Cantara Spill  Recovery

1996 Grant Program

Objectives
 Financial Summary

 

 

 

 

 

 1996 Annual Report

The Cantara Trustee Council is pleased to share with you its 1996 Annual Report describing our first year of activities. We hope to provide you with an important historical perspective of the events that led to the establishment of the Council, as well as an overview of our vision for the future.

The Cantara Spill was California’s largest inland ecological disaster. It virtually sterilized one of the premier trout streams in the state. While the presence of the chemical contamination was very short-lived, its effects on the river and the local economy have been protracted.

Now, five years beyond the Cantara Spill, the upper Sacramento ecosystem is making substantial progress toward recovery, assisted by management actions of state and federal Trustee Agencies. The Council administers the expenditure of $14 million in settlement funds to compensate for the impacts of the spill. To that end we developed and implemented an innovative grant program in 1996 to fully involve public and private organizations.


 

 

 

 

 

 

The Cantara Spill

On the night of July 14, 1991, a Southern Pacific train derailed on a bridge north of the City of Dunsmuir, California, along a sharp bend of track known as the “Cantara Loop”. A chemical tank car ruptured and spilled 19,000 gallons of the herbicide metam sodium into the upper Sacramento River. This incident came to be called the “Cantara Spill.”

As the metam sodium mixed rapidly with the water, it unleashed highly toxic compounds. Some of these compounds remained in the river, resulting in a visible pea-green plume, while others escaped as gases. The plume eventually flowed into Shasta Lake 36 miles downstream of the derailment, where a lake-bottom string of air pipes formed a bubble curtain to aerate the chemical. The aeration project accelerated the break-down of the metam sodium, reducing toxic components to undetectable levels by July 29, 1991.

The Department of Fish and Game, as lead Trustee for a contingent of state and federal Trustee Agencies, initiated a Natural Resource Damage Assessment process under the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). Studies were launched to identify and quantify damage to natural resources.

The chemical killed all aquatic life in the Sacramento River between Cantara Loop and Shasta Lake. More than one million fish died, including over 300,000 trout and 650,000 riffle sculpin. Millions of insects, snails, and clams perished, along with thousands of crayfish and Pacific giant salamanders.

Riparian plant communities along the river suffered extensive damage. Hundreds of thousands of willows, alders, and cottonwoods eventually died from the spill. Many more were severely injured. The vegetative damage resulted in a sudden and catastrophic reduction in canopy cover and foliage along the river, with a corresponding dramatic loss of many wildlife species that depend on the river’s riparian vegetation. Wildlife such as birds, bats, otters, and mink either starved or were forced to move because their food sources were no longer available.

In addition to its devastating effects on wildlife and plant life, the spill also resulted in claims of human health effects, the loss of recreational opportunities, and substantial economic loss for the residents of the Dunsmuir area. Although there was virtually no trace of the chemical a month after the spill, it soon became clear that full recovery from the effects of the metam sodium was years away.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Recovery - Actions Taken

Following the emergency response to the spill, the Trustee Agencies (Trustees) turned their attention to recovery and restoration of river. The Department of Fish and Game monitored fish and wildlife resources and started restoration activities where feasible. It was clear, however, that the bulk of the river recovery would have to take place through actions that would encourage or accelerate natural processes. For example, stocking hatchery trout into the river or its tributaries was suspended to permit recovery of the food organisms needed to help rebuild wild trout populations. Some of the actions taken include:

Transplantation
The Department of Fish and Game launched an experimental wild trout capture and spawning program in 1992. Eighteen months later, approximately 7,000 wild trout fingerlings were released into the upper Sacramento River near Dunsmuir. Although survival of these fish was good, natural recovery, high costs, slow growth, and spawning mortality made further wild trout propagation impractical.

To speed the recovery of sculpin populations, fish were relocated from above the spill site. This successful effort may be expanded.
The Trustees evaluated the possibility of relocating Pacific giant salamanders to the river from adjacent tributaries. Donor populations are present in the tributaries, but relocation is impractical because of high costs associated with monitoring the transplanted salamanders.
The Department of Fish and Game planted over 3,400 alders, cottonwoods, and willows to accelerate the recovery of severely injured vegetation along the river. To date, survival of the plantings has exceeded expectations.

Regulation
Immediately following the spill, the river and its tributaries were closed by the California Fish and Game Commission to both fishing and suction dredging. Streambed alterations and other land disturbing activities including timber harvest operations were carefully monitored by wardens and water quality biologists.

Beginning in 1994, trout angling was again allowed on the river. Regulations were established to provide varied angling opportunities while allowing protection for the recovering wild trout fishery. A six-mile stretch of river through Dunsmuir opened with a five fish limit and was stocked with hatchery trout. The remaining 30 miles of affected river carried catch-and-release fishing rules requiring use of artificial lures and barbless hooks and was not planted.

Snorkel and creel surveys have shown reduced numbers and sizes of wild trout in areas of the river where hatchery trout are stocked and harvest is allowed. Thus it appears that the no stocking policy and catch and release regulations on most of the river have been essential in allowing the natural recovery of wild trout populations.

Habitat Enhancement
Eight nesting platforms have been constructed along the river to increase osprey reproductive success. Birds successfully raised young at two platforms in 1995 and at three platforms in 1996.

Monitoring
Recovery monitoring of stream-side vegetation, stream insects, mollusks, crayfish, amphibians, fish, bats, nesting birds, and osprey have been conducted since the spill.

The upper Sacramento River ecosystem is making substantial progress toward recovery five years after the Cantara Spill. Careful management of the river and its resources continues to accelerate natural recovery.


 

 

 

 

Recovery Status

Recovery was rapid for several groups of organisms and much slower for others. The algae recovered quickly after the spill. Many aquatic insects substantially returned within two years of the spill. At the five-year mark, ospreys, dippers, sandpipers, and mergansers were making good progress toward recovery. Some plants, such as elephant ears and torrent sedge, recovered after two growing seasons. Willows that survived the initial chemical exposure, even those with severe injury, are recovering well.

In contrast, some stream-side trees continue to show long-term injury. Of the severely injured trees, more than 80% of the alders and 40% of the cottonwoods died within five years of the spill. Since the average age of trees killed by the spill was 15 years, well over a decade will be required to replace the kind of habitat these trees provided prior to the spill.

The wild trout population is still only about half of what it was prior to the spill. After five years, the size and age structure of the population is dominated by younger and smaller fish. Natural recovery is proceeding favorably, due in large part to the careful management of the fishery by the Trustees.
Riffle sculpin, the most abundant fish species in the river prior to the spill, are continuing a moderate recovery rate. Bats have suffered low over-winter survival and decreased reproductive success. The number of riparian nesting birds remains well below pre-spill abundance, but is continuing to increase.
Species such as clams, snails, crayfish, and salamanders are struggling in their comeback and may not return to pre-spill levels for many more years.

Monitoring studies conducted by the Trustee Agencies document the time needed for recovery of the river ecosystem. In some ways recovery has been impressive. Anglers and rafters again share the water with wild Sacramento River trout as the ecosystem continues to heal. The Council will continue to support actions that will accelerate the natural recovery of the river ecosystem.


 

 

 

 

 

 

1996 Grant Program

This year saw the successful initiation of the Council’s grant program. Under the terms of the Cantara Settlement Memorandum of Agreement (MOA), $1.8 million was deposited into the Upper Sacramento River Account, the first installment of $14 million to be received by the Council over a five-year period. The Trustee Council may make expenditures from this account for resource protection, restoration, rehabilitation, enhancement, acquisition, study and/or research, public information and/or education, and program and/or administrative support for these activities. These activities are not limited to the upper Sacramento River and may take place in similar habitats in other areas to replace resource values.

In 1996, the Council made grant allocations in four project categories: 1) restoration, rehabilitation, and enhancement; 2) habitat acquisition and resource protection; 3) study and research; and 4) public information and education directly related to program goals. The 1996 grant program emphasized the restoration of resources injured by the spill, both on the upper Sacramento River and at off-site locations, and the continuation of on-site recovery monitoring.

Thirty-nine proposals were received, totaling over $7 million in requests. A technical review committee, consisting of experts in a variety of biological fields, was established to apply an evaluation model to these proposals. Applicants were also asked to present their proposals to the Council in person. Based upon the review committee’s recommendations and the applicants’ presentations, the Council selected 17 projects for funding in 1996, totaling $1,493,826.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Restoration, Rehabilitation, and Enhancement Projects

Restoration projects formed the single largest category funded by the Trustee Council in 1996. Six projects totaling over $450,000 were funded this year.

 

Alan Pardee, Landscape Architect — Cantara/New Springs Enhancement, — $39,500
The project will restore habitat, protect resources, improve public access, and promote community stewardship at the Cantara and New Springs fishing access points.

Shasta River CRMP and Great Northern Corp. — Freeman Ranch Cattle Exclusion Fencing — $61,531
This will create a 32-acre cattle exclosure on the Shasta River, replant riparian vegetation, and conduct research to develop compatible grazing prescriptions within the riparian zone.

Deixis Consultants —
Mollusc Recovery Monitoring —$36,820

The project will continue recovery monitoring for molluscs on the upper Sacramento River, and evaluate the feasibility of establishing satellite populations from donor sites within the watershed.

Thomas R. Payne & Associates — Riffle Sculpin Population Study — $75,531
This is a two-year continuation of monitoring to assess recovery of riffle sculpin in the upper Sacramento River and will relocate sculpin to enhance recovery.

Wildlife Conservation Board and Siskiyou RCD — Scott River Riparian Restoration — $200,000
The project includes fencing, bank stabilization, revegetation, and screening structures to restore fisheries and riparian habitat along a 4.5 mile section of the upper Scott River

Shasta-Trinity National Forest, U.S. Forest Service — South Fork Fish Habitat Improvement — $40,899
This instream project will improve habitat, cover, and pools on an approximately 2,000 foot section of the south fork Sacramento River.


 

 

 

 

 

Habitat Acquisition and Resource Protection Projects

Two habitat acquisition projects were funded: a gap analysis study of the upper Sacramento River watershed and an off-site property acquisition along Battle Creek in Tehama County. A single resource protection project was funded to provide a water quality monitoring and enforcement program for the upper Sacramento River over a multi-year period.

 

ENPLAN, Environmental Scientists and Planners — Upper Sacramento River Gap Analysis — $32,490
A gap analysis using Geographic Information Systems will identify priorities for acquisition and resource protection within the upper Sacramento River watershed.

California Department of Fish and Game, Region 1 — Battle Creek Wildlife Area Acquisition — $166,000
This 47.7-acre addition to Battle Creek Wildlife Area will connect state lands, protect an existing riparian corridor, and provide improved public access.

Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board — Upper Sacramento River Pollution Control — $20,400
The two-year project will establish a comprehensive water quality monitoring program for the upper Sacramento River and identify sources of pollution for enforcement action.


 

Study and Research Projects

These projects focus on continuing recovery monitoring for fisheries, aquatic insects, and riparian bird species between Cantara Loop and Shasta Lake. Results from these studies will provide information needed to make future restoration and management decisions for the upper Sacramento River.

 

Department of Water Resources, Northern District — Aquatic Invertebrate Recovery Assessment — $40,000
This one-year project will collect stream insects in the upper Sacramento River and analyze their recovery.

Point Reyes Bird Observatory — Monitoring the Recovery of Riparian Birds — $45,000
The study continues monitoring riparian bird recovery on the upper Sacramento River.

Department of Water Resources, Northern District — Fall River Aquatic Assessment — $75,000
A one-year project will evaluate the movement of coarse sediment and its effects on the wild trout fishery of the upper Fall River.

Pacific Southwest Research Station, US Forest Service — Rainbow Trout Genetics — $59,996
This study will assess the degree of genetic similarity between wild trout from the upper Sacramento River watershed and hatchery strains planted in Shasta Lake.

Thomas R. Payne & Associates — Upper Sacramento River Fishery Monitoring — $162,950
This two-year project continues dive count surveys to monitor recovery of wild trout and other fish species in the upper Sacramento River.


 

 

 

 

Public Information and Education Projects

The Council funded three public information and education projects for a total of $258,709, representing approximately 17% of the 1996 grant program expenditure.

Siskiyou County Superintendent of Schools — Siskiyou Watershed Education Project — $50,000
The program will educate teachers about the recovery and restoration of the upper Sacramento River ecosystem and develop a local watershed education curriculum.

Shasta-Trinity National Forest, US Forest Service — South Fork Sacramento Cooperative Education —$8,709
Natural resource interpretation for local schools in conjunction with instream restoration work on the South Fork Sacramento River will be provided by this program.

City of Dunsmuir — Upper Sacramento River Exchange Project — $200,000
This project will support the development of a river exchange drop-in center and a volunteer program for improved public relations and public education with links to local schools.


Cantara Trustee Council Objectives

The Cantara Trustee Council is committed to a balanced, cost-effective restoration program that maximizes benefits to natural resources injured by the spill. Over the next four years, the Council will fund projects to protect and restore natural resources, replace resource values (including human-use values), and encourage public understanding and participation in the restoration and recovery process.

The Council will explore a variety of mechanisms to meet its restoration goals. It will continue the successful 1996 grant program as the primary means of soliciting useful restoration projects from both the public and private sectors. A "mini-grant" program will also be established to fund restoration projects by local schools, clubs, and volunteer organizations.

In addition to these programs, the Trustee Council will pursue its own initiatives to protect the long-term health of the river. The Council will use an ecosystem approach to identify habitat protection needs and opportunities to enhance public access to river resources within the watershed. Improvements to existing public facilities along the river are also under study.

A Plan for Future Expenditures

The Council's restoration program will change over time. The following expenditure projections have been prepared by the Council based on the current recovery status of natural resources, restoration actions already implemented, and predicted recovery rates.

Primary emphasis will be placed on restoration, habitat acquisition, and resource protection. Initial restoration work will focus on actions that assist or accelerate on-site recovery. As natural recovery progresses, the need for on-site intervention will decrease and off-site actions will be emphasized. Off-site restoration and habitat acquisition will be increasingly important tools to compensate for the long-term losses of habitat values and ecosystem services caused by the spill.

Research will be funded by the Council to support restoration actions. Recovery monitoring will be emphasized initially to identify needed restoration projects. As recovery progresses, research funding will decrease in importance.

The Council believes that public information and education are critical elements of the restoration program. Expenditures in this area will include school curricula based on the Cantara Spill and ecosystem recovery. Natural resource interpretation for residents of the watershed and all those who use or enjoy the river will also be supported by the Council.

Program Costs

The Council will minimize administrative and staff support costs associated with its restoration program. To date, these costs have been contributed by the trustees. However, as the Council's program grows, administrative costs must come out of the Council's funds.


 

 

 

Credits - Photography
Andy Anderson
Steve Bachman
Elizabeth Blanke
Marilyn Brown-Burnell
Craig Martz
Jim Nelson
Chip O'Brien
Dana Lis
Redding Record Searchlight
Sea & Sage Audubon Society
Steve Turek
 
Graphic Designer: Dana Lis

 

 
Financial Summary
Income  
First installment 1,800,000
Interest, initial installment 759,724
Interest, first installment 33,243
Total Income 2,592,967
Expenses  
Grants Payable
Alan Pardee, ASLA 39,500
Great Northern Corporation 61,531
Deixis Consultants, Inc. 36,820
Thomas R. Payne (Riffle Sculpin) 75,531
Wildlife Conservation Board (Scott River Riparian) 200,000
US Forest Service (South Fork Fish Habitat) 40,899
Regional Water Quality Control Board (upper Sacramento River) 200,400
Wildlife Conservation Board (Battle Creek Acquisition) 165,000
ENPLAN 32,490
Department Water Resources (Aquatic Invertebrates) 40,000
Point Reyes Bird Observatory 45,000
Department Water Resources (Fall River Aquatic) 75,000
USFS, Pacific Southwest Research Station 59,996
Thomas R. Payne (upper Sacramento Fishery) 162,950
Siskiyou County Superintendent Schools 50,000
USFS (Coop. Education) 8,709
River Exchange Program 200,000
Cost Recovery/Reimbursement 695,905
Total Expenses 2,189,731
Balance 403,236