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Salmon habitat restoration underway along Sacramento River

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REDDING, Calif. - Work is underway along the east banks of the Sacramento River to protect young salmon.

Multiple agencies are teaming for the project as part of a requirement of the Central Valley Project Improvement Act. The goal is to replenish spawning gravel and rearing habitat for winter-run Chinook salmon.

The Western Shasta Resource Conservation District is among the agencies working together on the project.

Project Manager Harmony Gugino said the big goal would be to create a self-sustaining ecosystem but she understands more work may have to be done.

"The river system is a dynamic system. We may have to come back and take out some sediment that accumulated. We might add vegetation," said Gugino.

Crews were out digging part of the side channel of the river Wednesday. Once complete the channel will allow water to flow through no matter how low the river may get during a drought. Gugino said that will help to prevent the salmon from getting stranded.

"Focusing on spawning or focusing on passage isn't enough we need to not only provide the avenue but need to also provide the housing we need to provide the food," said Gugino.

The channel will also serve as protection once the salmon spawn until they are big enough and strong enough to head downstream and into the ocean.

"As they come up from their reds they have a place to find a little bit of respite. It's an opportunity for them to grow, find shelter from their predators," said Gugino.

The project is set to be completed in late December, depending on the weather. Gugino said the process is slow but that helps to keep the habitat as natural as possible and allow the salmon to thrive.

"They need places to find food. Bugs are also looking for that protection and shelter and so if they're out in the open they're not going to last very long," said Gugino.

Fisheries Supervisor, Jason Roberts with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife said the numbers of winter-run Chinook salmon are lower compared to 2015 and 2014.

The full lifecycle takes about 3 years to complete so Roberts did not expect to see any changes influenced by the project for several generations.

Once complete a similar side channel project will take place on the south side of the Cypress Bridge.

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