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The Yurok Tribe, CalTrout and Farmers Ditch Company signed a historic Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to restore salmon habitat and improve agricultural water use from the Scott River.

The Scott River is a tributary of the Klamath River, one of the largest rivers in California. The Scott River provides a unique and highly productive habitat for Chinook salmon, coho salmon, which is listed as threatened on the Endangered Species Act, steelhead, and Pacific lamprey—which the Yurok Tribe depends on for sustenance and ceremony. According to CalTrout, the Scott River is the most productive coho salmon stream in all of California.

“The Yurok Tribe initiated this unique partnership in an effort to develop cooperative, mutually beneficial solutions that help the Scott River’s salmon runs to recover,” Yurok Tribal Council Member Ryan Ray said in a statement. “We believe that strong fish runs and resilient ranching operations can coexist in the Scott River Valley. This agreement establishes the necessary framework to make it happen.”  

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Representatives from the Yurok Tribe, CalTrout and Farmers Ditch Company convened at the Scott River Ranch to sign the MOU on June 15. There, leaders spoke of the history of the Scott River and how its future depends on collaboration. 

“We all rely on water – including our fish – and my team is excited to be a member of this innovative partnership working toward a future for water security and functioning ecosystems,” said CalTrout’s Mount Shasta-Klamath Regional Director Damon Goodman in a statement. “This could be a real win-win for fish, farms, and California’s Tribal communities.”

According to a statement by CalTrout, the partnership is aimed at restoring salmon habitat and improving on-farm water use efficiency on the mainstem Scott River. It is being led by the Yurok Tribe and funded by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. Other organizations have pledged to restore the river’s health, including the Yurok and Karuk Tribes, Scott River Water Trust, Farmers Ditch Company, CalTrout and others will be announced as the project develops.

Fish populations in the area have been declining due to an extended drought in the region, pollution left from the gold mining era, and diseases stemming from the Klamath River. For years, California Tribes have advocated with other conservation groups to remove the Klamath River Dams, which they say have harmed more than 400 miles of river habitat and degraded water quality for people and wildlife. 

After decades of advocacy, in November 2022, the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission voted unanimously to approve a $500 million dam removal project on the Klamath River. Four dams were built between 1908 and 1962 on the Klamath River, from Oregon to northwestern California, named Copco No. 1, Copco No. 2, Iron Gate, and JC Boyle. Proponents of the dams have said that dam removal would open up hundreds of miles of salmon habitat. When completed, the removals will be the largest dam removals in the world. 

The MOU’s habitat and water system improvements will complement the ongoing efforts by CalTrout and others to restore the Scott River – including the upstream tributaries — East Fork and South Fork Scott River.

“I hope this work will one day serve as a model that can be duplicated from the Klamath River’s headwaters to the coast,” concluded Yurok Tribe Vice Chairman Frankie Myers.

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About The Author
Author: Darren ThompsonEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Darren Thompson (Lac du Flambeau Ojibwe) is a staff reporter for Native News Online who is based in the Twin Cities of Minnesota. Thompson has reported on political unrest, tribal sovereignty, and Indigenous issues for the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, Indian Country Today, Native News Online, Powwows.com and Unicorn Riot. He has contributed to the New York Times, the Washington Post, and Voice of America on various Indigenous issues in international conversation. He has a bachelor’s degree in Criminology & Law Studies from Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.