Humboldt Bay Watershed Enhancement Program

Location: Humboldt Bay Watershed
Humboldt County, CA
Cooperating Agencies: Wide range of watershed stakeholders (see below for a more comprehensive description)
Funding Sources: California Department of Fish and Game, California State Coastal Conservancy

Final Humboldt Bay Watershed Salmon and Steelhead Conservation Plan (Adobe PDF Document, 4.53 MB) Posted 3/21/05

Figure II.2: Humboldt Bay Watershed
Figure II.4: Humboldt Bay Watershed Land Use
Figure II.5: Humbodlt Bay Watershed Roads
Figure II.6: Humboldt Bay Watershed Anadromous Salmonid Distribution
Figure II.7: Humboldt Bay Watershed Stream Gradient
Figure II.8: Humboldt Bay Watershed Geology

Figure V.1: Jacoby Creek Watershed
Figure V.2: Jacoby Creek Watershed Land Use
Figure V.3: Jacoby Creek Watershed Roads
Figure V.4: Jacoby Creek Watershed Anadromous Salmonid Distribution
Figure V.5: Jacoby Creek Watershed Stream Gradient
Figure V.6: Jacoby Creek Watershed Geology

Figure V.7: Freshwater Creek Watershed
Figure V.9: Freshwater Creek Watershed Land Use
Figure V.10: Freshwater Creek Watershed Roads
Figure V.11: Freshwater Creek Watershed Anadromous Salmonid Distribution
Figure V.12: Freshwater Creek Watershed Stream Gradient
Figure V.13: Freshwater Creek Watershed Geology

Figure V.14: Elk River Watershed
Figure V.16: Elk River Watershed Land Use
Figure V.17: Elk River Watershed Roads
Figure V.18: Elk River Watershed Anadromous Salmonid Distribution
Figure V.19: Elk River Watershed Stream Gradient
Figure V.20: Elk River Watershed Geology

Figure V.21: Salmon Creek Watershed
Figure V.22: Salmon Creek Watershed Land Use
Figure V.23: Salmon Creek Watershed Roads
Figure V.24: Salmon Creek Watershed Anadromous Salmonid Distribution
Figure V.25: Salmon Creek Watershed Stream Gradient
Figure V.26: Salmon Creek Watershed Geology

The overall goal of this project is to improve the effectiveness of salmonid restoration and protection efforts in the Humboldt Bay watershed through implementation of the goals and objectives specified in the Humboldt Bay Salmon and Steelhead Conservation Plan that is being developed as part of this effort. The project focuses on the tributaries to Humboldt Bay – Jacoby and Freshwater Creeks (including Ryan Slough) and Elk River and Salmon Creek. The project also includes urban creeks of Arcata and Eureka. For the past four years, NRS has been the acting Humboldt Bay Watershed Coordinator and has provided staff for the Humboldt Bay Watershed Advisory Committee (HBWAC). As the Watershed Coordinator NRS staff have provided the technical expertise and financial structure necessary to complete a detailed watershed assessment, write a comprehensive watershed plan, coordinate between diverse interest groups, organize community events, and develop cooperative funding proposals.

The Humboldt Bay watershed covers an area of 200 square miles and contains some of the best coho habitat along the northern California coast. The tributaries of Elk River, Freshwater Creek, Jacoby Creek, and Salmon Creek support native runs of coho, chinook, and steelhead. Smaller creeks within the watershed have resident populations of cutthroat trout and limited coho and steelhead runs. The watershed has diverse land ownership and is the main population center of Humboldt County. Watershed planning in this area is complex due to the multiple agencies, landowners, and organizations working on various plans and projects at any one time.

This project takes a watershed approach, it involves the community at various levels – workshops, planning, sub-committees focused on each tributary, review and edits of the plan and technical study documents, and coordination with other planning efforts. The watershed coordinator position provides the community with one person to go to with questions or needs. The watershed coordinator provides services such as networking individuals and entities, Gate keeper for information and data resources, and assistance with project funding, implementation and design. The biggest challenge to this project is the on-going conflict between Pacific Lumber Company and downstream residents and landowners and environmental and citizen groups. This conflict has been ongoing for over ten years and is not getting any closer to resolution. Currently, HBWAC is the only venue where Palco representatives engage in conversation with community members focused on finding solutions to watershed problems. Rates of timber harvest are one of the biggest issues of contention.

Members of the Humboldt Bay Watershed Advisory Committee (HBWAC) include stakeholders from industrial timber, environmental and citizen’s groups, landowners, watershed restorationists, education, commercial and sports fishing, agriculture, city government, state agencies, and federal agencies. HBWAC is the only neutral discussion forum for Humboldt Bay watershed planning where multiple stakeholder interests are represented. Formed in 1996, the mission of HBWAC is “to improve the watershed’s anadromous salmonid populations and related resources while considering regional ecological and socio-economic needs.” HBWAC is not a legal entity and does not administer projects or grants as an organization.

HBWAC is currently working to complete the Humboldt Bay Salmon and Steelhead Conservation Plan (HB Plan). The HB Plan includes detailed background information for each bay tributary stream; identified limiting factors for salmonids; and goals and objectives for restoration and protection of fish habitat. The third iteration of this document will be completed by September 2004. In addition, the project continues to support coordination of watershed activities, outreach and education events, and assist with development of restoration projects.

In 2004 – 2005 the HB Watershed Enhancement Program will:
~ Prioritize goals and objectives in the HB Plan, and specifically define actions necessary to move goals forward to implementation.
~ Prioritize, and specify the detailed physical and/or biological technical studies needed to ensure successful development and implementation of estuary, riparian, and/or in-stream restoration projects.
~ Identify, prioritize and develop site specific restoration projects, with timelines, responsible parties, preliminary permitting, landowner access permission, and funding proposals.
~ Assist local land trusts and landowners to identify and prioritize desired conservation easements, and develop strategies to establish and fund them.

A roundtable discussion at the Jacoby Creek Watershed and Community Day, an event put on by NRS as part of the project
The HB Watershed Enhancement Program is guided by input by HBWAC. HBWAC meets each month to coordinate watershed efforts, share information, and work on the HB Plan. HBWAC is engaged in successful community outreach and education, technical training activities, and field tours. HBWAC also coordinates with related efforts such as the Harbor District’s Humboldt Bay Management Plan, the Humboldt County General Plan Update, and the Regional Water Quality Control Board’s TMDLs for Elk River and Freshwater Creek.

This project is a long-term, coordinated approach to watershed planning and restoration. The project involves a large number of stakeholders from diverse interest groups. The HB Plan involves developing agreement among entities that are often at odds with each other and at times have been in litigation. There has been a significant increase in the momentum for coordinated restoration and monitoring in HB watershed over the past five years. This includes development of cooperative projects, prioritization of needed technical studies, identification of priority riparian restoration projects, formation of a citizen’s stewardship group for Humboldt Bay, and funding for coordinated watershed monitoring.

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Last updated: June 6, 2005