Coho salmon nursery moves forward in McKinleyville

Source: FWS

Jack Durham
Mad River Union

McKINLEYVILLE – The McKinleyville Community Services District has entered into an agreement with California Trout Inc. that will allow the nonprofit to have access to district property along the Mad River so it can finalize designs for a coho salmon nursery.

CalTrout, along with the district, is planning its Salmonid Restoration Project on the southwest side of town along the banks of the Mad River near Fischer Ranch.

The site, located roughly across the river from the Mad River Boat Ramp, was the location of about four acres of sewer percolation ponds. The district previously used the ponds as a way to dispose of treated sewer wastewater.

New wastewater regulations, however, would have required the district to conduct numerous and costly studies to prove that the ponds had no impact on the river.

The district had considered decommissioning the ponds, a project that could have cost the district roughly $1 million. Instead, it decided to work with CalTrout to turn the ponds into a coho-friendly backwater.

The ponds will be connected to the Mad River. Juvenile coho, seeking refuge from swift river currents, would be able to swim from the river into the ponds, where they could fatten themselves up before heading out to sea. The proposal also calls for hiking trails.

In order to advance the project and obtain grant money, the McKinleyville Community Services District Board of Directors voted 4-0, with Director Mary Burke recusing herself, to enter into an access agreement with CalTrout for three years. Burke recused herself and exited the meeting room during the board’s deliberations because she works for CalTrout and therefore has a conflict of interest.

Representatives will, for the next three years, be able to access the old ponds to do design work, although they are required to notify district staff in advance.

Manager Greg Orsini told the board that as the designs become closer to being finished, they will be brought back to the board for discussion.

The timeline for completing the project will depend on the availability of grant funding.

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