The Eel River Recovery Project (ERRP) and the Now and Then Film Series are showing the documentary Signs of Resilience, which portrays Eel River fall Chinook salmon trends from 2012 to 2017, at the Little Lake Grange in Willits on the evening of Thursday, February 21. The film raises questions about the health of Outlet Creek salmon runs and there will be a panel discussion of fisheries, monitoring and restoration experts after the showing, including question and answer period with the audience.
Signs of Resilience is a well-crafted film with great video of fish under water and beautiful shots of remote parts of the Eel River watershed where few people visit. The film documents a resurgence of Eel River fall Chinook salmon and confirms that the population is in the tens of thousands, far above levels that indicate any risk of extinction. This 2018-2019 run estimate by ERRP is 15,000 to 25,000 Chinook salmon, a slight increase from last year and well above the 10,000-15,000 fish estimated in 2015, but far fewer than the 30,000 to 50,000 fish returning in 2012.
Recovery of the population is not uniform across the watershed. Some areas are showing signs of ecological stress and diminished returns when compared to returns in the late 1950s. This particularly true of Tomki Creek east of Willits, which had 3,500 to 5,000 Chinook salmon spawning in the years from 1985-1988, but only dozens to hundreds in recent years even when the basin wide runs are robust. Although Outlet Creek has more spawning activity than Tomki Creek, high levels of fine sediment may be diminishing spawning success.
The panel discussion following the movie will include the film maker and ERRP Managing Director Pat Higgins, Joe Scriven from the Mendocino County Resource Conservation District, water conservation expert Larry Desmond, Kirk Lumpkin of Friends of Outlet Creek and Ben Cook and Matt Clifford of Trout Unlimited. Restoration discussions after the film will include recovery of steelhead trout and coho salmon that require cold summer stream flows.
Doors of the Little Lake Grange at 291 School Street in Willits will open at 6:30 PM and Signs of Resilience will show at 7 PM. For more information, see the ERRP Facebook page. Those with questions may also call Pat Higgins at 707 223-7200. Signs of Resilience is available by streaming at the website www.eelriverrecovery.org and available on DVD on the web or at the event.