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HomeConservation Efforts


The following is a list of the current Conservation projects and work by Mark Rockwell, VP Conservation, NCCFFI, and other partners both inside NCCFFI and outside NCCFFI.

There are many partners we work with to protect and enhance both watersheds and fisheries in Northern California & the Pacific Northwest.

JULY 11, 2024 | Mark Rockwell

There are several articles in the link below about the changes now happening on the Klamath River.  We are 2 months ahead of schedule!

It's time to celebrate! 

For 20+ years we've been fighting to give the Klamath an opportunity to return to its historic greatness.  That day is upon us now!  By September, the river will flow freely from its source in Oregon to the Pacific for the first time in more than 100 years.  Spawning salmon and steelhead will have a chance to swim to spawning habitat not open to them since 1917. 

There remain 2 dams on the river (Link River & Keno), both of which have good passage for spawning fish as well as out-migrating smolts and fry.  Don't be concerned about them.  The river will be open and free, and the genetics of these fish will take care of the rest.  They know what to do! 

** Be proud that you all have supported NCCFFF/FFI over these years, allowing us to work on behalf of fly fishers to push for where we are today. 🌎

I, and the rest of us who have been in this fight, appreciate your support!  People ask, "why should I support NCCFFI?"  Well, it's because we take actions on behalf of all of you, and our fisheries, and we work to support our sport - fly fishing.  Be proud, and continue your support us.  These changes do not happen if we, and others like us, are not in the battle. 

If you're not a member of FFI, join today!!

Mark Rockwell



I encourage all of you to send a letter using the Cal Trout link below to study and remove Searsville dam, located on Stanford University land near Palo Alto, California. This is the time that public action is needed. 

I've been fixated on this dam for more than 20 years as it is very close to my old home in Portola Valley, CA. 

If you love steelhead and want to see this fish survive into the future in the San Francisco bay area, this is the opportunity to make a difference!  


Mark Rockwell, President NCCFFI

Klamath River dam removal
& watershed rehabilitation 


This has been a 20 year project for NCCFFI and Mark Rockwell. Currently, we are engaged in monthly signatory calls, attend the Klamath communication team calls 2X a month, participate in letter writing on behalf of Fly Fishers to state and federal elected officials, as well as Pacific Power, and attend quarterly meetings of KRRC to keep up with progress.

I also participated in strategy calls in summer 2020 on moving Pacific Power to find a way forward when they balked at being named by FERC as co-licensees when FERC approved license transfer. This was a very tense time to keep the project from dying. It took 3 months to find solutions, and we supported KRRC in this process with CDFW Director Bonham and several other high level state and Tribal persons leading the way.

This has been a process involving hundreds of hours of effort and many days on the road to attend important meetings. We are on our way to 4 dams out & the largest river restoration effort in U.S. history! I’ve Been proud to represent fly fishing in these negotiations.

Yuba River watershed enhancement
and dam relicensing effort 


My primary work here has been to keep the knowledge of fisherman on the Yuba at the forefront of discussion about spawning and rearing habitat on the Lower Yuba. I’ve worked with the South Yuba River Citizen’s League (SYRCL), our primary partner to drive both fundraising and project coordination. I have consulted with SYRCL for the past 7 years on this and other projects.

Gold Country Fly Fishers is also part of this effort. We have now completed one major spawning project just below Englebright dam for both salmon & steelhead that was funded mostly by USFWS at a cost of $1.4 million, and took 21/2 months to complete.

We are engaged now in a second project focused on creating 1.7 miles of rearing habitat below Daguerre Point Dam. We have partnered with Yuba Water Agency, SYRCL, Aggregate companies, USFWS, and others to get this project started in 2020, and it continues today.

Here’s a link for more info: Hallwood Fish Habitat Project

Protection of the S.F. Bay-Delta
watershed and fishery


This is a continuous and challenging project that involves about 15 partner groups from both fishing interests, clubs, as well as several large conservation organizations. I work closely with the Delta FF, GWWFF, Cindy Charles, and CSPA on this.

We have weekly briefing calls attended by about 20 different legal and conservation groups to discuss how to challenge state and federal water agency efforts to divert water from the Bay-Delta. Annually, BOR and DWR set diversion levels that typically are too high to keep both the Delta and its fisheries healthy. We work to hold them accountable to meet state and federal ESA mandates and to protect fish & wildlife, and keep the Delta watershed healthy for people & wildlife. In addition to phone calls, I travel to State Water Board hearings, advocate at the Resources Agency and CDFW, as well as communicate with NMFS, USFWS, and individual water agencies like Westlands.

I’ve attended conferences on water, and debated Westlands twice, as well as presented on Bay-Delta water at the Salmonid Restoration Federation annual meetings. California water is a challenging and constant part of the VP Conservation job within the NCCFFI.

Update of the S.F. Bay-Delta Water Quality Control Plan & Voluntary Agreements


Before leaving office in 2019 former Governor Brown was faced with the State Water Resources Control Board’s update of the Bay-Delta Water Quality Control Plan, phase 1 – San Joaquin River & tributaries. This now approved update called for 40% of unimpeded flows into & through the San Joaquin River. In the announcement meeting of this phase 1 water contractors rebelled and called on the Governor to allow them to try to find a voluntary solution to meet the Board’s flow requirement.

This lead to what is now called the “Voluntary Agreement” effort on flows, and has been expanded to include the Sacramento River system and Delta Outflows. Again, this has become a divisive issues driven by politics and big money. The goal of keeping only small increases in actual water flows into the Delta while maintaining historical diversions is what the water user community wants. Again, we are all working together with the same groups as with the F. Bay-Delta Watershed & Fishery efforts to actually improve the flows into and out of the Delta, which is what all the science is saying must happen.

I spend between 10 & 15 hours a week working on items #3 & 4 with calls, letters, travel and other actions to help coordinate our efforts to improve Delta water flows and protect it’s fisheries.

Toulomne River flow standards & SFPUC commitment to sustainable flow levels


I work directly with Peter Drekmeier of the Toulomne River Trust on coordinating input to the SFPUC to convince them it is in their best interest to increase flows into the river to benefit fisheries, and to reduce and coordinate efforts with other stakeholders to reduce diversions from the river. They need to meet the State Water Board’s mandate of 40% unimpeded flows in the river.

This effort requires me to attend SFPUC Board meetings on zoom, and testify about meeting State Water Board requirements, and why it’s in their interest to do so. I testify on behalf of NCCFFI and our 23 clubs and approx. 6,000 members, many of which live within cities who receive water from SFPUC. I spend about 6 hours a month on this project, and travel at times for meetings.

South Santa Clara County watershed enhancement – FAHCE Agreement

This is a project that actually started in the late 1990’s by Mondy Lariz of Flycasters of San Jose in coordination with NCCFFI and myself. We ultimately signed onto an agreement with the Santa Clara Valley Water District to recover both Chinook salmon and steelhead in Coyote Creek, Stevens Creek & Guadalupe River and their tributaries. Our partners on this are Flycasters, Valley Water, Cal Trout, NMFS and CDFW.

This project was mostly dormant until 2020 when I and Cal Trout decided to put pressure on Valley Water to either get going on the project or we’d file a lawsuit. They have a new President today and he has agreed to finish the agreement signed in 2002, called the FAHCE Agreement – Fish and Aquatic Habitat Collaborative Effort. We are currently involved in a new MOU on how to move forward. We have 4-6 zoom meeting each month as well as a monthly Valley Water zoom meeting to coordinate the plan to both protect & recovery the fisheries in the region managed by Valley Water.

I spend about 5-10 hours per month working on this effort. We are nearly done with the MOU and from there we’ll take part in planning, implementation and monitoring the work and outcomes. The point person on this is Chuck Hammerstad, conservation leader for Fly Casters San Jose. He and I coordinate with Cal Trout and agency people to keep this on track.

Salmon & Steelhead recovery in Northern California rivers


 This is a continuous effort that revolves around coordinating with NMFS, USFWS and CDFW. I try to monitor most of the listed runs of fish in Northern California and to make suggested protections for them if needed. Central Calif. Coho, Central Valley steelhead, Spring-run Chinook have been the primary focus for the past 10 years.

Of the most neglected species, steelhead always get forgotten in comparison to salmon. I keep them in the spotlight as much as possible. I see NCCFFI as an advocate for these fish, and keep our clubs engaged when I can.

Yuba-Bear Rivers watershed protection 


I work with South Yuba River Citizen’s League (SYRCL) and Foothill Water Network on these watersheds. We are currently focused on preventing a new dam to be constructed on the Bear River near Auburn. Additionally, we work with SYRCL on their Yuba River Salmon project, as well as 3 separate dam relicensing projects – Drumn-Spaulding, Yuba-Bear River Hydro project & Yuba River Development Project.

We are also involved in challenging the Biological Opinion on the Lower Yuba River by the Army Corp of Engineers. Additionally, we are working with SYRCL and others on a 10J (under the ESA) effort to get Spring-run Chinook above Englebright Dam on the Yuba.

I spend about 6-10 hours a month on these projects that includes monthly calls with SYRCL and Foothill Water Network. We include Gold Country FF in these efforts.

Smith River Fisheries Monitoring Plan (FMoP)


 This project started 6 years ago follow our successful effort to change fishing regulations on the Smith to prevent the taking of wild California steelhead. Regulation at the time allowed keeping 2 wild steelhead a year. We won that battle in the Fish & Game Commission and all wild steelhead must be release today. The Fisheries Monitoring plan was conceived by myself, Chuck Bucaria and Ben Taylor as a way for CDFW to actually gather data on the run size & annual variations of the run.

This will be done using DIDSON sonar monitoring equipment in the river from September through March each migration season. CDFW can then manage the fishery based upon actual population data rather than speculation. We have worked with CDFW staff & the Director to get this done, and the plan is now approved. I am currently working with the Tolowa Dee Ni’ Tribe on the lower river who will manage the monitoring work for CDFW, and will collect and record data to be given to CDFW. Chuck & Ben are no longer involved and I am leading this effort.

Over the past 6 months I have spent many hours coordinating efforts with CDFW, NMFS, Director Bonham and the Tolowa Dee Ni’ Tribe to the point where we are close to having a final MOU for equipment sharing and the work to be done. We are focused on starting the program in September 2021.

Coordination of conservation efforts with other fishery groups


TU, Cal Trout, PCFFA, California Guides Assn. & CSPA are our front line partners on many of these projects. It takes effort and time to reach out to each of them to talk about projects and who is doing what. My goal here is to have a monthly zoom meeting with all of us talking together about projects we are focused on.

TU and Cal Trout both have projects their regional managers coordinate. We’ve engaged with both of them on some projects where a member club of NCCFFI will help them. This has happened in the Sierra with Tahoe-Truckee being part of a TU project on the Little Truckee, or coordinating efforts on the Klamath.

I’ve also worked with Curtis Knight on projects like the Klamath, Feather River and Pit river flows, as well as efforts to improve summer flows on the McCloud River. CSPA and I work together on Bay-Delta flows, Striped Bass recovery, California water diversions from the Delta and many relicensing efforts in numerous places, like on the Yuba-Bear system or the Toulomne River. It takes effort on regular calls and contacts to keep this as a working relationship.

Dam Removal on the Lower Snake River – Recovery of Columbia/Snake salmon & steelhead 


This is a project that I do mostly because I am concerned about the loss of salmon & steelhead in the greatest river system in the lower 48. It’s also a river system that many of our club members recreate in, and look forward to fishing each year. From the Deschutes River to the Salmon River in Idaho, steelhead fisherman focus here for good, relatively close good steelhead fishing. Recovery of the Snake River is key to the populations of fish in most of the rivers that are tributaries to the Columbia & Snake.

For me recovery of these fisheries, though in other states, is important to all of us. I work with people in Idaho, Washington and Oregon on this issue, and communicate directly with FFI on getting them engaged. This year, for the first time FFI has taken a position on the need to remove 4 dams on the Lower Snake River.

Here’s a link to their website on it:

Scott & Shasta Rivers:
Saving fish from the drought 


As we all know California and the West are under great stress due to the drought. That is certainly true for the Klamath River basin, including it’s tributaries, the Scott & Shasta Rivers. The California State Water Resources Control Board has just implemented new drought-related flows and restrictions on diversions from the rivers.

NCCFFI has been providing support letters and recommendations on flows to the Water Board asking them to improve flows to keep salmon and steelhead smolts and young of the year alive.

As of August 17, 2021 the Water Board has proposed regulations to reduce diversions and improve flows. See our letters here to read what we recommended.
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