conference Room, 510 NW 4th Street.
  • Brookings: June 7 in the Council Chambers of Brookings at City Hall, 898 Elk Drive.
 The draft plan and an executive summary are available at ODFW's website, along with other information, and will also be available at the meetings.

A nice chinook salmon caught during the Labor Day Ocean Salmon Derby at Brookings/Harbor.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Proposed Chetco withdrawal wildly popular in Oregon

We wrote earlier that local support for the proposed "withdrawal in aid of legislation" for 5,610 acres of the Wild and Scenic Chetco River was overwhelming. At the Bureau of Land Management's Brookings Oregon October 26th hearing—90 percent favored the measure, with only about 10 percent in opposition. Until now, however, we didn't know just how wildly popular the proposal is with Oregonians, and people across the nation.

Mining on the National Wild and Scenic Illinois River in 2011. These are small dredges operating under the State of Oregon's general 700 PM permit.  Now imagine the impacts of mining 15 miles of the Chetco River with dredges weighing up to one ton, with six mining operations each mining up to 470 cubic yards of streambed per year for 10 years. Rich Nawa photo.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Businesses and communities caring for salmon rivers and watersheds

"Now the most important right we have is the right to be responsible." 
These are the words of Gerrald Amus, Kitimat Village elder, from Patagonia's new video about the Skeena River, its salmon fisheries and the communities along it. Patagonia is an outdoor clothing company that's demonstrated business can be ethical, promote conservation and sustainability and be profitable at the same time. Now working with the First Nations of the Skeena, they're beginning a new venture—salmon products.

Port Orford Ocean Resource Team's 2011 Water Festival.  Ocean Resource Team photo.

By their nature, the salmon and steelhead fisheries, the watersheds and the communities of the Chetco River and Oregon's Wild Rivers Coast are different from those in British Columbia. But perhaps this beginning on the Skeena River can serve as added impetus for finding our own unique ways to preserve and restore the watersheds and wild fisheries of the Elk, Illinois, Chetco and Smith Rivers and grow healthy communities at the same time. See Patagonia's thought provoking video below and read about some of inspiring work that's already happening on the Wild Rivers Coast.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Prominent scientists speak for protecting Chetco River

Writing in the Oregonian Jack Williams and Mike Dombeck, two of the nation's most prominent fisheries scientists and conservationists, urge Congress to take advantage of the second chance that's been given the Wild and Scenic Chetco River and its wild salmon, steelhead and cutthroat trout. They write:

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Chetco River Family Day May 12th

The Chetco River Watershed Council and the local Wild Rivers Chapter of Trout Unlimited are sponsoring: Family Day on the Chetco River. Come and enjoy a day at Loeb State Park on Saturday May 12th, 2012 starting at 11:00 a.m. and ending at 3:00 p.m. Free hot dogs and soda will be served from 11:00 to 2:00 as well as free drift boat trips for the entire family. Life vests are provided for the drift boat trips.

Drift boats on the Chetco River.  Chetco River Watershed Council Photo
This event will provide an opportunity to ask questions about the health of the Chetco River and learn about the aquatic ecosystem and water quality measurements from biologists. Heavy rain will cancel the event. For additional information call (541) 661-1820.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Claim forfeiture: Saving a river, saving taxpayer money

This idyllic reach of  the upper  Chetco River below Mislatnah Creek will be permanently protected from mining if Congress passes the Chetco River Protection Act before July 2013. Ann Vileisis photo.
The recent forfeiture of nearly 20 miles of mining claims on the Wild and Scenic Chetco River means the effort to permanently protect this world-class salmon and steelhead river just got a whole lot easier. It also means there's a significant savings for the taxpayer with the potential for more. However, to take full advantage of this rare opportunity, Congress needs to pass the Chetco River Protection Act before July of next year. Learn how you can help.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

"Float" the beautiful Chetco River

The National Wild and Scenic Chetco River provides world-class salmon and steelhead fishing and exceptionally pure domestic water supplies for Brookings and Harbor. But it also offers it's own memorable brand of high quality recreational opportunities that are hard to find elsewhere. One reason is there are few entirely free flowing rivers with such a high percentage of their watershed in Wilderness or Roadless Area condition.

Motorized boats are prohibited on the Wild and Scenic  Chetco River for a high quality recreation experience

Another is the foresight of river planners and the public who supported the prohibition of motorized boats on the Wild and Scenic segments of the Chetco. We're reminded of how special this makes the Chetco by last year's video of Floating the Chetco River (below) and a commercial outfitter who counts efforts to protect the river and the public's enjoyment of it as a plus for his business and the world-class experience he can provide his clients. He writes:

Monday, March 5, 2012

Chetco River salmon in amazing underwater video

Photographer Thomas Dunklin shares this beautiful new video of the Wild and Scenic Chetco River's chinook salmon. See below for references and links to articles about the importance of native fish populations.

Friday, February 10, 2012

SONCC Coho Recovery Plan comment period extended

NOAA Fisheries announced they've extended the comment period for the South Oregon Northern California Coast Coho Draft Recovery Plan another 60 days. The new deadline for comments is May 4, 2012.  For links to the plan and specific chapters for the Elk, Chetco and Smith River click here. For the official notice of comment period extension and where to send your comments click here.

Chetco River Revisited: A rare glimpse of a wild river

Senators Ron Wyden, Jeff Merkley and Representative Peter DeFazio introduced the Chetco River Protection Act in 2011. It's based on recommendations the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest made to Congress in 1993.  One of the recommendations is to reclassify two miles of the Wild and Scenic Chetco River from "Scenic" to "Wild."

Get a  unique preview of this beautiful, seldom seen stretch river between Boulder and Mislatnah Creek as Allen Wilson, Tim Palmer, Ann Vileisis and Oregon Field Guide go against the flow in an up river journey on, "Chetco River Revisited."

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Chetco River named core population in draft SONCC coho recovery plan, but they're at high risk of extinction

On January 5, 2012, the National Marine Fisheries Service released the draft recovery plan for Southern Oregon/Northern California Coast Coho Salmon (SONCC Coho Salmon). The public now has an opportunity to review the plan and submit comments.  Comments must be received by 5:00 p.m. on May 4th, 2012. The Federal Register Notice with more about how to comment is available here.  The SONCC Coho Salmon Recovery Plan is available online here.

Northern extent of SONCC Coho Salmon Evolutionary Significant Unit. The Chetco River core population area is outlined in red. The Elk, Illinois and Smith River were also designated core populations.

Wild Chetco inspires new ATV inflatable kayak

In June of last year, four intrepid kayakers packed gear and boats 8 rugged miles into the heart of the Kalmiopsis Wilderness to run the Wild Chetco River.  Zach Collier of Northwest Rafting Company writes:
After running the wilderness section of the Chetco River last June I was inspired to design a new SOTAR inflatable kayak that could carry overnight gear. I also wanted a boat that would act more like a small raft rather than a traditional inflatable kayak. My friend Billy Miller paddled an Alpaca on our trip and I noticed some advantages to the larger and non-diminishing tubes.
Billy Miller in the boof. Wild Chetco River, Kalmiopsis Wilderness, June 2007. Zach Collier photo.
 Read more about the design process for the ATV.  See video of their trip here.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Chetco River, 20 pound steelhead caught and released

Kudos to John Sellers and guide Tony Sepulveda for their decision to release this beautiful 20-pound wild Chetco River steelhead on January 18th. The Chetco, with almost half of its watershed in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness and 78 percent in National Forest or BLM lands, has proven it's priceless once more. The river was recently featured in a New York Times Guest Opinion A Mining Law Whose Time Has Passed, co-authored by fisheries scientist Robert Hughes.

Guide Tony Sepulveda (left) and John Sellers with 20 pound Chetco River steelhead.

FishWithJD describes the discussion to release the fish to keep its genetics in the gene pool:

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Chetco River on New York Times Opinion Page

In "A Mining Law Whose Time Has Passed," fisheries scientists Robert M. Hughes and Carol Ann Woody use the Chetco River as one example of the need for reform of the 1872 Mining Law. Their Op-Ed, which appears on the Opinion Page of the January 11, 2012 New York Times, states:
The river’s gin-clear waters teem with wild trout and salmon, including giant Chinook salmon tipping scales at more than 60 pounds. In 1988, Congress designated the Chetco a national wild and scenic river “to be protected for the benefit of present and future generations.
But the river is now threatened by proposals to mine gold along almost half of its approximately 55-mile length. Suction dredges would vacuum up the river bottom searching for gold, muddying water and disrupting clean gravel that salmon need to spawn. Despite the Chetco’s rich fishery and status as a wild and scenic river, the United States Forest Service is virtually powerless to stop the mining because of the 1872 law.
Mikey Weir fishing for winter steelhead on Wild & Scenic Chetco River.
Hughes and Woody say the need for a comprehensive overhaul of the 1872 mining law is demonstrated by stopgap measures like those of members of the Oregon Congressional delegation to provide additional protection for the Chetco River, despite it's status as a National Wild and Scenic River.