Hat Creek, a classic trout stream bubbling out of Lassen Volcanic National Park and into the Pit River, is about to get a $2 million conservation boost to its fisheries and meadows.
The Pacific Forest and Watershed Council is providing funding to several local organizations to improve the habitat and public access to Hat Creek through programs that also benefit local youths, said Art Baggett, chairman of the private nonprofit organization.
The Spring Rivers Foundation will receive $550,000 to restore Rock Creek, a small tributary to Hat Creek near the community of Cassel.
By moving an intake diversion to the state-owned Crystal Lake Fish Hatchery downstream 650 feet, the project will allow restoration of the stream and an adjacent meadow. This will create habitat for the endemic Shasta crayfish, a state and federal endangered species. It will also improve the flow of water into the hatchery, said Maria Ellis, the foundation’s executive director.
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“This is huge – a win-win project for everyone,” she said.
Advanced biology students at Fall River High School will get in-stream experience while working on the Rock Creek restoration. That will continue an existing outdoor education program from kindergarten into high school, Ellis said.
Just to the north of Cassel, the Pit River Tribe will work with the nonprofit CalTrout to restore 1.5 miles of habitat and native vegetation on Hat Creek, the first stream to be designated as a California Wild Trout Stream. The project will also build new trails, a pedestrian bridge and scenic picnic area while protecting several historic sites, said Allene Zanger, Stewardship Council executive director.
The $1.4 million to CalTrout and the Pit River Tribe will help continue a youth initiative and tribal workforce program, said Isidro Gali, Pit River Tribe vice chairman. “Our tribal youth and continued generations will greatly benefit from this effort of reconnection to ancestral cultural areas,” Gali said.
For the Stewardship Council, the grants represent the first major watershed enhancement funding since 2004, when it was formed to oversee the future of 140,000 acres of some of the state’s most pristine watershed lands. A 2003 bankruptcy settlement between Pacific Gas and Electric Co. and the Public Utilities Commission permanently protected the land for conservation with public access.
The $2 million going to the Pit River Tribe, Spring Rivers Foundation and CalTrout is part of a $25 million fund created by the bankruptcy settlement designated for conserving the nearly 1,000 parcels in 22 California counties.
The council has recommended new ownership for some lands. The Hat Creek parcels are among the more than 70,000 acres that will stay under PG&E management, Zanger said.
The funding announced last week is the largest by far allocated for resource enhancement on lands owned by PG&E, said Ric Notini, the council’s director of land conservation. He praised the projects for the collaboration of diverse groups all committed to stream restoration.