Sunday, February 19, 2012

Salmon Sightings in Auburn Ravine

11/6/10 | 28 comments | 2626 views
Rate this (Avg 4.0) By Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer

CourtesyThis salmon was discovered Thursday at the Lincoln Gauging Station dam – one of several spotted over the past week in the Lincoln Area of the Auburn Ravine.

Salmon are returning to the Auburn Ravine.

Jack Sanchez, president of the Auburn-based Save Auburn Ravine Salmon and Steelhead, reported that two witnesses saw three large salmon at the Lincoln Gauging Station last Sunday.

And the water quality class at Lincoln High School taught by Dave Foxworthy has several photos of salmon – both living and dead – that have been taken over the past four weeks during spawning season, Sanchez said.

Sanchez and his group are dedicated to bringing salmon back to their natural upstream spawning grounds again after being absent since the 1980s.

Salmon return to freshwater streams to lay their eggs and die. The effort led by Sanchez and his organization continues to work to remove man-made barriers along the ravine that prevent the fish from traveling as far upstream as Auburn and the School Park Preserve across High Street from Placer High School.

Salmon sighting this fall as far as a mile upstream from the city of Lincoln, at Turkey Creek Golf Course, has Sanchez elated. The only previous sighting was of one salmon last March at the Fowler Road bridge, he said.

Now there have been several sightings, with fish as heavy as 35 pounds.

“The salmon are in Lincoln now, perhaps the Native American ‘Calling Back the Salmon Ceremony” worked,” Sanchez said.

The salmon group is a non-profit that organized an Oct. 23 celebration at Lincoln’s McBean Park to promote a healthy fish population in local streams. Auburn Ravine meanders 33 miles through the foothills, eventually flowing into the Sacramento River in Verona.

salmon, auburn ravine, jack sanchez

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SARSAS Article for Placer Arts Perspective Magazine

Save Auburn Ravine Salmon and Steelhead Inc. (SARSAS), an all-volunteer 501C3 Non-profit, public benefit corporation, is doing with one stream, the Auburn Ravine, what must be done with all streams on the entire West Coast, and that is to make its entire thirty three mile length, starting in Auburn, flowing through Ophir and Lincoln and Verona, where it empties into the Sacramento River, navigable for anadromous fishes.

The health and well-being of the salmon and steelhead is directly linked to that of the people, us, mankind. If we improve the health and well being of salmon and steelhead, we improve the health and well-being on all mankind and therefore ourselves.

Salmon and steelhead are as resilient and adaptable as human; when they can no longer adapt, neither can mankind. They need our help … now … and by helping them we are helping ourselves to endure and prevail.
SARSAS is sponsoring the Calling Back the Salmon Celebration in Lincoln, which will be held in McBean Park in the heart of Lincoln on the Auburn Ravine on Saturday, October 23, 2010. The all-day event is chaired by SARSAS Board Member, former Lincoln City Council Member and School Board Member Stan Nader of Lincoln. Stan can be contacted at 916 300 4335 or emailed at to volunteer to help shape and organize this event or just ask questions.

The mission of the SARSAS CALLING BACK THE SALMON CELEBRATION is to stimulate a collaborative relationship between the Auburn Ravine Community of Auburn and Lincoln, and groups and government organizations to educate and engage everyone to the importance of returning the salmon and steelhead runs to the Auburn Ravine. The presence of healthy salmon and steelhead in a healthy Auburn Ravine is a nexus to a healthy Auburn Ravine community and environment.

SARSAS wishes to connect with the Auburn Ravine Community to promote student and community Stream Teams, Salmon/Steelhead and Watershed Stewards. Potential activities for these groups include watershed habitat restoration, monitoring water quality, fish counts, classroom fish raising and replanting fish, observing fish morphology and other aquatic life to determine food sources for the fish. Working collaboratively SARSAS wishes to develop partnerships with agencies, environmental organizations and, most of all, with individual members and groups of the Auburn Ravine community and promote Auburn Ravine community participation in local water quality and fish and wildlife enhancement and educational outreach programs. Only the people volunteering can make the SARSAS dream a reality. First comes the dream, then the vision, then the plan. Now we need volunteers to make the plan a reality.
Many activities are planned at the Calling Back the Salmon Celebration. Activities for Children include a Salmon Run (footrace), Treasure hunt, Climbing Wall, Pony Rides, Face Painting, Carnival Games with a SARSAS bent, Crafts Projects (Painting, drawing, ceramics), and Watershed Model Interactive Display.

Activities for Everyone include Multiple Musical presentations including
Loping Wolf Flute Circle Dan Dicicco, Local Folk music performers and Commercial and non-profit vendors and informational displays.

Local Native American Indigenous People are planning to performing various activities, which will include calling back the salmon in tradition indigenous ways. SARSAS is extremely delighted that Local Indigenous Americans are stepping forward to help return salmon and steelhead to the Auburn Ravine, the most important local waterway, the Auburn Ravine, which was once the primary source of salmon, a major food source for indigenous peoples for centuries. Native American efforts help will be invaluable to the success of returning anadromous fishes to their native waterway, the Auburn Ravine.

SARSAS invites the entire Auburn Ravine Community to come to the McBean Park Calling Back the Salmon Celebration to learn what SARSAS is doing to return salmon and check us out at



By Therese M. Pope

Born in his grandmother’s home in Ophir, Jack Sanchez grew up playing along the banks of the Auburn Ravine. Sanchez, who taught English at Del Oro High School for 38 years, holds a vested interest in the Auburn community, especially the Auburn Ravine.

“I led a Tom Sawyer childhood. We built rafts and floated down the Ravine during the summer. We fished and caught frogs. We were always playing in the Ravine. I remember how my mom had to call us in each night,” recalls Sanchez.

Sanchez, founder and president of Save Auburn Ravine Salmon and Steelhead (SARSAS), has made it his mission to preserve Auburn’s legacy - the Auburn Ravine and the steelhead and salmon that once swam in the ravine.

“After my wife Valerie and I retired from teaching, we climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro, hiked Patagonia, and tackled the Milford Sound Trek in Australia and HIKE THROUGH New Zealand. We realized we couldn’t travel forever and we decided to take on a seemingly impossible dream—to bring back the salmon and steelhead to the Auburn Ravine.”

SARSAS, a newly formed nonprofit, non-governmental organization in Auburn, plans to collaboratively and cooperatively modify the twelve man-made barriers and COUNTLESS beaver dams on the Auburn Ravine making them passable for anadromous fish.

Sanchez has already established cohesive relationships with local agencies including: Placer County’s Supervisor Richard Weygandt, Nevada Irrigation District (NID), PG&E; Placer County Water Agency (PCWA), Placer Legacy, California Department of Fish and Game, NOAA, and Auburn City Council.

Dr. Peter Moyle, UC Davis’ top fish expert, has been a long-time advocate FOR saving salmon and wrote: “SOS: California’s Native Fish Crisis.” HE HAS AGREED TO BECOME AN ADVISOR TO SARSAS AND INDICATED THAT ITS GOAL IS VERY MUCH POSSIBLE

Sanchez explains that SARSAS is a group of dedicated unpaid volunteers who care about the Auburn Ravine. Formed in DECEMBER 2007, SARSAS’s biggest challenges include securing funding, COALITON building, and OVERCOMING water issues. They need to retrofit dams, build fish ladders and add more water to the ravine.

“I see the first stage of our mission completed in less than five years. NID and Placer Legacy HAVE SECURED FUNDING, AND COMPLETED DESIGN on two of the three man made barriers, Hemp Hill Dam and Lincoln Gaging Station,” explains Sanchez. “THESE DAMS WILL BE RETROFITTED BY THIS SUMMER.”

Sanchez and his volunteers are making an impact on the Auburn community by spreading the word about SARSAS at local festivals and events.

“In April, we will host two workshops for landowners who live along the Auburn Ravine. We want to ENHANCE THEIR STEWARDSHIP OF the Auburn Ravine. We will have speakers FROM MANY DISCIPLINES UNDER THE LEADERSHIP OF UC Berkeley scientist, Dr. Richard Harris.”

Because of their non-profit status, SARSAS relies on grant funding and local donations from community members. Their hope is to secure 200 active members by the end of this year. They are currently seeking volunteers with clerical, computer/website, and construction backgrounds.

SARSAS is also reaching out to the local high schools. Placer Union High School students will be able to take on the SARSAS cause for their required senior project.

Sanchez has a strong affinity for the classic Herman Melville novel, Moby Dick. Just like Captain Ahab’s quest for the “great white whale,” Sanchez won’t stop until he brings back the salmon and steelhead to Auburn.

Restoration efforts spawn beaver vs. salmon questions

Spawning chinook salmon will be swimming their way up Auburn Ravine Creek to Downtown Auburn by the fall of 2012.
That is if the funding comes through to make their journey easier and beaver dams don’t get in the way of the fish. Despite the challenges, a coalition of organizations is aiming to bring the salmon run back.
Jack Sanchez, a leader with the non-profit Save Auburn Ravine Salmon and Steelhead, said that work to remove man-made impediments to future spawning runs has gone well for the group. That has included working with landowners and the Nevada Irrigation District to ensure 13 smaller diversion dams and three larger ones will not impede salmon movement.
And funding should also be available. The ravine restoration group is seeking $400,000 to study what it will take – and how much it will cost – to move the salmon the final step from Wise Road to the Auburn Park Preserve in Downtown Auburn. Sanchez would only say that it’s expected to be expensive.
But beaver-dam building is still an issue that needs to be worked out. Sanchez said he believes the salmon will be able to wait until dam openings occur and then move through.
State Department of Fish & Game statistics show that beavers have become a source of concern in Placer County. From 2004 to 2008, 72 beavers were killed in the county under state-approved depredation permits.
Sanchez said he believes more study has to be done to determine what kind of threat the beavers’ dam-building activity is to salmon runs. And there are differing thoughts on what to do about it, he added.
Sanchez pointed to a new plan that describes the beaver-salmon question as a “hotly debated but unresolved” issue.
For Sanchez, the salmon come first because they are native to the area while beavers are not. Beavers now lodged in the Lincoln area were introduced from Idaho in 1945 for flood control, he said.
“Now I don’t think they’re helpful,” he said. “I’m not interested in exterminating or killing beavers but if you want to create a hierarchy, the salmon come first.”
Kyle Orr, Fish & Game spokesman, said a permit allows property owners to kill a beaver themselves or bring in a county trapper or private pest control business.
Along the Auburn Ravine in Lincoln, the Lincoln Open Space Committee has wrapped oak trees in wiring to prevent beavers in that area from eating into the bark and killing them.
Lincoln City Councilman Tom Cosgrove told the Lincoln News Messenger earlier this month that the beaver population is flourishing in that area.
Orr said building fences around trees is one option to protect them but the question of beaver dam building is more complex. The department’s position is that dams can stop salmon migration.
“With beaver dams, though, if you break one up, they’re going to build another one nearby,” Orr said.
The salmon are moving farther upstream toward Auburn, with the help of Nevada Irrigation District retrofits on two diversion dams that allow fish passage. The work will be finished this summer. The major remaining obstacle is the Gold Hill diversion dam, leaving a single mile to go before the fish reach Auburn. After that, 18 culverts need to be retrofitted to get the salmon through.
“I think it will be expensive but I think there will be a groundswell of support,” Sanchez said.
One salmon sighting occurred about a month ago at the Fowler Road bridge in Newcastle.

Ron Ott holds key to ravine restoration

By Colin Berr Journal Staff Writer

Ron Ott may soon hold the key to the Auburn Ravine restoration in his hands.

After months of tireless research, Ott is creating a unique book on the Auburn Ravine which lists every dam, diversion and pump from Auburn to Verona on the Sacramento River.

“Ron’s book will allow us to completely restore the Auburn Ravine to salmon and steelhead runs for spawning and return to the Pacific for maturation,” said Jack Sanchez, president of SARSAS (Save Auburn Ravine Salmon and Steelhead). “His work is absolutely key to what we’re doing.”

Salmon have been a major part of Ott’s life. Growing up on the Sacramento River, Ott went on to receive three advanced degrees from Stanford, which included specialties in hydrology, hydraulics and water resources.

He has since worked nationwide on stream, river and lake restoration projects for fisheries for 43 years.

“One of the most exciting parts of my career happened when I was jogging through a neighborhood in Seattle. I turned to go by a stream that was no bigger than 6-feet-by-3-feet, and I saw hundreds of salmon thrashing and spawning,” Ott said. “It was just incredible to see nature flourishing within the confines of an urban community.”

Ott’s work seeks to counter the damage created by human diversions, such as flashboards and dams, which are set to divert water flow during certain times of the year. Salmon and steelhead are caught in the diverted water flow, and end up dying, often on the banks of farmland.

Illustrated with photographs, the book describes the maximum flows and owners of each pump, diversion and dam, cost of screening, and more extensive details.

With the information supplied by Ott, SARSAS will work to implement fish ladders and screens throughout the Ravine to divert the salmon and steelhead back along their desired route to the ocean.

“So far, SARSAS has been successful in phase one of its mission, which is to remove diversions from the Sacramento area to the city of Lincoln,” Sanchez said. “Ron’s really boosting up phase II, which runs from Auburn to the Sacramento River.”

If all goes as planned, Auburn will be one of two cities in California to see salmon spawn within city limits.

“Seeing salmon spawn and travel upstream in large numbers is very uplifting for the community,” Ott said. “In a way, the health of a salmon run can reflect the health of society.”


Get to know

Ron Ott


• Started his career working for the California Department of Water Resources

• Joined major international consulting firm CH2M HILL and served as Director of Environmental Sciences, followed by Director of Water Resources and lastly the Director in Integrated Water Management.

• Fish Facility Coordinator for the California Bay Delta Program (CALFED) for 12 years

• Stared his own firm, Ott Water Engineers, which specialized in anadromous fishery restoration projects, especially fish passage projects.

• Currently owns and operates a hydro-electric plant in Northern California

Resumé highlights:

• Led science and engineering studies for water supply, water quality and fisheries on major river and estuary systems in California, Washington, Oregon, Florida, Wisconsin and Alaska.

• Published extensively in professional journals

• A registered civil engineer in eight states

• Received several awards from the American Society of Civil Engineers for his publications on fish passage engineering.

Favorite Pastimes:

Gold prospecting while swimming in streams; also riding ATVs throughout Northern California and Nevada with his family.

Ron Ott, Auburn Ravine, restoration, SARSAS, Save Auburn Ravine Salmon and Steelhead, spawning, fisheries, Sacramento River,
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Auburn Ravine salmon restoration effort aims for Auburn

By Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer

Gus Thomson/Auburn Journal video
See a video shot at one of the little-known spots that the Auburn Ravine runs through Auburn, near Old Town.

Kim Palaferri/Auburn Journal
Jack Sanchez, president of Save Auburn Ravine Salmon and Steelhead, is hoping sections of Auburn Ravine like this one on the opposite side of Old Town Auburn from Interstate 80 will be cleared of debris and flow freely enough to allow salmon upstream to spawn in two parks.

The goal is clear: To allow salmon to move upstream along the Auburn Ravine to spawn at two Auburn city parks.
But for Save Auburn Ravine Salmon and Steelhead President Jack Sanchez, what looks like a quixotic quest to some can be done with determination and cooperation.
Sanchez outlined the organization’s movement toward the ultimate goal of spawning salmon turning the Auburn Ravine shades of gold and red on a future fall day.
The Nevada Irrigation District has been working to retrofit two dams – Hemphill and Gold Hill – before salmon can reach Wise Powerhouse, at the corner of Ophir and Wise roads in Ophir, just outside Auburn city limits.
The Wise Road powerhouse is one mile downstream from Auburn, but Sanchez said that the groundwork to plan for restoration of that last mile should start now to ensure that both the community of Auburn and Placer county residents are aware of the benefits.
Sanchez met with a group of Auburn leaders and SARSAS supporters Friday to share the vision and garner support. The salmon would be able to spawn at the Auburn School Park Preserve, across High Street from Placer High School, and at the Terry Ashford Park on Auburn Ravine Road.
“We have a dream and a vision but we’re also moving toward implementing a plan,” Sanchez said. “I urge you all to find a reason – some personal self-interest – to support this.”
To get salmon to Auburn from the Wise powerhouse, at least seven fish ladders must be funded, designed and installed. Parts of Ashford and the Auburn school parks preserve must be reconfigured for salmon spawning. Sanchez said the cost will be roughly $15 million, with most – if not all funding – coming from grants.
One of the economic opportunities SARSAS foresees could result from drawing visitors to watch the spawning run. Taylor Creek, a tributary of Lake Tahoe attracts thousands of people each year to watch the Kokanee freshwater salmon spawning run.
“Those visitors spend money on food, lodging and recreation in the South Lake Tahoe area,” Sanchez said.
Auburn City Councilman Mike Holmes said he sees an economic benefit from a salmon run that could be helped along by opening up more recreation in the Auburn State Recreation Area.
“It will be a teaching opportunity as well as a chance for people to visit to watch the run,” Holmes said.
Encouragement was also given by Katie Burdick of the Cosumnes, American, Bear and Yuba (CABY) Rivers Integrated Regional Water Management Plan, who said that funding was possible because – unlike work on larger dams – working to restore habitat in the western Placer County creek regions would be considered “low-hanging fruit.”
The CABY group last year funded $3.4 million in projects.
Sanchez said that salmon are now swimming past Lincoln on the Auburn Ravine but that upstream to Auburn will be suitable for spawning.
“We do not believe conditions are right in Lincoln for spawning but will in Auburn Ravine above Fowler Road,” Sanchez said.
SARSAS, save auburn ravine salmon and steelhead, jack sanchez, wise powerhourse, ashford park, mike holmes