Halted Trinity River Project Back on Track

Trinity Dam helps supply irrigation water for Valley farmers and for hydropower production.
Trinity Dam helps supply irrigation water for Valley farmers and for hydropower production.

Trinity Dam helps supply irrigation water for Valley farmers and for hydropower production.

Moves were undertaken long ago to rescue one of the most important rivers in America, the Trinity. Significant because it remains one of the most pristine and least hindered of large rivers, and has been a major source of irrigation water for California’s parched Central Valley which provides nearly 10% of our nations produce and is the primary source for tomatoes, almonds, grapes, apricots, and asparagus, and historically supplied the Hoopa Valley Tribe with primary food sources: the rich Steelhead trout and Salmon stocks.
Restoration measures however were halted last fall amidst outcries that the restoration efforts were misguided and causing further damage to the greater ecosystem.

At it’s most crippled time, in 1981, ninety percent of the Trinity ‘s water was being diverted. Since then, rescue measures undertaken as a result of pressure from tribes, fisherman, and ecological organizations, resulted in a 2000 court decision declaring that no less than 47 percent of upper Trinity waters should flow through lower Trinity and the forming of The Trinity River Restoration Project, a consortium of state and tribal agencies.

Greatest among the concerns raised were the methods used for the filling in of sediment to create gravel bars for spawning fish habitat. Dams have resulted in loss of sediment bars, over-vegetation and poor turbidity. However sediment being used for restoration was too fine and washed away, and clouding, compromising water quality and filling in pools. “Rather than help restore Chinook salmon, the Trinity River Restoration Program has made the river worse for salmon”, according to the California Water Impact Network last November. In response to this and concerns from fishermen, The Trinity River Management Council stopped adding gravel. The Project recently reached agreement with ecological and fishing organzations to the recommendations, which included construct bars using coarser rock, and is back on track.

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