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Ophir third-graders’ project shows ravine ready for salmon

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By Tiffani Collins
 Journal Correspondent 
Kathy Lowry and her Ophir Elementary class conducted a sample analysis as part of a salmon project to determine whether the Auburn Ravine can sustain a returning population of salmon and stealhead trout.
Lowry and her class were inspired to investigate this matter by a volunteer organization called Save the Auburn Ravine Salmon and Stealhead, or SARSAS. 
“The mission of SARSAS is to return salmon and steelhead, which have been driven out of local waterways by toxins and other pollutants and prevented from returning to their spawning grounds by dams, to the entire 33 mile length of the Auburn Ravine, which starts in Auburn and empties into the Sacramento River at the city of Verona,” states the SARSAS website. 
This year SARSAS hopes to complete a fish ladder and canal screening for the Hemphill Dam by November, which will help the salmon and stealhead reach prime spawning grounds once again.
The Ophir Elementary students were pleased to find that the waters of the Auburn Ravine and the surrounding environment are indeed welcoming, which is good news as well as good timing. 
“It’s been a slow process, but we are starting to see the return of salmon to the Auburn Ravine. They’re really close now,” Lowry said. 
The Ophir elementary class conducted the analysis downstream of Lozanos Bridge in December and Lowry says salmon have been spotted only a small way farther downstream.
While out gathering samples, the students also discovered a PG&E power pole, which was leaking some kind of oily substance into the waters of the Auburn Ravine.
“They were excited they found something,” Lowry said. “I think they felt like detectives. The environment was otherwise perfect. There wasn’t any trash and the water was really clean.”
The class reported their find to PG&E, who responded with a letter of thanks to the students for bringing the matter to their attention.”
“After receiving the letter from the students at Ophir Elementary School, we performed an initial inspection of the pole to evaluate its condition and determine next steps,” said Brandi Ehlers, PG&E external communications representative.
According to PG&E, the oily substance the Ophir Elementary students discovered is called creosote and was used as a preservative to prevent rot and to keep away insects. Creosote has also been applied to wood used to build docks.
“Our inspector recommended replacing the pole and relocating it away from the water, which should take place in the coming months,” Ehlers said.
“It was a great lesson for them,” said Koylynn Webdell, mother of  9-year-old elementary student Wyatt Webdell. “Good things happen when you speak up about the problems you see.”
To find out ore about SARSAS and information on how to help, visit sarsas.org.