Mokelumne Salmonid Restoration


In 2011, the Foothill Conservancy began discussing a project to explore reintroducing salmon to the Upper Mokelumne River upstream of the East Bay Municipal Utility District’s Pardee Reservoir, southwest of Jackson. Recognizing the need for EBMUD to be fully engaged in the project, Conservancy leaders met with EBMUD staff to discuss the potential for partnership.

In 2014, adult fall-run Chinook salmon returning to the Mokelumne River numbered more than 11,000 fish. That led the Conservancy to invite EBMUD and other stakeholders to participate in a collaborative effort to explore Mokelumne salmon reintroduction. A team of diverse stakeholders, later named the Mokelumne Salmonid Restoration Team, assembled and began holding meetings. They included representatives from local, state, and federal agencies; nonprofit organizations; tribes; and local business.

Over the next six years, the team narrowed its focus to fall-run Chinook salmon, took field trips, reviewed literature, and developed a draft salmon reintroduction pilot study. It also commissioned a study of the available spawning habitat upstream of Pardee Reservoir and carried out fish sampling to analyze potential disease issues that might arise with reintroduction.

In 2020, the team put its efforts on hold after learning that the California Department of Fish and Wildlife was concerned that reintroduction of salmon had the potential to spread diseases that could affect the Mokelumne River Fish Hatchery and fish downstream. Recognizing that these obstacles may be overcome by technology or facility upgrades in the future, the team has documented and archived its work so that the knowledge gained and ideas generated can be used as a new starting point for restoring iconic native Mokelumne salmon to their historical spawning habitat if the opportunity for reintroduction arises in the future.

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Leslie Smith, Sutter Creek, CA: Raised in Washington State, Leslie is a happy California transplant having moved to Sunny Sutter Creek full time in 2020. As a nascent fly fisher and lifelong skier, she is committed to the natural environment and brings extensive organizational and finance experience to the board from a nearly 40 year career in banking.