Coho habitat improvements set for Mad River

Jack Durham
Mad River Union

McKINLEYVILLE – A proposal to create habitat along the banks of the Mad River for juvenile coho salmon inched forward Sept. 2 when the McKinleyville Community Services District Board of Directors approved a negative declaration of environmental impact.

The project was approved 3-0 by directors John Corbett, David Couch and Dennis Mayo. Director Mary Burke abstained, as the organization she works for, CalTrout, is helping with the project. Director Shel Barsanti was absent.

The item was scheduled to be approved at the Aug. 5 meeting, but Barsanti said she had concerns how the project would be paid for and wanted to see that information before voting on the matter.

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The project is estimated to cost nearly $2 million. However, most of that is covered by several grants, many of them from CalTrout.

The MCSD’s cost is only $8,000. For the district, this represents an actual savings.

The district had proposed decommissioning its wastewater percolation ponds, which are located on the McKinleyville side of the Mad River roughly across from the Mad River County Park boat ramp. Backfilling and replanting those ponds would have cost more than $170,000.

But then the district consulted with representatives of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the idea of creating off-stream coho rearing ponds was hatched.

Construction of the project may take place as early as next year. About 4.25 acres of ponds would be re-vegetated and connected to the river with a channel. A paved trail would extend from School Road to a river overlook. There would be benches and a kiosk with rules, interpretative materials and a Wiyot tribal perspective.

A parking lot would be built on School Road near Ocean Drive. This has created concerns for residents on Verwer Drive, a private road at the westerly terminus of School Road.

Several Verwer residents have written letters protesting the parking lot. Directors said the district needs to meet with the Verwer residents and try to address their concerns.


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