Sunday, March 23, 2008

SARSAS in Auburn Journal 2-20-2008

Resident has large-scale plans for fish habitat
By Jenna Nielsen, Journal Staff Writer

Though no salmon can be spotted in the Auburn Ravine right now, signs announcing the ravine�s �salmon habitat� can be seen at various locations along the ravine. Auburn resident Jack Sanchez wants to restore salmon to the creek.
Salmon could swim through Auburn Ravine.

And one Auburn resident wants to make sure it happens — in his lifetime.

Jack Sanchez is working with a handful of different organizations throughout the county to launch what he is calling SARSAS — Save Auburn Ravine Salmon and Steelhead — to modify several man-made barriers currently inhibiting water flow in the creek, and stopping fish.

“This is something that is very doable,” Sanchez said. “There is less than a mile of the ravine that would need to be restored.”

Sanchez’s goal is to get fish to the Wise Powerhouse off Ophir Road to the recently daylight Lincoln Creek at Auburn’s School Park Preserve behind City Hall. But the current water flow is not adequate to support salmon.

“We have the opportunity to create something no other town in California has,” Sanchez said. “An anadromous (swimming upward) fish run with salmon spawning in the center of the city.”

Sanchez has a plan to modify the existing dams to support adequate water flow.

“I am in no way arguing for the removal of any dams,” Sanchez said. “We could simply retrofit them and modify them so that fish can get over it.”

The plan is in the very early, conceptual stages, he said. Sanchez has been talking to officials with Placer County, the City of Auburn, the Nevada Irrigation District, Pacific Gas & Electric Company and the Placer County Water Agency.

Though no salmon can be spotted right now, signs announcing the ravine’s “salmon habitat” can be seen at various locations along the ravine.

Jeanie Esajian, public information officer for the California Bay-Delta Authority, whose name can be found on the signs, said the signs are probably the result of a grant Placer County received in 1997, for its Auburn Ravine/Coon Creek Ecosystem Resources Plan, which aims to improve habitat for anadromous fish including steelhead, spring-run Chinook salmon, fall-run Chinook salmon as well as other native fish species.

Esajian said a large decline in the number of salmon could potentially affect restoration.

“We have recently seen a huge decline in the number of salmon coming from the ocean to spawn,” Esajian said. “No one knows why. It could be conditions in the ocean it could be conditions in the environment, it could be conditions in the Delta. Whatever it is, it could be an uphill battle considering this is a global problem.”

But Sanchez intends to look to the county’s restoration plan as a guideline.

The idea came about when Sanchez and his wife, Valerie, were on a cruise in Alaska three years ago, he said.

“We were on a day trip in Juneau,” Sanchez said. “During a hike, we walked over this bridge and looked down at Juneau creek and it was loaded with salmon, knee deep, swimming on each other’s backs.”

He said he knew at that moment, something like it could be reproduced in Auburn.

“Fish in water just mesmerizes people,” he said. “I saw the staggering beauty and saw how much people like that experience. I know there is potential for that beauty and attraction in Auburn.”

Auburn City Councilman Mike Holmes said he supports Sanchez’s plan, but he isn’t sure yet how the city fits into it.

Restoring fish to the Auburn Ravine would be a good thing not only for the community, but for the fish as well, he said.

“I am not certain what the City of Auburn can do directly,” Holmes said. “I think we need to have some of our staff take a look to see how we are able to help. I’m prepared to lend support for the plan to get fish back into the Auburn Ravine and possibly into the School Park Preserve, but it is going to take a lot of coordination with other agencies to get that done.”

Sanchez said he isn’t sure himself how exactly the city will fit into his plan, but hopes by talking to officials, the details could be worked out.

“I am just soliciting help at this point,” Sanchez said. “I am working on getting all this valuable information.”

Sanchez said he believes residents could see progress on the fish restoration plan in the next couple of years.

“It depends on how organized we get,” he said. “But the time for this has come. And no power on Earth can stop an idea whose time has come.”

The Journal’s Jenna Nielsen can be reached at or comment on this story at

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