Upper Noyo River – Skunk Train

Project Lead: Trout Unlimited​

Location of Project: 39.4183825, 123.4310594

Description of Project: The objective of this project is to restore access to 1.15 miles of steelhead and salmon habitat upstream of the upper Noyo River railway crossing and to reduce the risk of sediment delivery from fill failure while providing a safe railway. This will be accomplished by replacing the current barrier with a new structure that meets fish passage requirements defined by CDFW and NMFS (based on current design standards), and can convey a 100-yr flood event with associated sediment and large wood.

This project will restore one of the highest fish passage priorities associated with the California Western Railway (CWR) – now commonly referred to as the “Skunk Train”. The proposed site is located at Milepost 28.8, where the railway crosses over the upper Noyo River, and was identified in the CDFW-funded 2013 Fish Passage (RTA) assessment as inhibiting fish passage for both adult salmonids and all age classes of juveniles.

Project partners include WCB, Michael Love & Associates, AECOM, NOAA, and the Skunk Train. Funds could also be applied to the purchase of the pre-fabricated structure.

How does this project address climate change? The Region’s native, naturally spawning populations of Steelhead (O. mykiss), Chinook (O. tshawytscha), and Coho (O. kisutch) salmon have all declined dramatically in the past five decades. Coho in particular are considered “very close to extinction.” The decline in salmonid population numbers since the 1940s is considered to be a result of a combination of human-caused and natural factors that occur in fresh water, estuaries, and in the ocean. These include, but are not limited to: water quality degradation, including sediment, temperature, and chemical contaminants; impediments to migratory fish passage; habitat loss and degradation; reduced stream flows; nonnative invasive species; disease and genetic contamination caused by hatchery fish; and, ocean conditions that negatively impact marine productivity (NCIRWMP, 2014). According to the Projected Effects of Future Climates on Freshwater Fishes of California report, all native anadromous fishes were rated as highly or critically vulnerable to climate change. This project will reconnect access to thermal refugia habitats for rearing steelhead trout, and will prevent a major sedimentation event from impacting ~3 miles of downstream spawning and rearing habitat in a coastal watershed. 30. Would an existing commercial, recreational, or subsistence shery be enhanced as a result of the project? If yes, please describe. If not, is there a future shery that would potentially be restored through increased habitat as a result of this project? If so, describe. Recreational and commercial shing of Coho Salmon is not permitted in the state of CA at this time; however, commercial shing operations for Chinook salmon still operate out of the Noyo harbor. However, the Noyo River does not sustain an abundant population of Chinook salmon, probably due to its smaller size. The Noyo does provide recreational steelhead shing opportunities. This project intends to restore and protect habitats for all three sheries in the Noyo River, and this work contributes towards future enhanced shing opportunities.