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At issue is health of river

by Sharon Carter

Gene Young and the High Sierra Fly Casters are spending time and money on the fight for better water on the Carson River.

The group, which sponsored the Feb. 20 Carson River Fishery Conference in Minden, believes it was the first time a concentrated effort had been made to bring agencies with jurisdiction over the river together.

“It (the conference) didn’t answer a lot of questions, but it focused attention on our concerns for Carson River drainage,” Young said.

At issue is the formerly productive Carson River’s recent inability to regenerate its fish population – the fish don’t spawn.

Young, 53, a Minden art dealer who is the president of the 180-member angling club, said he was glad that more than 70 people attended the Friday morning symposium and round table discussions, but he would have been happier still to see 500 people.

“We have to get more people involved, people from all walks of life in the Carson system – from life-long residents, ranchers and other water users to the people who use the waters for recreation, as well as the different (governmental) agencies,” Young said.

From among the different agencies attending the conference were representatives from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources and Conservation Service, the California Department of Fish and Game, the Nevada Division of Wildlife, the U.S. Geological Survey’s Water Resources Division, the California Regional Water Quality Control Board’s Lahontan Region, the Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California and the University of Nevada, Reno.

The meeting was designed to bring the various separate groups together to prepare for a comprehensive Carson River Conference to be held April 6 at the Ormsby House in Carson City.

“It’s like a giant puzzle, with each expert bringing a piece or two to the table,” Young said.

Mike Matuska, 31, a Carson City attorney who was chairman of the club’s conference committee, said it was the first step to developing solutions to the river’s fishery problems.

“The whole ecology of the river has changed,” Matuska said. “While the data on pollution from old mining operations is still incomplete, we know it’s part of the picture. There are lots of reasons.”

Speakers Jane Schmidt of the Natural Resource Conservation Service, Stafford Lehr of the Nevada Division of Wildlife and Bill Somer of the California Department of Fish and Game noted areas of concern. Old clear-cut logging practices, road construction, livestock grazing, loss of tributary streams and stream bank habitat through dams and diversions and the introduction of more aggressive, non-native fish the native fish can’t compete with are also parts of the picture.

Young said he expects the bosses of the people who showed up at the Minden meeting to attend the Carson City conference.

“There’ll be a lot more power, more decision makers,” Young said. “The end result of the next conference will be action.”

In the meantime and in the aftermath of the conferences, the High Sierra Fly Casters will continue with their projects of discrete habitat restoration. Club members, a few from as far away as San Francisco, help shore up stream banks, replant willows and remove litter from along the river.

“We’ve worked for several years with the California Department of Fish and Game to help restore the habitat,” Matuska said. “It’ll never be quite the same, but there are improvements that can be made.

“Certain improvements are already working, but it’s a step-by-step thing. We work on a piece (of the river) at a time to restore it and get the fish back. We’re slowly working our way down river.

Anyone interested in learning more about High Sierra Fly Casters, the April 6 Carson River Conference in Carson City or in volunteering to help on habitat restoration projects may call Dan Kaffer at the Natural Resources Conservation Service at 883-2292.

The Record-Courier E-mail: rc@tahoe.com

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