Continuing the Forum’s strong tradition of having nominated projects selected to the National Fish Habitat Partnership’s (NFHP) annual list of 10 Waters to Watch, on September 25, 2021 the Lawrence Creek Off-Channel Habitat Connectivity Project (Lawrence Creek) was named to NFHP’s 2021 list. Since NFHP launched the Waters to Watch initiative in 2012, the Forum has had at least one of its nominated water bodies selected each year.
This project was initiated in 2015 through a collaboration between Trout Unlimited, the Humboldt Redwood Company, NOAA Restoration Center, and Pacific Watershed Associates and resulted in a multi-phased project to restore and enhance hydrologic conditions and historic floodplain habitat on Lawrence Creek, a high-priority, core recovery salmon and steelhead stream in the Eel River watershed. Over the years, this project has addressed high-priority SONCC Coho recovery actions by restoring important off-channel ponds and side channels which provide important “winter-refugia” – shelter from high flows during intense winter storm events, and increased habitat diversity that leads to improved food resources for fish.
Innovative Approach to Permitting
Additionally, this project benefitted from streamlined permitting processes developed by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (Coho Habitat Enhancement Leading to Preservation (HELP) Act; Habitat Restoration Enhancement (HRE) Act), and the California State Water Resources Control Board (Clean Water Act Section 401 General Water Quality Certification for Small Habitat Restoration Projects (SHRP)). specifically for habitat restoration projects. Projects eligible for coverage under these programs are exempt from the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) due to the small project size and adherence to environmental protection measures, which combined do not result in significant impacts to environmental or cultural resources. These permits and approvals have a shorter review period (~60 days on average) than traditional permits and can help accelerate the implementation of restoration projects for the recovery of listed salmonids.
The Forum proudly contributed 2021 NFHP project funding to the third phase of this effort.
NOAA has also released a webstory highlighting the 2021 Waters to Watch projects in coastal habitats featuring Lawrence Creek.