Little Truckee River fish habitat upgrade receives national accolades
More project details
To get the project off the ground, between 2013 and 2015 Lass and Urich worked with a dozen partners to raise $750,000 for the project.
Partners included the Truckee River Watershed Council, California Department of Fish and Wildlife and National Forest Foundation, which Lass called the project’s “financial backbone,” among others.
“I just feel really grateful that the project itself is getting a recognized because it was a lot of hard work and a huge collaboration process,” said Urich. “Without the collaboration we would never have gotten the project done. It took many steps and many years to get it done, and just the persistence of wanting to see it happen and seeing it follow through … it’s just phenomenal.”
Visit tahoetroutbum.org to learn more about the Trout Unlimited Truckee River chapter. Click under “Conservation” to read more about the project.
TRUCKEE, Calif. — Back in 2011, members of the Trout Unlimited Truckee River chapter were eager to tackle an issue its members — fly fishing guides — were acutely aware of: a lack of trout in a 1.6-mile stretch of the Little Truckee River.
Located below the Stampede Reservoir downstream to Boca Reservoir, the tailwater heavily used by anglers was designated as the perfect section to zero-in on a new project.
With that, the TU Truckee River chapter began the groundwork of the Little Truckee River Fish Habitat Improvement Project.
Five years later, the project — which completed work last fall — has not only been deemed a regional success, but a national one as well.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Forest Service recognized Trout Unlimited California Field Director David Lass and Tahoe National Forest Fisheries Biologist Deborah Urich with the 2015 Rise to the Future award for their roles in the restoration of the Little Truckee River.
“It’s just a culmination of all the hard work and the things we pride ourselves on,” said Lass, who runs TU’s Tahoe office based in downtown Truckee. “We facilitated a complicated process to get a positive product, which is better fishing and a better habitat for fish.
“It’s nice when you get recognized on a national level; it’s great that it’s local here to Truckee.”
At its onset, the Little Truckee River Fish Habitat Improvement Project mapped out four goals: improve habitat for all life stages of wild trout; disperse recreational use and improve the angling experience; encourage public engagement in watershed restoration through volunteerism; and sustain the region’s angling-related economy.
“The area is just really highly valued as a fishery,” Urich said. “One of our concerns of that stream is that the fishermen have been concentrated in a specific area.
“The project is really developing habitat conditions for the fish to utilize different sections of the stream. It’s good for the fish and it’s good for the fishermen.”
Over the past two years, Lass organized volunteer workdays on the Little Truckee, the largest tributary to the Truckee River downstream of Lake Tahoe.
Willows were planted on the riverbanks and gravel was spread in the streambed to foster spawning in the Little Truckee, which supports world-class fishing for wild brown and rainbow trout.
The final phase of the project came this past August and September, when bulldozers, trucks and excavators hauled more than 100 trees and 250 boulders into the channel. Additionally, more gravel and willows were installed.
Within days, the newly restored habitat was seeing an influx of fish.
“The reason (the project) is a success so far is the fish are already occupying those features that were almost devoid of fish before,” Lass said. “It can only get better from here.”
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