Nearly all of California’s salmon and steelhead populations have been listed under the California and Federal Endangered Species Acts, due to drastic declines in recent decades. This requires government resource agencies to develop species recovery plans, and associated monitoring programs to measure the rate of recovery. The Coastal Monitoring Program (CMP) was designed to document salmonid status on a statewide scale using standardized methods, with data centralized in a statewide database.
Beginning in 2013, the Sonoma County Water Agency received funds through the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) to implement CMP monitoring in the Russian River watershed. UC Cooperative Extension and CA Sea Grant’s Salmon and Steelhead Monitoring Program is partnering with SCWA on this effort to document coho salmon, steelhead trout and Chinook salmon populations, and their available habitat, throughout the Russian River watershed.
The CMP considers four key characteristics in assessing population viability; abundance, productivity, spatial structure, and diversity. In the Russian River watershed, the methods for monitoring these characteristics include snorkel surveys, electro-fishing, spawner surveys, and downstream migrant trapping.
The Water Agency and Sea Grant used habitat and fish barrier data from state and federal agencies, evaluated historical records, and consulted with local Russian River watershed experts in order to define the geographic extent of all potential coho, steelhead and Chinook habitat in the Russian River watershed. Survey reaches were then created from the resulting "sample frame" in a probabilistic, spatially-dispersed fashion using a generalized random tessellation stratified (GRTS) sample. A subsample of these reaches is surveyed annually and will be used to represent patterns in abundance, productivity, spatial structure and diversity in local salmonid populations.
Spatial structure sampling will be used to assess whether the population distribution is expanding, contracting, or remaining constant. To monitor this trend, we conduct summer snorkel surveys in about 30% of the coho salmon habitat in the Russian River Basin. Between December and April, spawner surveys are conducted on around 30% of all reaches in the coho sample frame. UC Sea Grant will also operate downstream migrant smolt traps on Willow, Green Valley and Mill creeks. In addition to the basin-wide monitoring, the CMP calls for more intensive life-cycle monitoring in a representative stream system. The Dry Creek watershed was designated as the life-cycle monitoring station for the Russian River watershed. Sea Grant and Water Agency staff monitor Dry Creek and its tributaries year-round by conducting spawner, snorkel, and electrofishing surveys, along with seasonal smolt trapping. DIDSON and continuous underwater video monitoring, in conjunction with a PIT tag antenna array located near the mouth of Dry Creek, allow biologists to generate abundance estimates of smolts leaving, and adults returning to, the watershed. Over time, these estimates should reveal freshwater and marine survival trends that will aid in the development of effective recovery measures.
Data collected during snorkel surveys allows biologists to estimate juvenile occupancy in the basinwide snorkel survey reaches. See our young-of-the-year monitoring page for more information. Adult spawner survey data provides information on the number of salmonid redds and returning adults in all defined spawner survey reaches throughout the basin. See our adult monitoring page for more information.