Threats to the Eel River
Issues: Coal, Renewable Energy, Watersheds, Wildlife
Partners: Fire Forward, Friends of the Eel River
Airport Origin : Ukiah, CA
Provide the aerial perspective to members of the media and conservationists to spread public awareness about threats to the Eel River posed by of a proposed coal train and dams.
The Eel River flows through northwestern California. It is the third largest watershed located entirely within the state. Cutting through the Eel Canyon, the river's fragile ecosystem hosts imperiled salmon and steelhead fish populations, threatened by hydroelectric dams in the headwaters of the Eel River. Once abundant, the region's salmon and steelhead are now listed as threatened. The Potter Valley Project consists of two dams that divert water out of the Eel River headwaters and into the Russian River. Cape Horn Dam is the first obstruction salmon swimming upstream face. The dam, built in 1908, has a fish ladder, although some species like Lamprey are still unable to navigate past the dam. The Scott Dam lacks a fish ladder, blocking fish from accessing about ten percent of the Eel River Watershed. EcoFlight's partners are advocating to remove these dams to save the Eel's salmon and steelhead runs, and to create natural riverine flows and temperatures that will promote a healthy ecosystem.
A proposed coal train also poses huge threats to the Eel River Watershed and ecosystem. The proposed coal train would transport millions of tons of coal through communities, beside ancient redwood trees, and directly alongside the Russian and Eel rivers. The North Coast Railroad Company wishes to restore the currently decommissioned North Coast Railroad. Restoring this abandoned and crumbling rail line would be disastrous for wildlife habitat, water quality, vegetation, and many communities the coal train would run through. Municipalities from Sonoma to Humboldt formally oppose the storage, transportation, and export of coal through their communities. To combat North Coast Railroad Company's proposal, California Senator Mike McGuire introduced legislation that would prohibit the state from funding new improvements on the out of service rail line. The bill passed with overwhelming support in the California Senate. With this legislative success, the Eel River is one step closer to being protected. Our partners are working to oppose the coal train and instead convert the decommissioned North Coast Railroad into a path to support recreation and public access. The path, deemed the Great Redwood Trail, would connect San Francisco Bay to Humboldt Bay.