Helicopters flying near Carmel River State Beach Wednesday will be carrying boulders and large pieces of redwood trees to the lower Carmel River. The material will create new habitat for the federally threatened steelhead trout.
The lower Carmel River is where steelhead trout begin their journey upstream to spawn. It’s also where their young return to the ocean. But this part of the river is shallow and open, making the new fish easy prey; and getting eaten makes it difficult for the threatened species to repopulate.
So on Wednesday, the Carmel River Steelhead Association will install natural habitat structures into the river, giving those fish places to hide.
The roughly $360,000 project has been in the works for more than 2 years. The non-profit’s president, Brian LeNeve, says it’s worth it.
“Steelhead are an indicator species; other words they’re kind of the bellwether. If you have steelhead in the river you have a healthy river. If we lose our steelhead, I’m afraid we’ve lost our river too,” LeNeve says.
The material for the new habitat is staged upstream at West Odello Field. Large boulders and pieces of redwood trees sit in the grass. Each one has a metal chain attached, so a helicopter can fly them to the river. Then divers will assemble them into 11 natural habitats.
“Which will allow the fish to dart from one structure to another structure to make them feel better, give them a place to rest,” says LeNeve.
LeNeve says the new habitats will benefit the entire river ecosystem, including pond turtles and the threatened red-legged frog.