Archive for the ‘Fall River News’ Category

New Vision, New Leadership and New Reasons to Give!

/ June 18th, 2014 / Comments Off on New Vision, New Leadership and New Reasons to Give!

Introducing New FRC Board President Dave Powell, Sr.

The start of fishing season and the start of spring always represent a shift in mindset and activity. With the Fall River Conservancy, this change is welcome and represents new opportunities to expand our conservation reach while reflecting upon the roots that david-powell-srhave been laid down to date. The Fall River Conservancy is embracing change with a new vision for the Conservancy supported by our new Board President Dave Powell, Senior.

Dave has long loved and supported the conservation of the Fall River since he began fishing the river in 1980. After a life time of stream wading, the Fall River was a whole new ball game, one that Dave embraced. Dave and his family purchased their home on the upper Fall River in the mid-90’s and have developed a deep appreciation for the valley and its people, culture and economy since that time. In 2011, Dave joined the Fall River Conservancy and has been an active Board Member to date. We hope you will join us in welcoming him in this new role.

Lasting Impression and Legacy from Former FRC Board President Raymond Christensen

Erin Donley and FRC board member Ray Christensen at the USDA Lab

Erin Donley and Former FRC Board President Ray Christensen at the USDA Lab

This change also marks the occasion to reflect upon the immense impression that has been made by outgoing Board President Raymond Christensen. The Fall River Conservancy has been led under the care and knowledgeable eye of Ray since its inception. Without the vision and unwavering commitment from Ray and founding Board Member Art Teter, the Fall River Conservancy would not be as successful as it is today. The Conservancy was given legs through generous support not only monetarily but in countless hours of time from Ray who has led the Fall River Conservancy, its partners and concerned anglers in making substantial steps towards conserving and re-invigorating our beloved fishery.

As Board President, Ray had a hands-on approach, over-seeing and successfully leading the Conservancy’s efforts on invasive aquatic plant management, wild trout monitoring, and riparian restoration. It is safe to say that Ray is leaving some big shoes to fill, though we are fortunate that Ray will continue his work as an active Board Member.

New Reasons to Give at Fall River Conservancy Benefit Dinner & Auction

One of the first charges of new President Dave Powell is leading the 2nd annual Fall River Conservancy Benefit Dinner and Auction. The event this year will be held at the prestigious Family Club in San Francisco on September 18th from 6PM-9PM, and will be a time to celebrate our successes and solidify funding for future projects. Our last fundraiser in 2012 was a memorable night with some excellent live auction items such as fly-fishing trips on the Fall River, Hat Creek and Trinity River. This year’s live auction items are shaping up to be enticing offerings of guided trips, behind-the-scene tours and cottage stays on some of the most beautiful parts of California’s best fly-fishing rivers. We hope all of you are able to join us for this fun event this coming September to support the lands, river and cultural heritage of the beautiful Fall River.

 

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Fall River Conservancy: Imparting the values of watershed conservation

/ June 18th, 2014 / Comments Off on Fall River Conservancy: Imparting the values of watershed conservation

The Next Generation of River Stewards

 The Fall River Valley is uniquely rich in cultural and geographic history that places people and the river as distinctively dependent upon each other. As significant as is the past, the future of this relationship between the river and the people will be shaped and defined by today’s generation. Research suggests that the youth of today spend nearly half as much time enjoying and appreciating the great outdoors as children 20 year ago. Fortunately many children that grow up in the Fall River Valley are able to spend significant time outdoors, though this is not the case across the board. Further there is a case to be made that “directed” outdoor time, i.e. direct mentorship with knowledgeable resource professionals, helps to provide meaning and context to time spent enjoying the bountiful beauty of the area.picture of planting                                  Senior Project Students planting shrubs with Fall River Conservancy staff

FRC Mentors Students and Offers High School Scholarships

Over the 2013/2014 school year, the Fall River Conservancy gave back to the community and invested in the next generation of conservationists by providing conservation and watershed stewardship focused Senior Projects with the Fall River Junior and Senior High School. Three senior students completed their 20-hour senior project with the Conservancy, and gave back to their local river in a meaningful way. Senior Project Advisor Kenneth Howes, English Teacher at Fall River Junior and Senior High School, commented at the conclusion of the Senior Projects that those offered by the Fall River Conservancy were, “substantive and life-altering”. One student, Clay Brock will be studying Watershed Science at Shasta College in the fall in part due to his time with the Conservancy.

_DSC3496Senior Project Student lending a hand at the Wild Trout Monitoring Research Program

 

Senior Project Accomplishments

Senior project students learned about the unique geo

logic and aquatic history of the river and the wild trout that rely on it. Many students were unaware of the significance of the Fall River as California’s largest spring-fed river and cold water refugia for wild trout. Students also learned about some of the ecological issues effecting the Fall River such as degrading stream-banks, aquatic and terrestrial invasive species, lack of riparian vegetation, etc.dg

Colin Vestal focused his Senior Project on invasive aquatic species, and aided the FRC in installing a new kiosk on the CalTrout access property on the Fall River. Colin also developed an informative pamphlet about the aquatic invasive species found in the Fall River and the pamphlet will be made available on the new CalTrout kiosk.

Clay Brock and David Putalluz focused their Senior Projects on stream-bank restoration. Clay aided in planting and caging all of the plantings at the CalTrout property on the Fall River. This pilot restoration project was important to determine what type of riparian plants would survive in the riparian area of the Fall River. Clay and David caged the plantings to prevent beaver and muskrat damage, and also provided weeding maintenance to reduce competition to the new plants.

David also attended one of the Fall River Conservancy’s PIT Wild Trout Tagging days in April. David, a young angler, was a part of the crew of researchers from UC David and Department of Fish and Wildlife scientists who partnered with FRC to tag wild trout. It was a memorable experience for David and for FRC.

Scholarship for Future Watershed Stewards

In support of the great work done by the Senior Project students, and to help students pursuing continuing education in Natural Resource Conservation, the Fall River Conservancy established a scholarship fund. The scholarship was offered at both high schools in the Fall River Joint Unified School District, and was awarded to Clay Brock at FRHS and Gabriella Villarruel at BHS. Both Clay and Gabby will be attending Shasta College in the fall to study Watershed Management and Wildlife Biology respectively. Both students reflect the values and mission of the Fall River Conservancy and we wish them the very best in their future studies.  The mission of the Fall River Conservancy is to preserves the lands, waters, and cultural heritage of Northern California’s Fall River Valley, and we feel that supporting today’s youth is an important part of achieving our mission.

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FRC Wild Trout Monitoring Program Reveals Two Genetically Distinct Rainbow Trout Populations

/ June 18th, 2014 / Comments Off on FRC Wild Trout Monitoring Program Reveals Two Genetically Distinct Rainbow Trout Populations

Round 4 of PIT Tagging and Genetic Analysis: 1000 Wild Trout Tagged to Date

Before the start of the 2014 fishing season began, the Fall River Conservancy and its partners California Trout, the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife successfully completed round 4 of tagging wild trout for the Fall River Wild Trout PIT Tagging Program. Using an innovative Memorandum of Understanding with UC Davis, California Trout played a key leadership role in this unique partnership. Collaboratively the team of researchers, scientists, and conservationists tagged over 500 Wild Trout with passive integrated responders, or P.I.T. tags, that help researcher’s track the movement of fish throughout the river. This will help identify key spawning and rearing habitat for future restoration projects.

For each fish, fork length was measured, a photograph was taken, a uniquely identifiable PIT Tag was inserted and a small fin clip was taken for genetic analysis.  The most recent round of Wild Trout PIT Tagging, has brought the total number of wild trout tagged to over 1000. With only two recaptures to date, there is a sense of how expansive (and elusive) the Fall River’s wild trout population is. The fish are then released unharmed at the same location they were captured.

Read on to learn about early findings from UC Davis regarding the movement of trout in the system and genetic sequencing analysis.

_DSC3368CalDFW Boat Electro-fishing

PIT Tag Antenna Arrays Track Trout Movement

Two PIT tag antenna arrays were installed in early spring 2014 (think FasTrak bridge toll plaza) at two strategic locations to track the movement of rainbow trout in the system: one was installed just below the Thousands Springs spawning area and the second at the mouth of Bear Creek.

Although the antenna arrays were installed relatively late in the spawning season, we still recorded dozens of fish moving into the spawning areas and then back out into the main system. Early findings of fish movement so far:

  • Approximately 2/3 of the fish we recorded moved though the Thousands Springs array and
  • 1/3 fish moved into Bear Creek.
  • Each movement record has a precise date and time. The PIT tags that were inserted into the fish remain functional for years so many thousand movements will be recorded during the next several years.

These data will allow us to answer many interesting and important questions such as:

  1. Do the same fish return the same spawning location year after year?
  2. What is the distribution of spawning times throughout the year?
  3. Does an individual fish tend to spawn at similar dates year after year or can the same fish spawn at very different dates in different years?
  4. To what extent can one fish spawn multiple times in the same season?

_DSC3384CalTrout Mt. Shasta Conservation Director Andrew Braugh with CalDFW

 Genetically distinct Fall River Wild Trout: Cutting Edge DNA Sequencing

A key objective of this project is to determine if there are two genetically distinct populations of wild rainbow trout  in the Fall River.  So far we have generated genetic data from approximately 200 of the sampled fish.  For each fish, UC Davis researchers isolated DNA from its fin clip and then used cutting-edge DNA sequencing technology to decode its genetic information. We use computer algorithms to sort through the millions of bases of DNA sequence from each fish to identify positions in the DNA sequence that are variable i.e. different fish have different DNA variants at the same genomic location. Both demographic and adaptive events leave traces on patterns of genetic variation so examining this variation can reveal much about historic and recent events that have influenced Fall River rainbow trout.

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Initial Genetic Analysis Findings:

The most obvious and striking result from our initial genetic analysis is that the Fall River contains two very genetically distinct populations of rainbow trout.

  • These races essentially behave as independent populations with very little genetic exchange.
  • By cross referencing the genetics with  movement and collection location data, we determined that one population corresponds to fish that reproduce in Bear Creek and the other is fish that spawn within the spring-fed system.

 Another interesting result is that these two populations are not only genetically differentiated, but the genetic patterns demonstrate they are also adaptively differentiated with distinct growth rates:

  • Fish from the Bear Creek population contain gene variants that will make them grow faster than the spring-fed population. This is likely necessary to compensate for the colder water temperatures experienced by Bear Creek fish early in their life.

   These results are only the tip of the iceberg as far as what will be unveiled as our genetic data collection and analysis are expended. Stay tuned for future FRC updates to stay abreast as this ground-breaking research project unfolds.

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Invasive Muskrats and FRC Management Actions

/ January 21st, 2014 / Comments Off on Invasive Muskrats and FRC Management Actions

Muskrats: An Invasive Species to the Fall River

One of the factors leading to the degradation of the water quality in The Fall River and damage to grazing and rice fields is the presence of Muskrats.  Muskrats are not native to Northern California.  They were introduced in the early twentieth century by fur traders, some of whom started muskrat farms in the Fall River Valley for commercial benefit.  When these ventures proved to be unmanageable and unsuccessful the farmers released hundreds of muskrats from their pens and the rest is history.  It is believed that many thousands of muskrats live in the valley along stream beds, in ponds, and in or around rice fields.  Muskrats live in dens in river banks and rice levies and bore holes through the levies and river banks to access their dens which causes severe erosion (and subsequent siltation) and damage to native vegetation

Fall River Conservancy and USDA Muskrat Management Actions

Among several key initiatives, The Fall River Conservancy has placed a high priority on the reduction of the muskrat population for the aforementioned reasons.  Each year a female will give birth to at least a dozen kits, perhaps more, so keeping the population under control is not easy.  Working with the USDA northern region, the Conservancy has provided funding to reduce the population through lethal humane harvesting methods.  There are also at least two commercial fur trappers who work the Fall River Valley and Hat Creek.  The estimate of kills from the USDA team is four hundred in 2013 and the trappers have reported approximately twenty-four hundred for 2013.  Of course local ranchers and citizens account for an unknown number of Muskrat kills annually.  Our best estimate of recent population reduction is from thirty-five hundred to four thousand harvested Muskrats annually.

Based solely on personal observation, those of us who are lucky enough to spend time on the river, as well as our USDA partners, believe the Muskrat population is being brought under control…but there’s a long way to go

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FRC Looks Forward to Research and Management Actions 2014

/ December 14th, 2013 / Comments Off on FRC Looks Forward to Research and Management Actions 2014

2014 Management Decisions Grounded in Research and Science

Many important programs implemented by the Fall River Conservancy in 2012 and 2013 are research orientated and are designed to help inform the discussion of what limiting factors are impacting the ecosystem and watershed of the Fall River. The Fall River Conservancy follows the model that best management decisions are grounded and informed by sound science.

Armed with watershed-wide research and partnerships with UC Davis Watershed Sciences Center, Chico State, California Trout, Fall River RCD, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, USDA, among others, FRC future conservation and management decisions will be well-informed. Integral to ensuring that our management is constantly adapted and modeled off of the most recent research, we will continue to fund existing research projects on the Fall River and look to expand to new research projects to answer emerging questions.

Water Quality Monitoring Equipment Purchased with Grant Funding from the Shasta Regional Community Foundation

Water Quality Monitoring Equipment Purchased with Grant Funding from the Shasta Regional Community Foundation

Fall River Stream-bank and Riparian Restoration

Two of the most concerning watershed-wide limiting factors for healthy wild trout populations on the Fall River are stream-bank erosion and the lack of riparian vegetation. Riparian vegetation is locally sparse and banks are actively eroding due to decades of heavy grazing, burrowing by introduced muskrats, and foot FRC_streambanktraffic.

Habitat Restoration Objectives

  1. Improve and protect water quality and quantity
  2. Sustain and improve aquatic and riparian (river bank) habitat
  3. Restore and improve stream channel and river bed
  4. Improve health and abundance of wild trout populations and other priority species

 

Stream-bank Erosion Factors

Late 19th and 20th century disturbances related to Euro-American settlement and land use including heavy streamside cattle grazing likely simplified and reduced the density of the riparian plant community. The introduction of muskrats to the system has greatly impacted stream bank stability through heavy tunneling by the species. Active restoration in many sections of the Fall River is needed to protect eroding stream banks and restore native riparian vegetation degraded from past land use. In addition to providing bank stabilization, riparian plantings are designed to form dense root networks in the stream margin to discourage muskrat bank tunneling, trap sediment, and provide cover for native wildlife.

Invasive Species

Along the Fall River, there are several invasive species present that could pose a threat to the long term health of native plant communities. In the riparian zone and the upland flood-plain, the invasive weeds reed canary grass (Phalaris arundinacea), quackgrass (Elymus repens) and yellow star thistle (Centaurea solstitialis), among other, have all been found. By re-planting and re-establishing the native riparian vegetation along the Fall River the increased diversity will help to restore the health of the ecosystem.

 

Proposed 2014 Management Actions

In response to eroding stream-banks, lack of riparian vegetation and invasive species, the Fall River Conservancy is actively working towards a watershed-wide Fall River Riparian Management Plan. With recent stream-bank planting activities on the CalTrout Property off of Island Road, the FRC hopes to learn more about what native shrub and riparian species do best, and what rodent management practices (above and underground caging) are most effective.

Stream-bank revetment: Willow Spiling

Many stream-bank restoration projects call for heavy armoring or revetment that use heavy equipment, heavy armoring (rock, concrete) and even channel modification. Current research suggests that working with the ecosystem rather than against it tends to encourage natural and lasting results. One stream-bank restoration methodology utilized for centuries that is seeing a recent revitalization in the Restoration Ecology community, is the use of bio-engineering and willow revetment processes to help restore eroding stream-banks.

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The process of willow spiling, creates a wall of willows that help to revet and armor the bank, and introduces native riparian vegetation bank to the ecosystem. By weaving willow “whips” or cuttings into the banks of the river while they are dormant in the spring, they put down root and grow together to form a natural wall of protection. As the willows grow together they form a dense network of roots and branches that cover the previously bare banks. The Fall River Conservancy is looking to complete a pilot willow spiling project in the Spring 2014 to determine and study the efficacy of this method for the Fall River system.

Check back with the Fall River Conservancy to find out more about new research and management proposals for 2014.

 

 

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Successful Year One of P.I.T. Wild Trout Monitoring Program

/ December 14th, 2013 / Comments Off on Successful Year One of P.I.T. Wild Trout Monitoring Program

Watch Video on Fall River PIT Program!  https://vimeo.com/65069455

This project was funded by The Orvis Company. Learn more about their conservation efforts here: http://www.orvis.com/commitment

FRC Wild Trout Monitoring Program

In 2013 the Fall River Conservancy partnered with the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences, PG&E, California Department of Fish and troutWildlife and California Trout to develop the Fall River Wild Trout Monitoring Program.

The FRC Wild Trout Monitoring Program utilizes Passive Integrated Transponder (PIT) technology and an array system (attenas that can be designed to span stream channels or placed on bridges that record the unique tag number and time each time a PIT tag is recognized by the array) to track the movement of wild trout through-out the Fall River system. This year we tagged 500 Fall River wild trout with unique PIT tags specific to each individual fish, about the size of a grain of rice, that were inserted into the abdominal cavity of the fish. During the tagging process, each fish was measured for length, weight and a small genetic sample clipped from the caudal fin. The genetic samples are being analyzed by UC Davis to determine the genetic lineage of Fall River trout.

 

The purpose of this long-term study is to help answer questions such as: where do Fall River trout spawn? How do trout migrate through-out the Fall River system? Are all Fall River wild trout of the same genetic line?

troutnight

2013 PIT Wild Trout Monitoring Program Dates:

  • The PIT Monitoring Program was launched on April 23, 2013 with the group of researchers and professionals tagging 250 wild trout.
  • On July 16th, FRC and its partners led a second round of PIT tagging to bring the total number of trout tagged and sampled for genetics to 500 for the PIT Wild Trout Monitoring Program.

colbypit

2014 PIT Wild Trout Monitoring:

  • Spring 2014- UC Davis Watershed Sciences Center will lead all partners in a third round of wild trout tagging before the open of fishing season. This will bring the total amount of wild trout tagged up to 750 at least.
  • Summer and Fall 2014- Install arrays along strategic locations of the Fall River to begin the tracking of the wild trout through-out the system

   carsonPIT

 Purpose of the Study

 The purpose of this study is to,

  1. Identify key spawning and rearing habitat for protection and restoration
  2. Determine how wild trout utilize existing habitat conditions throughout their life history
  3. Pin point sources of mortality and impediments to migration
  4. Investigate whether genetically distinct wild trout sub-populations exist
  5. Establish accurate wild trout population estimates
  6. Developing a database of science that can help to inform CDFW regulations

 The information collected through this project will be used to prioritize critical habitat areas for restoration and inform and improve wild trout management throughout the Fall River’s 30 miles interconnected spring-fed tributaries, lakes, and waterways. Accurate and comprehensive baseline PIT data will ensure that future restoration strategies will be grounded in sound science and yield the greatest benefit to trout populations.

Keep tuned in 2014 as the Fall River Conservancy track wild trout through-out the Fall River system.

This project was funded by The Orvis Company. Learn more about their conservation efforts here: http://www.orvis.com/commitment

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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FRC and Chico State Complete Year 1 of Z-Grass Propagation Research

/ December 14th, 2013 / Comments Off on FRC and Chico State Complete Year 1 of Z-Grass Propagation Research

FRC Funds Chico State to Research Z-Grass Restoration Strategies in Fall River

In 2013 the Fall River Conservancy partnered with the Chico State Department of Biological Sciences to discover new methodologies of restoring Zannicheliia palustris (Z-grass) in the Fall River. Lead researcher Dr. Kristina Schierenbeck led a team of researchers on year one of a three-year study to experiment with new re-vegetation methodologies, and also assess the benefits that Z-grass provides for bugs, periphyton, and fish. Read on to discover why Z-grass is so important in the Fall River and what progress the research team accomplished in 2013.

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Why Z-grass?

Zannichellia palustris is an important native aquatic species that has been in decline in the Fall River for many years likely due to over sedimentation (Spencer and Ksander 2002). The decline of Z-grass is one of particular importance because it has a significant positive effect on species diversity and species interactions, providing fish food via invertebrate habitat and refuge from predation, particularly when it is present throughout the water column. Therefore, by encouraging the growth of native aquatic species such as Z-grass, the ecosystem may have a better chance of out-competing aquatic invasive species. Due to the positive role of Z-grass in the food chain of the Fall River, the re-vegetation of Z-grass in the river is a conservation priority for the Fall River Conservancy.

sgraa

 

Research Questions:

1. What are the most successful and cost effective methods of Z. palustris re-vegetation in the Fall River?

2.  Following the establishment of Z. palustris, are there positive effects in fish habitat as measured by invertebrate and periphyton activity?

vegplots

 

Methodologies:

In-stream restoration of aquatic vegetation has not been attempted experimentally, thus preliminary experimentation was needed to establish methodologies for plant propagation. The evaluation of different seeding and planting techniques began with technical trials in the spring and summer of 2013 at Chico State University lab facilities.   About 25,000 seeds were collected and were used for experimentation.  Researchers experimented with germination techniques and examined the effects of temperatures, sediment depth and disturbance, anchoring, and seeding to determine the most efficacious methods for plant establishment.

 

The following planting treatments will be used in the winter of 2013/2014: 

  1. Control (no treatment)chicostatevegplots
  2. Sediment disturbance
  3. Direct seeding without anchoring to the river bottom
  4. Planting young plants without anchoring to the river bottom
  5. Direct seeding with anchoring via a biodegradable fabric anchored with stakes, and
  6. Planting young plants with anchored fabric.

Each of the six treatments will be replicated three times at different locations along the river between the headwaters of the Fall River and the Spring Creek Bridge.  At each site, each treatment will be replicated five times for a total of 90 plots.  Each experimental plot will be 1.5 m2 with 30 plants or seeds per site.  Planting and seeding densities will be adjusted in the field.

 

 

2014 Research Team Follow-ups

Monthly sampling of all plots will include the following measurements:  stem/plant frequency, mortality, and researchers_chicostatepercent cover.   Plots will be sampled with a sinkable plot, photographed with an underwater camera and the images evaluated in the lab.  Preliminary work indicates that this is an effective sampling method.  At quarterly intervals, leaf samples will be collected and quantified for periphyton colonization and composition.  Invertebrate composition in the plots will also be sampled quarterly with nets without damage to the plants.   One year after planting, five plants from each plot will be harvested, dried and measured for above and below ground biomass.  Data will be analyzed with an Analysis of Variance for differences among treatments and ordination methods will be used to assess environmental parameters associated with planting.

 

 

Check back in 2014 for findings and updates from the Chico State Z-Grass research team.

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FRC and California Trout Improve Island Road River Access

/ December 14th, 2013 / Comments Off on FRC and California Trout Improve Island Road River Access

Conservation Partners

FRC and California Trout (CalTrout) worked together throughout 2013 to develop a plan,  fund and implement a multistage property and ecosystem improvement plan on the CalTrout Island Road property. Improvements made this year to the property will add to the experience of those CalTrout members who frequently use the property, and also help to restore the ecological integrity of the ecosystem. These improvements were truly a community effort and with continued stewardship the property will continue to be a cornerstone of the Fall River fishing season for years to come.

 Property Improvements

  1. As many of you may have already noticed, we’ve improved the access road and parking area and added a full turn around for launching small boats and kayaks.  The purpose of these improvements are to improve the angling experience (access, parking, etc.)  for CalTrout constituents and FRC supporters during the fishing season. No overnight camping is allowed on site and all those using the facility should be CalTrout members.

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2. A new informational kiosk was installed and will have improved information signage. All the existing rules for the property including no launching of gas motors and no overnight camping have remained the same. Work was completed with help from Senior Project student Colin Vestal from Fall River High School. The kiosk will educate the public on issues affecting the Fall River (invasive aquatic plants, sediment, etc.) and the role of FRC/CalTrout in addressing key issues

FRC_sign

3. A permanent boat storage was installed to allow river users to lock their boats overnight and to reduce damage to stream-banks. Previously there was no permanent boat storage and this led to improvised boat storage locks being installed. With this improved overnight storage we will reduce impact to surrounding stream-banks and focus storage to one centralized area.

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4. Roadside plantings were added to begin the re-vegetation of the riparian corridor. Quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides) and Black hawthorne (Crataegus douglasii), both native riparian species were planted. All plantings received caging to protect from deer and beavers, as well as a layer of mulching to reduce the growth of weeds.

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5. A pilot stream-bank restoration planting was completed to assess the viability of the stream-banks for supporting riparian plants and shrubs. With help from Senior Project students Clay Brock and David Putalluz from Fall River High School, the FRC led the planting of native shrubs along the riparian corridor. Native plant clusters were planted in a strategic mosaic that distributed plants varying distances from the river to protect eroding banks. This pilot project will help to inform future plantings as to the species and distance from stream-banks that native shrubs thrive.

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Community Involvement and 2014 Feedback

The completion of these property improvements will ensure the continued use of the site and the vitality of the ecosystem health for years to come. With the aid of Senior Project student help as well as local landowners, these riparian improvement projects have become a community effort that all can take pride in. It is the Fall River Conservancy’s mission to preserve the lands, waters and cultural heritage of the Fall River and this project is an excellent example of this focus at work. We look forward to your feedback on the improvements during the 2014 fishing season.

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FRC Addresses pH Levels In the Fall River

/ September 16th, 2013 / Comments Off on FRC Addresses pH Levels In the Fall River

pH Concerns in the Fall River

Over the summer months, the Fall River Conservancy heard concerns from Fall River residents and valley landowners regarding the pH levels in the Fall River. In order to determine the science behind these concerns, the Fall River Conservancy and California Trout have consulted with the USDA and UC Davis Watershed Sciences Center to determine what the pH levels looked like this summer in comparison to previous seasons. By looking at data collected from pH monitoring stations on the Upper Fall River, we can all learn more about pH and the current status of this water quality metric in the Fall River.

What is pH and why is it an important water quality metric?

pH is a water quality measure that describes how acidic or basic a given sample of water is. pH is reported on a scale of 0 to 14 – with values 0 to 6 representing relatively acidic samples and values 8 to 14 representing relatively basic samples. A value of 7 on the pH scale is considered neutral. A change of one unit on the pH scale represents a ten-fold change in the acid or base character of the sample. For example, a change in pH from 7 to 8 indicates that the water sample has become ten times more basic than it once was. pH is an important water quality metric because the pH of water determines the degree to which certain substances can dissolve in water. For example, carbon, nitrogen and phosphorous in water will dissolve at different rates under different pH conditions. Ultimately, changes in pH can result in different types and amounts of nutrients available to plants and animals.

Current Status of pH In the Fall River

Currently there are four monitoring stations ran by the USDA located through-out the Upper Fall River that help to inform the discussion on pH.  By looking at pH from three of these stations for the 2013 season in comparison to 2012, we can help to better understand pH levels in the Fall River:

  • 2012 July averages from three monitoring sites had pH values of: 7.83, 8.07 and 8.85
  • 2013 July averages from three monitoring sites had pH values of: 8.31, 8.11, 8.89
  • 2012 August averages from three monitoring sites has pH values of: 7.86, 8.07, 8.85
  • 2013 August averages from three monitoring sites has pH values of: 8.32, 8.06, 8.94

By looking at the data, we can see that there are normal seasonal and daily variations in pH (as well as other water quality measures) in the Fall River. Further, the 2013 measurements do not seem to be unusually high nor do they differ greatly from measurements collected during 2012 with the same probes. These 2013 pH measures are near or have slightly exceeded the maximum pH values recorded in the 2012 year. Finally, only limited continuous monitoring data is available for the Fall River and assessing such values within the normal diurnal fluctuation of the water has never been assessed previously

Most importantly for the fish and those that value the health of the Fall River, the water at the monitored sites appear to have a relatively normal range of summer pH values for spring-fed rivers.  Although slightly higher levels have been recorded this past month, these pH levels are only fractionally higher than in previous seasons are not a cause for concern.

What is normal?

Most surface waters have a pH ranging between 7.5 and 8.5 (http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/wg/plants/management/joysmanuals/ph.html). However, spring-fed rivers tend to have higher pH levels due to their high baseline levels of geologically derived nutrients. It is not uncommon to detect summer pH levels in the range of 8 to low-to mid-9 values in spring-fed systems (Lawson 2003).

What causes variation in pH?

Daily and seasonal changes in pH are common and are usually buffered by the river’s natural water chemistry. Measurements of pH are often assessed in combination with measurements of alkalinity or Acid Neutralizing Capacity (ANC) that determines the water’s ability to buffer or resist changes in pH. Changes in pH can be a result of natural seasonal and/or diurnal changes in river conditions. For example, changing water temperatures, aeration, depth, addition of increased surface flows, and/or influxes of nutrients from natural sources or non-point sources associated with human activities (i.e. effluent from septic leach fields, urban runoff, fertilizers and sediments in tail waters or excrements from animals).

Normal plant photosynthesis uses up hydrogen molecules from the water, which causes the concentration of hydrogen ions to decrease during the day resulting in the pH increasing to a peak typically in midafternoon. For this reason, pH may be higher during daylight hours and during the growing season, when photosynthesis is at a maximum. It is unknown if the pH levels at these daily peak periods can be detrimental to crops nor what actually happens physically and chemically to these waters once impounded within agricultural fields where further nutrient and chemical alterations are expected to occur.

Final thoughts on the Fall River pH

Higher than average levels of nutrients in the water over long periods of time (not just small pulses) can results in excessive plant and algal production and can further negatively affect pH and dissolved oxygen levels in river waters. If long-term excess nutrients were present, the river would likely experience drastic changes in river plant productivity/algal blooms and consequently much higher pH levels and lower dissolved oxygen. Such changes would negatively affect fish and aquatic insects in the river. It does not, however, appear that the river water at the monitored sites has had such drastic impacts. Although elevated pH levels have been noted, they are not greatly different from general expectations nor previous measured levels. The water at the monitored sites appear to have a relatively normal range of summer pH values for spring-fed rivers although slightly higher levels have been recorded this past month, but with pH levels only fractionally higher than in previous seasons. Additionally, the monitored dissolved oxygen appears to be at healthy levels for all monitored areas.

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FRC Completes Phase II of PIT Project

/ September 16th, 2013 / Comments Off on FRC Completes Phase II of PIT Project

Update: FRC Tags 500 Fall River Wild Trout for Monitoring

Watch Video on Fall River PIT Program!  https://vimeo.com/65069455

Where do Fall River Wild Trout Spawn?

Ever wonder where and when Fall River wild trout spawn? Or how far they migrate throughout 25 plus miles of interconnected springs, lakes, and river? Do all Fall River wild trout originate from the same genetic line, or do we have distinct populations spawning at different times throughout the year?

Through FRC’s Passive Integrated Transponder (PIT) wild trout monitoring program we are seeking answers to these questions so we can help to better understand the river and the fish that depend on it. FRC’s PIT wild trout monitoring program is a partnership with the UC Davis Center for Watershed Science, PG&E, California Department of Fish and Wildlife and California Trout. The PIT Monitoring Program was launched on April 23, 2013 with the group of researchers and professionals tagging 250 wild trout. On July 16th, FRC and its partners led a second round of PIT tagging to bring the total number of trout tagged and sampled for genetics to 500 for the PIT Wild Trout Monitoring Program. A third round of tagging and sampling will occur Fall 2013.

How does it work?

The tracking chips work much like the FasTrak System commonly used for electronic toll collection on bridges throughout the bay area. About the size of a grain of rice, the chip is inserted with a syringe in the abdominal cavity of the fish. Antennas are then placed strategically throughout the greater Fall River system: ideally at the mouth of key tributaries or lake systems, but also on the numerous bridge structures in throughout the main-stem river.  When a tagged fish swims near an antenna, a data logger reads the individual chip code allowing researchers to track movement and location. During the tagging process, each fish is also measured and a small genetic sample clipped from the caudal fin.

Researchers at work into the night on Phase II of the PIT Wild Trout Monitoring Program

 

Purpose of the Study

 The purpose of this study is to,

  1. Identify key spawning and rearing habitat for protection and restoration
  2. Determine how wild trout utilize existing habitat conditions throughout their life history
  3. Pin point sources of mortality and impediments to migration
  4. Investigate whether genetically distinct wild trout sub-populations exist
  5. Establish accurate wild trout population estimates
  6. Developing a database of science that can help to inform CDFW regulations

 The information collected through this project will be used to prioritize critical habitat areas for restoration and inform and improve wild trout management throughout the Fall River’s 30 miles interconnected spring-fed tributaries, lakes, and waterways. Accurate and comprehensive baseline PIT data will ensure that future restoration strategies will be grounded in sound science and yield the greatest benefit to trout populations.

FRC and its partners will tag and collect genetic information from more Fall River wild trout this coming fall. We will also continue to position arrays in the river so we can better track these fish as they migrate through the system. Keep tuned for further updates about this exciting project.

 

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