Sunday, February 19, 2012



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.

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