Sunday, March 23, 2008

Talk to the Placer Union High School Teachers on March 14, 2008


I would like to thank Kathy Myers for all her help and insights in arranging for SARSAS to attend this in-service, to Bart O’Brien for his courtesy and direction, to Tom and Debra Weistar from Synergia Learning Ventures, Auburn City Councilman Mike Holmes for his constant support, all the SARSAS members in attendance today, and especially my lovely wife Valerie who is my partner in all our adventures.

PERSONAL INTRODUCTION: (Pass around clipboard.)

For those of you who may not know us Del Oro Old Timers, Jack and I have 67 years of combined teaching and coaching experience at Del Oro High School. During our teaching careers we taught English and German. As a coach Jack and his staff won twelve Cross Country and Track and Field Championships in six years of coaching and, as an aside, he coached Sheriff Ed Bonner to the California State Track and Field Championships twice. (Ed wasn’t as heavy then.) Jack and I coached the Del Oro Academic Decathlon Team to three consecutive California Academic Decathlon State Championships, the only competitive high school team in the history of our area to do so. We raised thousands of dollars to support our Academic Decathlon Team and to arrange for American and foreign exchange students to study here and abroad while we were advisors for the international American Field Service. For five years I was the drama director, working with many staff members and disparate student personalities, and continued to teach drama until I retired at which time the new stage and auditorium were built. We have had extensive/intensive consensus building experience while I was President and Jack was a negotiator for ATP, our local chapter of the California Teachers Association. For twenty-seven summers Jack coordinated all Interpretive Programs for the Sierra District of the California Department of Parks and Recreation as a State Park Ranger. We have wide experience in fundraising and consensus building.

Let me give you an overview of today’s presentation and please feel free to ask questions at any time. (Highlight Agenda)


SARSAS is an acronym for SAVE AUBURN RAVINE SALMON AND STEELHEAD, whose mission is to restore, protect, and improve the habitat and runs of salmon and steelhead in the Auburn Ravine by providing a navigable waterway from the Sacramento River to the city of Auburn.

SARSAS is a part of the Dry Creek Conservancy, a non-profit, non-governmental organization, and our goal is to modify the ten man-made barriers on the Auburn Ravine and the six or more beaver dams, making them passable for fishes. This undertaking will take much time, effort, coordination and money, but it will have a permanent, lasting effect on the quality of our lives in this area. We have an opportunity to create something no other town in California has an anadromous (migrating up rivers from the sea to breed in fresh waters) fish run with salmon spawning in the center of the city.

Since I was born in Ophir and spent my childhood exploring the AR, I have an intimate knowledge of the AR. My personal goal is to bring salmon to the center of Auburn so they can spawn in Auburn School Park Preserve, providing another attractive facet to our already beautiful town for residents, tourists and sightseers. I first saw the incredible beauty of a city with a salmon stream flowing through its center in Juneau, Alaska, and got the idea to reproduce that beauty in Auburn.


We are currently working with several individuals and agencies to realize SARSAS’ goal. Locally, we are working with Supervisor Robert Weygandt and Loren Clark and Edmund Sullivan from Placer Legacy to get started. We have the support of Janice Forbes, who spearheaded the daylighting of the South Fork of the AR and the creation of the Auburn School Park Preserve. We have spoken with property owners along the AR such as Alex Ferreira, Julie Briones, David Bergquist, as well as John Rabe (HE IS HERE TODAY), who has given us access to his property for students to do fish studies.

Placer Legacy is working with NID to modify the Hemphill Dam below Gold Hill, which is only one of the ten man-made barriers that must be dealt with to provide fish passage on the Auburn Ravine. Ron Nelson, NID General Manager, plans to continue working with SARSAS to modify other dams and gauging stations. Our task is no less intimidating that Sisyphus’ task of rolling his rock up the hill for eternity.

Our plan will get fishes to the Wise Powerhouse although currently the water flow/habitation in the Auburn Ravine between the Powerhouse and Auburn Park Preserve is not adequate to support salmon. We have asked the City Council of Auburn and the Auburn Park Preserve Committee to address at some future date the lack of water flow/habitat and to consider contacting PCWA to possibly secure additional water from the Drum-Spaulding waterway, and also to improve the water quality in that section of the Auburn Ravine.

We have the knowledge, expertise and financial ability to make this dream a reality if we work collaboratively. We just must commit ourselves to returning salmon and steelhead runs all the way to Auburn.

We plan to create a SARSAS Foundation to collect monies to help make the Auburn Ravine passable, but CABY (COSUMNES, AMERICAN, BEAR AND YUBA) and other organizations such as already have monies available for grants to work on several of the barriers. Placer Legacy has compiled the Auburn Ravine/Coon Creek Eco-System Resources Plan ( We are currently working on a plan to systematically make each barrier in the AR navigable for fish.

SARSAS Action Plan
Derived from “Fisheries Resources”,
Auburn Ravine/Coon Creek Ecosystem
Restoration Plan Projects
Foothill Associates 2004
December 2007

“Protection and restoration of aquatic habitat for anadromous species is one of the primary goals of the AR/CC ERP.” Fisheries Resources

The primary goal of SARSAS is to return Salmon and Steelhead runs to the Auburn Ravine in the most efficient manner and in the shortest time possible.

Phase I is to create a plan to streamline the tasks so that progress can be made rapidly. Its focus is to clear a navigable waterway for fish to reach the headwaters of the Ravine.

Secondary issues such as plant communities, public outreach, water quality, and wildlife resources (as outlined in Auburn Ravine/Coon Creek ERP) will be dealt with in Phase II and only as they impact the implementation of Phase I and will receive primary attention after the navigable waterway is effected.

Phase I Tasks:

1. work with appropriate agencies to clear or modify man-made barriers, create fish
ladders or channels (FR3, 4) to provide a navigable waterway for fish;
2. determine how far up the ravine fish currently travel and begin the initial clearing of barriers at that point (FR6);
3. restore stream beds where anadromous fish spawn (FR6, 7);
4. implement a functional beaver management program to expedite fish passage;
5. conduct fish count and spawning survey (FR1, 4, 5);
6. address obvious water pollution (FR5); and
7. address mixing of water of different temperatures, Penstock to Wise Powerhouse/ American River/Newcastle Canal, into Auburn Ravine as it impacts fish;
8. create a collaborative coalition of agencies and non-governmental agencies, students and volunteers to do the needed work.

Initial Organizational Steps:

1. Affiliate with American Basin Council of Watersheds (completed January 2007);
2. Affiliate with Dry Creek Conservancy and work under its auspices (completed on November 14, 2007 – See Dry Creek Conservancy Minutes, Modified Meeting);
3. Meet with various organizations to solicit support and funding i.e. PUHSD, Richard Gresham, Placer CRCD (completed), Ron Nelson of NID, James Navicky of DFG, Katie Burdick of CABY, Elizabeth Soderstrom of American Rivers, Edmund Sullivan and Loren Clark, Placer Legacy, Janice Forbes.

Continuing and Already Completed Steps:

1. Continue planning meetings with Placer County Supervisor Robert Weygandt asking for support and direction (completed November 26, 2007 with additional meetings scheduled for December 17, 2007 and March 4, 2008 and May 11, 2008, with Mr. Weygandt, Loren Clark and Edmund Sullivan of Placer Legacy);

2. Met on November 27, 2007, with Auburn City Councilman asking for and receiving his support;

3. Met with Janice Forbes, Sierra Business Council on January 8, 2008.

4. Addressed the Auburn City Council on February 11, 2008, asking for support;

5. Met with PlacerUHSD teachers on March 14, 2008, to connect teachers and students to the Auburn Ravine.

Some of the Projects Currently Underway:

Edmund Sullivan of Placer Legacy is working with NID and other shareholders on the Hemphill Dam near Turkey Creek Golf Course. Ron Nelson, the General Manager of NID, and I are working to modify one of the most prominent barriers, the Gold Hill Diversion Dam #1 near Chili Hill in Ophir. Other major barriers are the Ophir Cataract on the AR adjacent to Ophir Tunnel and the NID Gauging Station downstream from Hwy 65 and the Lincoln Ranch Duck Club Dam.

Since the barriers have all been identified and recommendations have been made and prioritized for dealing with them, public outreach to meet and work with landowners to implement these recommendations is a primary activity (possible Senior Project). Another initial step for SARSAS is the collection of data on fish migration as it currently exists (good Senior Project). Enough work exists for all who wish to help return the Auburn Ravine to a stream friendly to anadromous fishes.

The greatest stream/fish restoration ever is Fossil Creek in Arizona. Everyone worked together. We want to make the Restoration of the Auburn Ravine the model for the State of California. Actions achieve goals but actions are preceded by a dream: Robert F. Kennedy said, “Some men see things as they are and say why? I dream things that never were and say ‘Why not?’" We have heard much about sharing the dream. We are asking you teachers and your students to share the dream. Together we can make SARSAS the model fish restoration IN THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA AND ENJOY ALL THE ACCLAIM ATTENDANT THEREWITH. We love state championships.


Science Teachers can include units on the life of salmonids, stream restoration, anadromous fishes' life cycle and instincts, and stream alteration. Units on aquatic habitat and predation and stream ecology can be included in the curriculum. Fish tanks can be placed in classrooms and fish eggs can be hatched, reared and placed into the Auburn Ravine with scientific and writing assignments attached to the observations. Surveys can be conducted on the size, weight and release date and the return of the salmon. Students can perform stream modification to enable fish to navigate barriers or do water quality and temperature studies related to aquatic life.

Senior Project Advisors can encourage students to undertake a project related to the Auburn Ravine and learn along with the students as they conclude their Senior Projects.

English teachers might assign the novel Salmon Fishing in the Yemen by Paul Torday (ISBN 978-0-7538-2178-7) and use it as a vehicle to connect students to projects on the Auburn Ravine, or assign Isaac Walton’s classic 1653 work The Compleat Angler. Students can be assigned research papers on anadromous fishes, the health of streams, the importance of pure water for aquatic life, the effect of contaminated waters on aquatic life in the Auburn Ravine. Journals or extra credit assignments can be based on observations of nuances such as water level, aquatic life in the Auburn Ravine through the four seasons, or countless other topics.
Teachers might like to take advantage of a program the Granite Bay Fly Casters have which provides fish tanks and salmon eggs for classroom aquariums. (Kay Fegette, now retired, was in the program at Chana for many years.) The Fly Casters have an in-service twice a year, one usually in September and one in January. Interested teachers must attend an in-service to be involved with the program. Fly Casters provides them with the curriculum and the aquarium. They deliver the eggs to the classroom and the teacher takes it from there. If anyone is interested in this program, contact Rick Radoff (4120 Pine Street, Rocklin, CA 95677; 916-624-2107) to attend the next in-service. Include a home phone number, address, and the school you teach at. Rick deals with the teachers directly, not the schools. All of his calling is in the evening.
Students working in the elementary schools or those who wish to create a Senior Project for elementary students might use Come Back, Salmon: How a Group of Dedicated Kids Adopted Pigeon Creek and Brought it Back to Life by Molly Cone (ISBN 0-87156-489-0) to teach the younger students how to connect with the Auburn Ravine or any stream.

These are a fraction of the possible assignments, and teachers of the caliber of those in the Placer Union High School District will immediately think of many others.


SARSAS (SAVE AUBURN RAVINE SALMON AND STEELHEAD) works with Placer Legacy of Placer County government, Dry Creek Conservancy, CABY (COSUMNES, AMERICAN, BEAR, YUBA rivers), Ducks Unlimited, Nevada Irrigation District and Granite Bay Fly Casters.

Students who choose to do environmental Senior Projects on the Auburn Ravine, Coon Creek or a related waterway in Western Placer County may work with the support and guidance of these groups.

SARSAS Senior Projects will connect students to the community and allow them to work with one or more of these agencies in a collaborative manner and develop public outreach skills by working with landowners along the Auburn Ravine.

Senior Projects may focus on

1. assessment and analysis of existing environmental issues on the Auburn Ravine such as bank erosion, habitat degradation, excessive sedimentation that prevents spawning, poor water quality affecting aquatic life, and modifying existing man-made barriers to create fish passage;

2. habitat restoration such as planting trees, shrubs and native grasses to create shade to keep water temperature in the range for fish to flourish and prevent stream bank

3. conception and hypothetical design of fish passages, fish screens, sump pumps,
stream rerouting, stream aeration, ways to improve water quality and water flow;

4. implementation of projects to improve any part of the Auburn Ravine to make it
more conducive for anadromous fishes to use its entire length to reach spawning
gravel, procreate and reach a stage of development (smolt) in order to return to
the ocean to grow to maturity and start the cycle again;

5. any project that teachers, students and outside advisors can envision to enhance the
probability of fishes flourishing.

The best ideas of course will come from students themselves with input from teachers.

Senior Project Scholarship: SARSAS is in the process of creating a scholarship and raising up to $5,000.00 to be awarded to the district wide student whose project best fulfills the mission of SARSAS which is to restore, protect, and improve the habitat and runs of salmon and steelhead in the Auburn Ravine by providing a navigable waterway from the Sacramento River to the city of Auburn.

If any of you would like to help with SARSAS or would like to be on an e-mail list, or if you would like us to email you a copy of our entire talk, please sign the clipboard.

Thank you for your time and courtesy. We will be delighted to answer any other questions now. (Introduce Tom and Debra Weistar of Synergia Learning Ventures from Grass Valley who will tell you how they connected students to streams and show you a video they made of students called Awakening the Bear River.)

Information to put on board:

anadromous (migrating up rivers from the sea to breed in fresh waters) fish

Granite Bay Fly Casters: Rick Radoff (4120 Pine Street, Rocklin, CA 95677; 916-624-2107);

Come Back, Salmon: How a Group of Dedicated Kids Adopted Pigeon Creek and Brought it Back to Life by Molly Cone (ISBN 0-87156-489-0)
Salmon Fishing in the Yemen by Paul Torday (ISBN 978-0-7538-2178-7)
Isaac Walton’s classic 1653 work The Compleat Angler

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