California’s two primary salmon species, Coho and Chinook, have experienced significant declines from historical populations.
Of particular importance is the Chinook salmon because the species supports commercial fishing and related jobs and economic activities at fish hatcheries.
The decline in salmon numbers is attributed to a variety of manmade and natural factors including drought, habitat destruction, water diversions, migratory obstacles created by local, state and federal water projects, over-fishing, unfavorable ocean conditions, pollution and introduced predator species. Wetlands have also been drained and diked; dams have blocked salmon from reaching historic spawning grounds.
Years of declining populations represent a significant economic loss and have led to federally mandated salmon restoration plans that complicate water diversions and conveyance for agriculture and other uses.
Cal Am is seeking California Public Utilities Commission approval to start raising local customers’ rates by May 11 to pay for the 7-mile pipeline from Seaside to Pacific Grove, which is in operation and is designed to allow pumping of new desalinated and recycled water sources from the Seaside basin to local customers.
Congressman Jared Huffman says the Water, Oceans and Wildlife Subcommittee, which he chairs in the U.S. House of Representatives, is finally getting to do things “we weren’t allowed to do” for the past six years when Republicans controlled the House. Things like protecting public lands, making climate change part of all environmental programs, trying to prevent offshore drilling and looking at the state of the nation’s wildlife and fisheries.
Assessing populations of fall-run Chinook salmon in California’s Central Valley isn’t as simple as counting how many adults have returned to a given stream to spawn. A process known as “source-sink dynamics” may be concealing the fact that certain populations are not self-sustaining.
The Bureau of Reclamation announced Wednesday that it will supply South-of-Delta growers with 65% of their contracted water total. … Rep. Jim Costa (D-Fresno), who is a grower and one of the top water policy experts in Congress, said that he expected the initial west-side allocation in February to be 50%, followed by a 75% revise.
Federal and state water managers have coordinated operations of the CVP and the parallel State Water Project for many decades. … But this intergovernmental water policy Era of Good Feeling (relatively speaking) has come to a sudden and dramatic end with the ascension of the Trump Administration.
Balancing fisheries restoration and water-supply reliability is central to a water struggle playing out in Mendocino, Lake, Sonoma and Humboldt counties after Pacific Gas and Electric Co. withdrew its application to relicense the Potter Valley Project, leaving the now “orphaned” project in the hands of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
At least 11 Democratic senators asked the inspector general to investigate a range of claims against Bernhardt … The inspector general also received a request from Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, asking the office to examine whether Bernhardt played a role in the department’s handling of endangered species in the San Francisco Bay Delta…
A total of 300,000 salmon were released into the Sacramento River on Saturday. Half were dropped at their usual location at Coleman Fish Hatchery near Anderson in Shasta County, and the other half were released 75 miles downstream, at Scottys Landing on River Road near Chico. Surgeons fit the fish with tiny radio transmitters so they can more easily study their survival chances and homing instincts.
Bernhardt has a roster to fill, with gaping vacancies in key positions. He’s got, by his own account, a departmental ethics program to fix and an ambitious reorganization scheme that critics decry or simply dismiss. He’ll have to cope with a multibillion-dollar national parks maintenance backlog and thread the needle with an offshore drilling plan. And as he’s already discovered during his short stint as acting secretary, he faces opposition from Democratic lawmakers in control of the House.
Farmers, by trade, are experts in sustainability and by extension common sense. Growers along with 1.5 million Northern San Joaquin Valley residents could end up on the receiving end of an economic Armageddon perpetuated by the state Department of Water Resources on behalf of the threatened Chinook salmon.
Even as winter and early-spring storms have filled reservoirs to the brim and piled snow on Sierra Nevada mountaintops, state and federal officials say they’re limited in how much water they can send south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.
Will hatchery-raised salmon have a better chance of surviving their journey to the Pacific Ocean and back if they get a 75-mile head start? That’s the question a three-year study hopes to answer for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and four partner organizations. The plan Saturday is to release 180,000 salmon fry into the Sacramento River 75 miles downriver from the Coleman National Fish Hatchery.
Assemblymember Adam C. Gray (D-Merced) ripped the State Water Resources Control Board on Tuesday for arguing that the harm caused by the Bay-Delta Plan to the drinking water of disadvantaged communities is not “significant”. Gray’s comments came as his legislation, Assembly Bill 637, cleared the Assembly Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials Committee with bipartisan support.
Bureau of Reclamation’s Klamath Basin Area Office will deliver at least 322,000 acre feet of water — or a 92% allocation — rather than a full 350,000 from Upper Klamath Lake to the Klamath Project this summer and fall.
When Babbitt speaks, people take notice, and he didn’t disappoint before a packed house at the annual Anne J. Schneider Lecture April 3 in Sacramento, offering thoughts on some of California’s thorniest water issues and proposing a Bay-Delta Compact, a kind of grand bargain to end persistent conflict surrounding the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
Our rules, cobbled over time from various state water right decisions or federal biological opinions, are too rigid. Pumping rules in the Delta on Nov. 30, for example, are very different than those 24 hours later, regardless of the weather. … Simply put, we are stuck in yesterday’s way of regulating things.
Venture through California’s Central Valley, known as the nation’s breadbasket thanks to an imported supply of surface water and local groundwater. Covering about 20,000 square miles through the heart of the state, the valley provides 25 percent of the nation’s food, including 40 percent of all fruits, nuts and vegetables consumed throughout the country.
On March 29, the State Water Resources Control Board announced that cannabis cultivators with water rights are not allowed to divert surface water for cannabis cultivation activities at any time from April 1 through October 31 of this year unless the water diverted is from storage. … It’s really just common sense because it prohibits using water from surface sources, such as streams, creeks, and rivers during California’s dry season.
Klamath Irrigation District has filed a lawsuit against Reclamation in federal court in Medford. Klamath Water Users Association will follow suit in a separate legal filing, jointly with Klamath Drainage District, Shasta View Irrigation District, Tulelake Irrigation District and individual farmers Rob Unruh and DuVal. Limitation to water supply stem from protections in the biological opinion for endangered sucker in Upper Klamath Lake and Coho Salmon in the Klamath River.
Political leaders from the valley are urging the Environmental Protection Agency to closely scrutinize new water quality standards proposed for the San Joaquin-Sacramento Delta. … “The State Water Resources Control Board’s proposal to the EPA misses the mark,” said Rep. Josh Harder, D-Turlock, who joined almost a dozen congressmen, including conservatives Kevin McCarthy and Tom McClintock, in sending a letter to the EPA.
PG&E’s announcement it would no longer seek a new license to operate the complex set FERC’s “orphan project” process in motion… Prospective licensees have until July 1 to file applications with FERC. … A new licensee must be able to pay for the continued maintenance and operation of all project facilities and be capable of monitoring and complying with regulatory requirements arising from the project’s impacts.
When the State Water Resources Control Board voted in December to adopt the Bay-Delta Plan, its members ignored the direction of former Governor Brown and current Governor Newsom to pursue voluntary agreements with our irrigation districts. Many saw this as an act of defiance by former Chair Felicia Marcus, the executive director, and many of the activist staff.
This post provides an overview of our recommendations for actions the State Water Resources Control Board can take before, during, and after droughts to make water rights administration and oversight more timely, fair, and effective. … Here are five actions the Board can take to build on past gains and its institutional knowledge from past drought experiences:
The California State Water Resources Control Board adopted a complex policy essentially treating cannabis as a crop inferior to other traditional agricultural crops from a water rights perspective. Other states have not made such a strong policy choice yet, but will certainly be faced with how to address this influx of permit applications, and will feel pressure from farmers of traditional crops, who do not always welcome cannabis growers with open arms.
Now that the federal government has filed its own lawsuits against an unimpaired-flows plan for San Joaquin River tributaries, farmers and other parties to the lawsuits wait to learn where they will be heard–and prepare for a lengthy court battle. California Farm Bureau Federation … filed its own lawsuit against the unimpaired-flows plan in February…
Current water sharing proposals fail to achieve the balance needed to restore our salmon runs. Meanwhile, additional massive increases in Delta diversions are planned by the Trump administration under these agreements, which would make conditions for salmon even worse. This is a formula for extinctions and the end of salmon fishing in California. There is no support for this proposal among fishermen or conservationists.
Felicia Marcus, who stepped down as Chair of the State Water Resources Control Board early this year, joins us to discuss California’s water challenges, what the state learned from the recent drought and the future of its water wars.
An oversight at the Coleman National Fish Hatchery resulted in the death of some 390,000 fall Chinook salmon this week. Water was shut off to one of the hatchery’s raceways and wasn’t turned back on during fish-tagging operations Thursday night..
Democrats and their allies are moving to push back against a former lobbyist and frequent foe of California environmentalists who is on his way to becoming the next secretary of the Interior Department. They don’t have the power to block Trump nominee David Bernhardt, but they do have far more ability to oppose his agenda than they had for the last two years, when he served as the powerful deputy secretary of the department.
Spearheaded by the San Mateo Resource Conservation District, with additional support from California State Parks and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the project aims to re-establish more than a mile of the historic creek channel, remove 45,000 cubic yards of sediment and restore more than 10 miles of habitat for threatened steelhead trout and endangered coho salmon.
Turning the tables on California, the Trump administration sued Thursday to block the state’s ambitious plan to reallocate billions of gallons of river water to salmon and other struggling fish species. … The State Water Resources Control Board voted in December to reallocate the flows of the San Joaquin River and its tributaries. The move is designed to help steelhead and salmon by taking water from San Joaquin Valley farmers and a handful of cities.
Russian River environmental watchdog Brenda Adelman accepted a water stewardship award from California’s North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board last month in a ceremony at NCRWQCB headquarters in Santa Rosa.
State officials are throwing up legal barriers to some high-stakes attacks. … They are refusing to issue permits the federal government needs to build a controversial dam project… And they can use state water quality standards to limit Washington’s ability to boost irrigation supplies for Central Valley agriculture by relaxing federal safeguards for endangered fish.
Any new path on California water must bring Delta community and fishing interests to the table. We have solutions to offer. We live with the impacts of state water management decisions from loss of recreation to degradation of water quality to collapsing fisheries. For example, how can new and improved technology be employed to track real time management of fisheries?
Chinook spawned here historically, but in 1957 Putah Creek was dammed near Winters to divert water for Solano County. After that, hardly any salmon made their way up the creek. Then a lawsuit in the 1990s — and resulting restoration project — finally gave the fish what they needed to return after all these years.
The problem is that removing the four dams will not restore natural river flows. Those flows are, for the most part, controlled by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation which will continue to divert Klamath River water to the Rogue Basin and for federal irrigation in the Upper Klamath and Lost River Basins.
The Trump administration has fast-tracked a process to deliver more water to farms. But an investigation by KQED reveals those changes are raising alarm among federal employees. In this interview, we speak with KQED science reporter Lauren Sommer about why, and what’s at stake.
Our rules, cobbled over time from various state water right decisions or federal biological opinions, are too rigid. … Things are done by an aging book. We are not adapting our management based on testing new hypotheses collaboratively advanced by stakeholders who are willing to celebrate the results regardless of outcome.
By allocating $1 million last week toward a creek restoration project set to rejuvenate threatened and endangered species and reduce flooding in Pescadero, county officials locked in funding needed to begin a dredging effort experts expect will give the Butano Creek a chance to reset.
A state environmental group is calling for the removal of an old dam on the Eel River, contending it threatens the future of protected salmon and steelhead while acknowledging it is a key part of the North Bay’s water supply. Scott Dam, a 138-foot concrete dam erected in 1922, is one of five aging dams California Trout asserts are “ripe for removal” to benefit their natural surroundings and communities.
It may be a unique situation when a dam removal might mean more water for farmers instead of less, but the Klamath Basin is a unique place. A report released last summer by the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) is leading more and more Basin farmers and ranchers to believe that dam removal may have something big to offer.
On March 6, the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) issued a public Environmental Assessment on the Operations Plan for the Klamath Irrigation Project. … It will definitely decide how many Chinook salmon people have for harvest for Tribal members and commercial fishermen. It could also return us to the days where 84-92 percent of the juvenile salmon died in the Klamath River and reignite the Klamath River water wars…
A system that transfers and diverts water from the Eel River basin has been in Pacific Gas and Electric’s control for over 35 years, but the utility’s bankruptcy filing in January — coupled with its interest in either selling or abandoning the project — has Humboldt County officials intent on closely following what happens next.
Hundreds of Bakersfield agriculture, oil and political leaders came together March 7 to examine the challenges and opportunities associated with providing California residents and businesses with a secure, reliable supply of clean water. Lest the wet winter create a sense of complacency around one of the state’s most vital needs, specialists from various fields urged collective attention to the costly and increasingly complex problems that surround sourcing, storing and conveying water.
Still unconvinced Klamath River dam removal wouldn’t result in excessive silt at Crescent City Harbor, Del Norte County supervisors are asking the nonprofit organization behind the effort to set aside mitigation dollars. With a 4-1 vote Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors directed Community Development Director Heidi Kunstal to draft a letter to the Klamath River Renewal Corporation with its request.
A bill from Sen. Bill Dodd that would increase legislative oversight of the controversial Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta WaterFix project and allow for more public scrutiny has cleared its first committee hurdle. The action comes less than a month after Gov. Gavin Newsom said he wants to scale back the project proposed by former Gov. Jerry Brown to a single tunnel.
Environmental groups Monday asked a federal appeals court to reconsider a ruling that struck down part of a high-profile removal plan for four dams on the Klamath River in California and Oregon, saying it set a precedent that would exempt dozens of dams nationwide from meeting water quality standards.
Every spring, a group called the Pacific Fishery Management Council gets together and looks at the salmon forecasts from the Puget Sound all the way down to the Sacramento River in California….The Sacramento River runs are expected to rebound a bit, but the Klamath and Columbia River forecasts are lower than last year.
When then-candidate Donald Trump swung through California in 2016, he promised Central Valley farmers he would send more water their way. Allocating water is always a fraught issue in a state plagued by drought, and where water is pumped hundreds of miles to make possible the country’s biggest agricultural economy. Now, President Trump is following through on his promise by speeding up a key decision about the state’s water supply. Critics say that acceleration threatens the integrity of the science behind the decision, and cuts the public out of the process.
The story behind the salmon success on the Mokelumne goes back to the 1970s when the Commercial Salmon Fishing Association petitioned the state to increase salmon production via a tax on the commercial fishermen. The idea was to assure a viable commercial fishery into the future and the commercial anglers would be willing to pay the cost of extra production. Their funds went into the hatchery system as well as habitat projects.
Bills introduced last week by Bakersfield Republicans in Sacramento and Washington, D.C., would redirect money from the state’s high-speed rail project toward reservoir projects, as well as repairs to Friant-Kern Canal. … The proposals by U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy and state Assemblyman Vince Fong seize upon a common frustration among many valley Republicans that billions of state and federal dollars dedicated to high-speed rail would be better spent on capturing water from wet years…
Recent plans to enlarge California’s Shasta Dam by 18.5 feet have raised concerns over possible cultural and ecological implications on wildlife among the Winnemem Wintu people and environmental groups alike. … The change in flood patterns would likely affect vital sacred sites for the Winnemen Wintu Puberty Ceremony for young women, according to the Winnemem Wintu website. The project would also relocate roads, railroads, bridges and marinas, according to a fact sheet from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.
What better way to decompress from a stressful federal government job than by trekking 2,600 miles on foot from Mexico to Canada? That’s what Jared Blumenfeld, the new head of the California Environmental Protection Agency, did three years ago, setting out on the arduous and beloved Pacific Crest Trail that traces California’s searing deserts, rugged mountains and sparkling coastline.
Henry Ford said, “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.” Rules enacted a decade ago that were intended to protect California’s iconic salmon and Delta smelt populations aren’t working and federal agencies are now in the process of modernizing them, this time using much better science.
For California’s salmon fishermen, the downstream effects of political decisions in Washington are too obvious to ignore. It’s not merely a question of profit for us. We are the stewards of the public fisheries resources who rely on their long-term health for our existence. The viability of our future can be challenged by who is in power in Washington, no matter who they are.
The Trump Administration has ordered federal biologists to speed up critical decisions about whether to send more water from Northern California to farmers in the Central Valley, a move that critics say threatens the integrity of the science and cuts the public out of the process. The decisions will control irrigation for millions of acres of farmland in the country’s biggest agricultural economy, drinking water for two-thirds of Californians from Silicon Valley to San Diego, and the fate of endangered salmon and other fish.
Water is now flowing freely along a 480-foot stretch of San Francisquito Creek after Stanford University removed the aged Lagunita Diversion Dam. … Removing the 8-foot-high structure now allows water to flow freely downstream to support endangered-fish-species habitat in the creek. San Francisquito is home to a population of the Central California Coast Distinct Population Segment of steelhead.
The real-world implications of Gov. Newsom’s rejection of the twin tunnels project became more apparent last week as the Department of Water Resources (DWR) and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation requested and were granted a 60-day stay of hearings with the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB).
Dam by dam, owners of smaller hydroelectric projects around the West look at them with a cold eye as relicensing looms. Created with optimism a century ago, dams are now seen as fish-killers and river-distorters. New energy sources are getting cheaper. After decades of operation, owners approach relicensing knowing that, if they are to continue generating a single watt of electricity, they must fix the problems.
The current dilemmas boil down to this: As the state punishes cannabis growers in the Emerald Triangle for environmental degradation, it is simultaneously pursuing an aqueduct project in the Central Valley that environmental groups claim will cause ecological harm of massive proportions. This project stands to benefit the “big ag” industry, which California’s newly legal cannabis companies are increasingly participating in.
A four-year restoration project on James Creek in Mendocino County has led to “the return of spawning coho salmon to the upper reaches of a tributary of Big River,” the Mendocino Land Trust announced. The project was a collaboration between the Land Trust, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and Jackson Demonstration State Forest, and “initial post-restoration informal surveying has already shown increased coho salmon spawning activity.”
After three difficult years when Chinook salmon population numbers were down and fishing opportunities were limited, commercial fishermen are hoping the upcoming season will be better. “What we’re seeing is a better forecast of salmon in the ocean this year than we saw last year,” said Harry Morse, public information officer for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. “We’re cautiously optimistic.”
Four new voting members, each appointed by representatives of the Delta region, would be added to the Delta Stewardship Council if a bill authored by Assemblyman Jim Frazier becomes law. … Frazier introduced Assembly Bill 1194 this week. It would increase the voting membership of the council to 11 members.
One tunnel or two, neither idea adds a drop of the water to needs of the nearly 40 million people who call California home. The tunnels simply divert existing water supplies while putting in severe jeopardy the largest freshwater estuary west of the Mississippi River, the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta that juts into the western edge of Stockton. Clearly, there must be better solutions. Three approaches leap to mind: storage, conservation and desalination.
Funding awarded for the new Temperance Flat Dam may have fallen short, but hopes for construction are still very much alive. Jason Phillips, Director of Friant Water Authority and alumni of the San Joaquin Valley Water Infrastructure Authority, has insight as to why those involved with the project are still optimistic.
It has occurred to me that the rush to remove the dams on the Klamath River is lacking in a whole host of ways, and I commend city Councilman Jason Greenough for being at least open to the notion that the dam removal might not be in the best interests of the community.
The Yolo Bypass is central, both geographically and in importance, to California’s water supply and flood protection system, according to Bontadelli. However, proposed modifications to the Bypass to enhance habitat for out-migrating endangered winter and spring-run young salmon means the it will be key to the continued pumping of water south for agriculture and urban users.
The San Joaquin Valley—California’s largest agricultural region and an important contributor to the nation’s food supply—is in a time of great change. The valley produces more than half of the state’s agricultural output. Irrigated farming is the region’s main economic driver and predominant water user. Stress on the valley’s water system is growing. Local water supplies are limited, particularly in the southern half of the region.
An international team of biologists is setting out into some of the roughest waters in the North Pacific Ocean in the middle of winter to try to solve the fundamental mystery of Pacific salmon: What determines whether they live or die? Perhaps the most critical, but least known, part of the salmon life cycle is the few years the fish spend on the high seas, gaining energy to return to their home rivers and spawn.
The state Department of Fish and Wildlife is researching how cannabis cultivators who divert water from Mattole River streams might be impacting the river’s fish and insect populations… By fall 2019, the researchers will publish findings on the full environmental effects of cannabis grows. While the research is intended to “support efforts to establish” sustainable cultivation levels, the study’s main focus is analysis, said department representative Janice Mackey.
Hundreds of thousands of threatened red coho and hook-jawed Chinook salmon used to swim here, nearly 200 miles from where the Klamath River meets the Pacific Ocean. … But by the 2000s, their numbers had dwindled to just a few dozen adults each year. Since size largely determines whether juvenile fish survive, conservation organizations have been interested in this particular property, which includes the entire 2.2-mile length of the Big Springs Creek and 7.5-miles of the Shasta River, for decades.
If you stand on a fragile levee of the Sacramento River these days and watch the chocolate brown water rushing toward the delta only a few feet under your boots, one can’t help but wonder why the state and federal governments aren’t capturing more of this precious resource. Why is all but a tiny fraction heading out to sea?
This year, the water agency plans to inform farmers and the community about not only the amount of water the Tuolumne River Watershed has received so far this year, but also will provide information regarding the final license application for Don Pedro, which first began eight years ago, and the ongoing legal battle surrounding the State Water Resources Control Board’s decision to implement 40 percent unimpaired flows along the San Joaquin River and its tributaries for the betterment of fish.
At a Town Hall Tuesday night, Rep. Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) told the large crowd filling nearly every available seat in the Ukiah Valley Conference Center about a possible future for the Potter Valley Project that would remove the controversial dam, but preserve the water supply the Ukiah Valley has depended on for more than a century.
Noting the Klamath River’s history as the West Coast’s third-largest salmon-producing river, the City Council’s letter states that they believe a “free-flowing Klamath will revitalize” both the commercial and recreational fisheries, creating jobs and bringing revenue to the community.
A single tunnel would perform almost as well as two tunnels, particularly when operated in tandem with the existing pumps in the south Delta. It would cost substantially less. And it would give assurances to environmental groups and Delta residents that the project would not create the large impacts many fear. Environmental groups should take this opportunity to sign on to a new approach for managing the Delta.
San Joaquin Valley farmers on the east side will be getting their full allocation of San Joaquin River water, while farmers on the west side will be getting only 35 percent to start, according to the 2019 initial water supply allocation released Wednesday by the federal Bureau of Reclamation. … The forecast prompted Westlands Water District, which covers more than 1 million acres on the west side, to express concern that the bureau is being too restrictive.
Auburn City Councilman Bill Kirby is a major proponent of making the sculpture – already commissioned by the non-profit Let’s Never Forget organization and being created by Reno artist Peter Hazel – a feature of a newly announced salmon festival in Auburn and keeping it on permanent display after that.
Bureau of Reclamation’s Klamath Basin Area Office continues to operate under the 2013 Biological Opinion while a new document is being created, along with the court-ordered injunction in place to guide the Klamath Project.
Metropolitan General Manager Jeffrey Kightlinger said … the agency intends to work constructively with the Newsom administration on developing a WaterFix project “that addresses the needs of cities, farms and the environment.” But Kightlinger expressed frustration that the project will be delayed even more.
A federal environmental analysis recommends relicensing the Don Pedro hydroelectric project and accepts a Modesto and Turlock irrigation district plan for well-timed flows to boost salmon in the Tuolumne River. The flows, combined with other measures to assist spawning and outmigrating young salmon, would commit less water to the environment than a State Water Resources Control Board plan that’s unpopular in the Northern San Joaquin Valley.
At the end of 2017, several local rice farmers teamed up with researchers for a pilot program known as “Fish in the Fields” through the Resource Renewal Institute, a nonprofit research and natural resource policy group, to see what would happen when fish were introduced to flooded rice fields. Now in its second year of experiments, researchers have concluded that it works, with methane – a climate-changing byproduct of rice agriculture much more detrimental than carbon dioxide – being reduced by about two-thirds, or 65 percent, in flooded fields that had fish in them.
What may be the nation’s largest dam removal project—delayed for years by regulatory and legal disputes of a utility, stakeholders and states over licensing and environmental permits—now may have new momentum after a hard-hitting January federal appeals court ruling. Kiewit Infrastructure West, Granite Construction and Barnard Construction are shortlisted for the $400-million project to design and deconstruct four hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River in California and Oregon.
Two experts from Stanford’s Water in the West program explain the potential impacts on the future of water in California of the proposed plan to downsize the $17 billion Delta twin tunnels project. … Leon Szeptycki, executive director of Stanford’s Water in the West program, and Timothy Quinn, the Landreth Visiting Fellow at Water in the West, discussed the future of water in California and potential impacts of a tunnel system.
Over the past two years, scared off by the anticipated costs of storing water there, Valley agricultural irrigation districts have steadily reduced their ownership shares of Sites. The powerful Metropolitan Water District of Southern California … is nearly as big an investor in Sites as all of the Sacramento Valley farm districts combined. Metropolitan agreed Tuesday to contribute another $4.2 million to help plan the project.
The interrelated nature of water issues has given rise to a management approach that integrates flood control, environmental water, and water supply. The Yuba Water Agency manages its watershed in this kind of coordinated manner. We talked to Curt Aikens, the agency’s general manager, about the lessons they’ve learned from this “integrated management” approach.
At long last, the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta twin-tunnels boondoggle is dead. Good riddance. Gov. Gavin Newsom made that official Tuesday during his State of the State address, calling instead for a smaller, single-tunnel approach that would include a broad range of projects designed to increase the state’s water supply. Bravo. It’s a refreshing shift from Gov. Jerry Brown’s stubborn insistence that California spend $19 billion on a project that wouldn’t add a drop of new water to the state supply.
The Siskiyou County Water Users Association received confirmation that its writ of mandamus, filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals in November, 2018, has been scheduled for the docket early next month. The writ asks the court to compel the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to rule on a motion the SCWUA filed in April, 2018, which attempts to stop the transfer of the dams’ ownership to the KRRC – the nonprofit formed to decommission them.
Congressman Kevin McCarthy led his California colleagues in sending letters to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation requesting a substantial initial water supply allocation to Central Valley Project contractors using authorities under the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act. Additionally, he and his colleagues from California also sent a letter to the California Department of Water Resources calling for an increase to the existing water supply allocation to State Water Project contractors given current hydrological conditions.
In a major shift in one of the largest proposed public works projects in state history, California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Tuesday announced he does not support former Gov. Jerry Brown’s $19 billion plan to build two massive tunnels under the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to make it easier to move water from the north to the south. “Let me be direct about where I stand,” Newsom said. “I do not support the twin tunnels. But we can build on the important work that’s already been done. That’s why I do support a single tunnel.”
The Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District today approved the lease agreement, which will last 30 years after an initial 3-year period set aside for vetting and permitting the company. … But some fishermen and other county residents voiced skepticism about how closely the company has been vetted, as well as criticism of the district’s swift decision to sign onto the lease.
The Klamath Tribes have made it clear that we are not interested in engaging in water settlement discussions. However, we are very interested in discussions that will protect and enhance our treaty resources.
Questions about financial liability and concerns over weighted votes among member agencies of the Central Coast Water Authority prompted the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors to take no action on transferring the state water contract to that joint-powers agency. … CCWA has been trying to have the contract reassigned since it was formed in 1991, but the Department of Water Resources would not agree to the request because it was unclear if a joint-powers agency could levy a property tax if a member defaulted on financial obligations.
Wednesday, the California Fish and Game Commission made Klamath-Trinity spring Chinook salmon a candidate for listing under the California Endangered Species Act. The decision was in response to a petition filed last year by the Karuk Tribe and the Salmon River Restoration Council. A final decision to list the species will be made within 12 months; in the meantime Klamath-Trinity Spring Chinook will be afforded all the protections of a listed species.
The latest chapter in the long-running dispute over how to manage water in the Klamath Basin is playing out in northern California communities. … About two dozen protesters are standing along Main Street in Yreka, the seat of Siskiyou County, which lies just across Oregon’s southern border. They’re holding signs saying “Stop The Klamath Dam Scams.”
For decades, the steelhead trout and Chinook salmon trying to complete their instinct-driven trip upstream have been blocked by an impassable concrete structure known as the BART weir, which supports the trains overhead. Within a few years, however, this capturing and relocation may not be necessary as the Alameda County Water District, in conjunction with other public agencies, is investing nearly $70 million in upgrading or replacing rubber dams and building fish ladders.
For every one of the nearly two dozen people who spoke at a public hearing Wednesday in Arcata, removing the dams is both necessary and overdue. Fishing populations have been depleted and stretches of the river have become toxic because it doesn’t flow freely, attendees said at the D Neighborhood Center public hearing. Members of various state agencies, including the state Division of Water Rights and the state Water Resources Control Board, listened and took notes. The agencies’ draft EIR is the latest step in a process spanning many years.
Despite many high priority issues on his plate, one of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s first tests will be how he deals with California’s water challenges and opportunities. Unfortunately, in the last days of his term Gov. Jerry Brown made a bad bargain with the Trump administration and special interests. It’s yet another mess for the new governor to mop up.
While campaigning for president in 2016, Donald Trump promised a cheering Fresno crowd he would be “opening up the water” for Central Valley farmers… Trump took one of the most aggressive steps to date to fulfill that promise Tuesday by proposing to relax environmental regulations governing how water is shared between fish and human uses throughout the Central Valley.
The California Fish and Game Commission on Wednesday will consider a petition to list spring run Chinook salmon on the Upper Klamath-Trinity River as threatened or endangered under the California Endangered Species Act. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife is recommending the Fish and Game commission accepts the petition, which was submitted by the Karuk Tribe and the Salmon River Restoration Council in July 2018.
An assortment of groups … joined the legal fray in courts over the State Water Board decision in December to reduce water diversions for farms and cities from the Tuolumne, Stanislaus and Merced rivers. The emotions leading up to the Dec. 12 decision have touched off debate on what exactly could restore a severely impaired delta estuary and depleted salmon populations and what it will cost for Central Valley communities.
Public meetings seeking comment on a draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for surrender of the Lower Klamath Project license begin this week, according to a news release from the California State Water Resources Control Board. The license surrender is one step toward the proposed removal of four PacifiCorp dams on the Klamath River, three of which are in California.
The California Farm Bureau Federation has filed a lawsuit to block by the State Water Resources Control Board’s plans for the lower river flow of San Joaquin River. In a press release, the Farm Bureau said that the Board’s plan , which was adopted last December, “misrepresents and underestimates the harm it would cause to agricultural resources in the Central Valley”.
President Donald Trump on Monday nominated David Bernhardt, the former top lobbyist for a powerful Fresno-based irrigation district, to run the Department of the Interior, raising renewed questions about whether he’d try to steer more California water to his former clients. … Bernhardt is a former lobbyist for Westlands Water District, which serves farmers in Fresno and Kings counties and is one of the most influential customers of the federal government’s Central Valley Project.
Details of the Sacramento River portion of the SWRCB’s plan are still preliminary, but we expect the required water releases to be higher for the Sacramento River, and its tributaries, than they are for the San Joaquin River. SWRCB staff is currently recommending that between 45 and 65 percent of the natural runoff of northern California rivers be allowed to flow to the ocean unimpeded.
A partnership between Monterey One Water and the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District, the project is designed to produce up to 3,500 acre-feet of highly treated water per year to the Peninsula for injection into the Seaside basin and later extraction and use by California American Water for its Peninsula customers. … The recycled water project is a key part of the proposed replacement water supply portfolio for the Peninsula to offset the state water board’s Carmel River pumping cutback order.
The winter rains have caused the biggest surge of coho salmon in a dozen years in the celebrated spawning grounds of western Marin County, one of California’s last great strongholds for the embattled pink fish. At least 648 coho this winter made their way against the current up meandering, forested Lagunitas Creek and its many tributaries on the northwestern side of Mount Tamalpais, according to a new census by biologists.
A group of Northern California lawmakers seeking more sway over a mammoth $17 billion water project introduced a proposal Friday that would require new construction contracts to be reviewed by the Legislature. The Legislative Delta Caucus says because of the scope of the California WaterFix, the project should require more scrutiny from both the public and lawmakers now that former Gov. Jerry Brown has left office.
After many years of hard work, North Coast dam removal efforts are now rapidly accelerating. On Friday, Pacific Gas and Electric Co. announced that it is pulling the application to relicense the Potter Valley Project, a series of two dams and a large diversion on the Upper Eel River. On Feb. 6, the California Water Resources Control Board is coming to Arcata to take comments on their final 401 (Clean Water Act) permit to remove four dams on the Klamath River. What does this all mean? Are we really about to see the Eel and Klamath River dams come down?
Five dams across California – including one in Lake County that forms Lake Pillsbury – have been listed as key for removal by an advocacy group in the effort to stop the extinction of native salmon and steelhead. In response to what it calls a “statewide fish extinction crisis,” which indicates 74 percent of California’s native salmon, steelhead and trout species are likely to be extinct in the next century, the fish and watershed conservation nonprofit organization California Trout on Tuesday released its list of the top five dams prime for removal in the golden state.
A federal appellate court decision issued on January 25, 2019 will affect the relicensing of hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River and efforts to accomplish dam removal under an existing settlement agreement.
The recent burst of winter rains has helped drive endangered coho salmon up to their spawning grounds in Lagunitas Creek, with surveyors counting the highest number of spawners in 12 years. … Lagunitas Creek supports about 20 percent of the remaining coho salmon between Monterey Bay and Fort Bragg, making it a key recovery area for the threatened species.
A federal court of appeals ruled Friday that PacifiCorp, which currently owns and operates several dams along the Klamath River, can no longer continue to use a controversial tactic which has allowed the company to avoid implementing mandatory requirements meant to protect the health of the Klamath River for over a decade. The decision marks a victory for the Hoopa Valley Tribe, who filed the lawsuit, and may expedite the removal of several Klamath River dams.
With bankruptcy looming, Pacific Gas and Electric Co. is citing “challenging financial circumstances” as one of the reasons why it’s backing off from renewing its federal license for two of its hydroelectric dams. PG&E told the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on Friday that it would no longer try to renew the license for its Potter Valley Hydroelectric Project on the Eel River in Mendocino and Lake counties. The move raises a fresh set of questions about how the company plans to maintain its aging network of 169 hydroelectric dams in California amid its financial crisis.
The Trump administration is laying the groundwork to enlarge California’s biggest reservoir, the iconic Shasta Dam, north of Redding, by raising its height. It’s a saga that has dragged on for decades, along with the controversy surrounding it. But the latest chapter is likely to set the stage for another showdown between California and the Trump administration.
Recent research has identified a genetic variation in Klamath-Trinity spring-run Chinook salmon which is upending prevailing scientific narratives about the fish. Scientists are calling it the “run time gene,” as it appears to be the factor which controls whether the salmon will migrate in the spring, or fall. The research, spearheaded by Daniel Prince and Michael Miller of UC Davis, is being utilized by the Karuk Tribe and the Salmon River Restoration Council in a renewed effort to list the Spring Chinook Salmon under the state’s Endangered Species Act.
The Santa Clara Valley Water District made a grave miscalculation in suing the State Water Board over the Bay Delta Water Quality Control Plan. By alienating the remnants of the environmental community who have supported them in recent years, they are jeopardizing future projects and funding measures that will require voter approval.
Governor Newsom’s first proposed state budget, released earlier this month, addresses several critical water and natural resource management challenges. Here are highlights from his plans to mitigate problems with safe drinking water, improve forest health and reduce the risk of wildfires, and encourage healthy soils to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase drought resilience.
Water issues are notoriously difficult for California governors. Just look at former Gov. Jerry Brown’s floundering tunnels proposal for the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. Yet two factors suggest that Gov. Gavin Newsom must make water a priority.
In an unprecedented move, the Water Resources Control board voted in December to require water users to leave more water in the lower San Joaquin River to improve water quality and help fish. “This decision represents the water board taking its job to protect the public trust and our fisheries more seriously,” said Regina Chichizola, salmon and water policy analyst for the Institute for Fisheries Resources.
The State Water Resources Control Board has proposed flow requirements for rivers that feed the Delta based on a percentage of ‘unimpaired flows… If approved, this ‘unimpaired flows’ approach would have significant impacts on farms, communities throughout California and the environment. We join many other water agencies in our belief that alternative measures …
California American Water’s Monterey Peninsula desalination project is in the midst of another critical phase even as a Carmel River pumping cutback order milestone requiring the start of construction looms later this year. … The city of Marina is on schedule to consider the project’s coastal development permit application covering mostly proposed desal plant feeder slant wells on the CEMEX sand mining plant by mid-March, according to a senior city planning official.
Since taking office Jan. 7, Gov. Gavin Newsom has not indicated how he intends to approach one of the state’s most pressing issues: water. Newsom should signal that it’s a new day in California water politics by embracing a more-sustainable water policy that emphasizes conservation and creation of vast supplies of renewable water. The first step should be to announce the twin-tunnels effort is dead.
More water storage projects will not solve the basic fact that the state’s finite amount of water is incapable of meeting all of the demands. This deficit has been created primarily by the transformation of a semi-arid area— the Central Valley — by an infusion of water from northern California.
Heavy rains this week left Lake Mendocino, the North Bay region’s second-largest reservoir, with an extra 2 billion gallons of water that until now officials would have been obliged to release into the Russian River and eventually the Pacific Ocean. Thanks to a $10 million program that blends high-tech weather forecasting with novel computer programming, the Army Corps has the latitude to retain an additional 11,650 acre feet of water, and Lake Mendocino has now impounded a little more than half that much.
Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman today named Ernest A. Conant director of the Mid-Pacific Region. Conant has nearly 40 years of water law experience and previously served as senior partner of Young Wooldridge, LLP.
Citing what they say would be a disastrous decision for the region, the Oakdale and South San Joaquin Irrigation Districts have joined with other members of the San Joaquin Tributaries Authority (SJTA) in a lawsuit challenging the state’s right to arbitrarily increase flows in the Stanislaus and two other rivers.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) today released the Delta Conservation Framework as a comprehensive resource and guide for conservation planning in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta through 2050. The framework provides a template for regional and stakeholder-led approaches to restoring ecosystem functions to the Delta landscape.
The confluence of California’s two great rivers, the Sacramento and the San Joaquin, creates the largest estuary on the West Coast of the Americas. Those of us who live here call it, simply, the Delta. It is part of my very fiber, and it is essential to California’s future. That’s why we must save it.
In an attempt to block the state’s plan to divert more water toward the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta and away from the Bay Area, the Santa Clara Valley Water District has filed a lawsuit arguing the project could significantly reduce the local water supply. If the plan advances, the water district might have to spend millions of dollars to obtain alternate water supplies and pull up more groundwater.
The House approved legislation that would fund and reopen the Interior Department, Environmental Protection Agency and Forest Service in an 240-179 vote on Friday, the latest effort by Democrats to put pressure on Republicans and President Trump to end the partial shutdown. … Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he will not bring any of the bills up to a vote in the Senate until there is a deal between Trump and Democrats on the president’s demand for border wall funding.
Standing on a stone bridge overlooking Lagunitas Creek in west Marin County, giddy onlookers observed a male coho salmon swimming upstream toward a nesting area guarded by a female. … This year’s salmon spawning season so far appears to be a mixed bag, with some locations, such as Lagunitas Creek, showing robust activity, and others, including the Russian River in Sonoma County, falling short of expectations.
The State Water Resources Control Board proved back on Dec. 12 that it wasn’t listening to a single thing anyone from our region was saying. By voting to impose draconian and scientifically unjustifiable water restrictions on our region, four of the five board members tuned out dozens of scientists, water professionals and people who live near the rivers.
Last week, the relicensing effort reached a milestone when FERC issued its Final Environmental Impact Statement. The environmental document essentially looks at what changes a licensee has proposed for a specific project, the impacts of those changes and provides conditions they must meet if awarded a new license.
The city of San Francisco is not standing down in California’s latest water war, joining a lawsuit against the state on Thursday to stop it from directing more of the Sierra Nevada’s cool, crisp flows to fish instead of people.
A coalition of groups interested in salmon recovery — California Sea Grant’s Russian River Salmon and Steelhead Monitoring Program (CSG), Russian River Coho Salmon Captive Broodstock Program and Gold Ridge Resource Conservation District (RCD) — are working together and with local landowners to see if unexplored areas of these local watersheds might hold the key to the recovery of native coho salmon populations.
The U.S. Interior Department is facing three lawsuits filed by three environmental groups who allege its plans for the 200,000-acre Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge Complex along the Oregon-California border violates several federal laws. A fourth complaint from six farms and agricultural groups alleges the agency has unlawfully exceeded its authority by restricting leases of refuge land for agricultural purposes.
Mount, a senior fellow at the Water Policy Center at the Public Policy Institute of California, spoke recently about managing freshwater systems with ecosystem water budgets. “I will argue that drought, because of the way we have modified this system, is the major bottleneck ecologically,” he said. “Step 1 has to be thinking about drought: how to mitigate drought and how to deal with drought – that is plan for, respond to, and recover from drought. We don’t do that at all, even though we just had this big drought.”
Jon Rosenfield: Last month the State Water Resources Control Board finally required increased flows from three San Joaquin River tributaries, as the first step in a process to update water quality standards for the San Francisco Bay estuary. The board opted for weaker environmental protections in order to reduce impacts to agribusiness and San Francisco, ignoring the potential for changed agricultural practices and investment in sustainable water use to ease or eliminate the impact of reduced water diversions.
The growing leadership of women in water. The Colorado River’s persistent drought and efforts to sign off on a plan to avert worse shortfalls of water from the river. And in California’s Central Valley, promising solutions to vexing water resource challenges.
These were among the topics that Western Water news explored in 2018.
We’re already planning a full slate of stories for 2019. You can sign up here to be alerted when new stories are published. In the meantime, take a look at what we dove into in 2018:
Prompted by the collapse of fish populations, the State Water Resources Control Board is trying to prevent humans from totally drying up these rivers each year. The regulators’ lodestar for how much water the rivers need is the amount of water a Chinook salmon needs to migrate.
The report issued by California’s State Water Resources Control Board marks a key step in a decade-long effort to remove four hydroelectric dams and restore the health of the Klamath River. The dam-removal project is part of a broader effort by California, Oregon, federal agencies, Klamath Basin tribes, water users and conservation organizations to revitalize the basin, advance recovery of fisheries, uphold trust responsibilities to the tribes, and sustain the region’s farming and ranching heritage.
After decades of arguments and court challenges, a landmark agreement supported by states, tribes and federal agencies is expected to change how water is spilled at Columbia and Lower Snake River dams to boost the survival of young salmon while limiting the financial hit to hydropower.
Near record numbers of chinook salmon are surging up the Mokelumne River, marking the second large spawning year in a row and signaling to fisheries biologists that habitat improvements in recent years are paying off for fish and the people who eat the pinkish delicacies. … Steelhead numbers are also up for the third consecutive year.
Despite being evacuated nearly two weeks ago from their homes in the wake of spreading wildfires, residents of the town of Butte Creek Canyon — a few miles east of Chico — plan to join forces Wednesday to save the local salmon population. … Now, the fish face a new danger, as rains threaten to wash toxic debris from the nearby wildfires into the creek.
Fish biologists bringing back salmon runs on the San Joaquin River say a record number of fish nests have been found in the river below Friant Dam east of Fresno. The number of nests, called redds, created by spring-run Chinook salmon reached 41 this year, compared to just 13 last year. … Several fish biologists, lawyers and members of the public recently toured the river with the Water Education Foundation, based in Sacramento.
This tour ventured through California’s Central Valley, known as the nation’s breadbasket thanks to an imported supply of surface water and local groundwater. Covering about 20,000 square miles through the heart of the state, the valley provides 25 percent of the nation’s food, including 40 percent of all fruits, nuts and vegetables consumed throughout the country.
Most signs point to the State Water Board approving a much-disputed river flow plan next week that will mean less water for farms and cities in the Northern San Joaquin Valley. The board, also known as the State Water Resources Control Board, is set to vote Wednesday to require irrigation districts to leave more water in the Tuolumne, Stanislaus and Merced rivers in an effort to restore salmon.
Every year thousands of sockeye salmon meet their end in Hansen Creek, a pebble-strewn tributary of Lake Aleknagik in southwestern Alaska, whether from old age or at the paws and jaws of a brown bear. Either way, they’re almost certainly destined to rot away on the north-facing bank of the stream. That’s because professors, researchers and students have been systematically tossing their carcasses to that side of the creek for the last 20 years.
It might be the most gruesome element of the drought conditions that have gripped the West in recent years: salmon being cooked to death by the thousands in rivers that have become overheated as water flows dwindle. Now a federal judge in Seattle has directed the Environmental Protection Agency, in a ruling with implications for California and the Pacific Northwest, to find a way to keep river waters cool.
In 1983, a landmark California Supreme Court ruling extended the public trust doctrine to tributary creeks that feed Mono Lake, which is a navigable water body even though the creeks themselves were not. The ruling marked a dramatic shift in water law and forced Los Angeles to cut back its take of water from those creeks in the Eastern Sierra to preserve the lake.
Now, a state appellate court has for the first time extended that same public trust doctrine to groundwater that feeds a navigable river, in this case the Scott River flowing through a picturesque valley of farms and alfalfa in Siskiyou County in the northern reaches of California.
When you think of Scottish food, your first thought might be haggis, but the country’s number one food export is actually farmed Atlantic salmon. Last year, almost $786 million worth of Scottish salmon was exported globally, with the United States as its largest market. The aquaculture industry, which already contributes $2.85 billion to the U.K. economy, has ambitious targets for growth.
The rivers that once poured from the Sierra Nevada, thick with snowmelt and salmon, now languish amid relentless pumping, sometimes shriveling to a trickle and sparking a crisis for fish, wildlife and the people who rely on a healthy California delta. A state plan to improve these flows and avert disaster, however, has been mired in conflict and delays.
Explore the Sacramento River and its tributaries through a scenic landscape as we learn about the issues associated with a key source for the state’s water supply.
All together, the river and its tributaries supply 35 percent of California’s water and feed into two major projects: the State Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project. Tour participants will get an on-site update of Oroville Dam spillway repairs.
The Hoopa Valley Tribe is suing federal agencies for allegedly failing to reduce the numbers of endangered Coho salmon killed by fisheries in the Pacific Ocean, the tribe announced Wednesday. “Hoopa is making every effort to recover Coho salmon with this lawsuit,” said Vivienna Orcutt, a Hoopa tribal council member.
Rep. Jeff Denham, one of the nation’s most vulnerable Republicans, is trying desperately to shut down a state water plan that’s widely disliked in his district. But nothing has worked so far. One thing could: Yet another lawsuit between the Department of Justice and the state of California over the issue.
The event, called Run4Salmon, is part of the [Winnemem Wintu] tribe’s plans to change the course of history for endangered Chinook, once plentiful in this part of the world. … [Winnemem Chief Caleen] Sisk says heightening Shasta Dam would further harm salmon and flood ancestral land. She advocates for the construction of new swim-ways to bypass the dam to allow salmon to spawn above it.
The giant Douglas fir hit the water with a great splash just as a powerful gust of wind from the Chinook helicopter rotors blew across the river…. The charred trunk, weighing as much as 25,000 pounds, was one of 300 fire-damaged trees that the [Yurok Indian] tribe and its partners strategically placed in the South Fork of the Trinity River this past week in an attempt to alter the current, scour out accumulated sediment and restore long-lost salmon habitat in the river.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein and some state representatives in the Bay Area are calling for voluntary settlement agreements, rather than a State Water Board proposal, to bolster the salmon population in tributaries of the San Joaquin River. In a letter Friday to water board chairwoman Felicia Marcus, Feinstein said a voluntary settlement will achieve more in restoring fish in the Tuolumne, Stanislaus and Merced rivers.
The rare spring-run chinook salmon is rarer than usual this year, according to counts in the three streams that support the bulk of the wild fish left in the Sacramento River system. In Butte Creek, a snorkel survey counted 2,118 fish this year, according to Colin Purdy, who supervises the count for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife. That’s less than half the average since 1989 of 4,427 fish.
Canada and the U.S. states of Alaska, Oregon and Washington would all reduce their catch of fragile salmon species under the terms of an updated international agreement that, if approved, will spell out the next decade of cooperation between the U.S. and Canada to keep the migratory fish afloat in Pacific waters.
Dave Vogel already knew that levees and dams had devastated the coastal salmon population in California’s longest river. The surprise for the fisheries scientist arrived when he saw the video footage of young salmon clustered beneath bridges in the watery depths.
Felicia Marcus, chairwoman of the State Water Resources Control Board, has considerable influence over decision-making that could leave more water in rivers for salmon at the expense of irrigation districts in the Northern San Joaquin Valley.
The rumble of heavy machinery might as well have been harp music to Todd Steiner, who stood on a bluff next to Lagunitas Creek in Marin County last week and admired the channels and trenches the belching excavators were digging out of the banks.
For thousands of years, the Klamath River has been a source of nourishment for the Northern California tribes that live on its banks. Its fish fed dozens of Indian villages along its winding path, and its waters cleansed their spirits, as promised in their creation stories.
An hour’s drive north of Sacramento sits a picture-perfect valley hugging the eastern foothills of Northern California’s Coast Range, with golden hills framing grasslands mostly used for cattle grazing.
Back in the late 1800s, pioneer John Sites built his ranch there and a small township, now gone, bore his name. Today, the community of a handful of families and ranchers still maintains a proud heritage.
Farmers in the Central Valley are broiling about California’s plan to increase flows in the Sacramento and San Joaquin river systems to help struggling salmon runs avoid extinction. But north of Sacramento, River Garden Farms is taking part in some extraordinary efforts to provide the embattled fish with refuge from predators and enough food to eat. And while there is no direct benefit to one farm’s voluntary actions, the belief is what’s good for the fish is good for the farmers.
Farmers in the Central Valley are broiling about California’s plan to increase flows in the Sacramento and San Joaquin river systems to help struggling salmon runs avoid extinction. But in one corner of the fertile breadbasket, River Garden Farms is taking part in some extraordinary efforts to provide the embattled fish with refuge from predators and enough food to eat.
And while there is no direct benefit to one farm’s voluntary actions, the belief is what’s good for the fish is good for the farmers.
Two days of hearings before the State Water Resources Control Board created some hope of voluntary agreements with local irrigation districts, which are under pressure to release more water in rivers to help salmon. Tuesday and Wednesday, the state board heard heartfelt comments from people concerned about collapsing fish populations in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and fears about job losses and economic calamity in the Northern San Joaquin Valley if water rights are stripped from communities.
Critical pools on the lower Eel River where migrating salmon swim toward their upriver spawning grounds are once again saturated with sediment, according to local researchers and river surveyors. Eel River Recovery Project board member and salmon surveyor Eric Stockwell said the shallow pools and channels make it more likely fish will contract disease or become stranded as had occurred in previous years.
The Southern Resident orcas are under threat. For more than two weeks this August, a mother orca carried around her calf while the world watched her mourn. More recently, rescue teams have been desperately attempting to entice a starving young female orca to eat with live salmon feedings.
The sad story of an orca carrying her dead calf for 17 days off the Washington coast this month has garnered global attention to the plight of killer whales in the region. It has also highlighted the steep decline in the region’s salmon stocks, the resident orcas’ sole food source.
Klamath River salmon, freshly caught and cooked the traditional way over an open fire, is back on the menu at the Yurok Tribe’s 56th annual Klamath Salmon Festival, which is happening Saturday. … In 2016 and 2017, the tribe could not in good conscious serve Klamath salmon at the festival because the fish runs were so low, according to a Yurok Tribe press release.
One of the unintended consequences of the devastation of Carr Fire in Shasta County is that is has been providing more water to Klamath and Trinity river fish in a time when river conditions have been looking tenuous. Hoopa Valley Tribe’s Fisheries Director Mike Orcutt said the dam-controlling U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has nearly doubled flows on the Trinity River since late July.
Heather Sears has been fishing for salmon out of this unassuming coastal community for nearly two decades. This year, for the first time since she arrived in 1999, she won’t be going out to sea. “I just didn’t think we’d have much fish this year,” she was telling me in a chilly backroom of her newly opened fish market on the Noyo River, Fort Bragg’s marine thoroughfare.
It has been a beloved summer destination for generations of Northern California families, and a blue ribbon fishery for steelhead and salmon. It has been mined, diverted, and dammed, tapped for its water and used as a sewer. It has rampaged during torrential winter storms and shrunken to a tepid trickle during drought.
Following nine years of research, a California agency has proposed to increase water flows in the San Francisco Bay-Delta Estuary. But the decision is causing contention between farmers and fisheries. … The California Water Board is scheduled to vote on the proposal in August.
Protecting winter-run chinook salmon that pass under the Golden Gate Bridge from November through May could be a key in the survival of killer whales that appear off Point Reyes, according to a new report. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries has developed a priority list of West Coast chinook salmon stocks that are important to the recovery of federally endangered “southern resident” killer whales.
San Francisco County alone added more than 120,000 jobs in five years – a huge leap in economic productivity that owes itself largely to the lucrative worlds of finance, technology and biotechnology. As people from around the country and the world continue clamoring to find their place in one of the most expensive and most congested cities, an important question is emerging in public discussions: Does California have enough water to go around, or will natural resources be sacrificed for economic success?
A 90-year-old defunct copper mine along the Trinity River that has been draining acidic runoff and heavy metals into the Trinity River is now being eyed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as a candidate to become a Superfund cleanup site.
Fishermen and environmentalists are at odds over a suite of changes to American fishing laws that was approved by the House of Representatives, and the proposal faces a new hurdle in the Senate. The House passed changes to the Magnuson-Stevens Act, a 42-year-old set of rules designed to protect American fisheries from overharvest, on July 11, largely along party lines.
“Devastating” was how Karuk Tribe Executive Director Josh Saxon described the news that only 106 adult spring-run Chinook salmon were found on the Salmon River this year — believed to be the second lowest count on record. The results of the annual Salmon River fish count on Wednesday as well as poor river conditions on the Klamath River tributary has prompted concerns about the potential for a fish kill and the future viability of what some say is already an endangered species.
More than two decades after Los Angeles was forced to cut water diversions to protect California’s natural resources, the state is poised to impose similar restrictions on San Francisco and some of the Central Valley’s oldest irrigation districts. The proposal represents a dramatic new front in one of California’s most enduring water fights: the battle over the pastoral delta that is part of the West Coast’s largest estuary and also an important source of water for much of the state.
No one is popping the champagne corks just yet, but the process to remove four hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River just took a big step forward. On June 28, the Klamath River Renewal Corporation released the Definite Plan for the Lower Klamath Project, a 2,300-page detailed analysis of how the reservoirs would be drawn down, the dams removed, the materials disposed of and the formerly inundated land restored.
The Hoopa Valley Tribe notified federal agencies Wednesday of its intent to file a lawsuit claiming the agencies failed to follow their own protocols that are meant to protect Endangered Species Act-listed coho salmon when they approved this year’s salmon fishing regulations.
The early 20th century wrought significant damage and changes to the Eel River and its fish populations through zealous overfishing and blockage of key tributaries by railroads and dams, which limited salmon and steelhead’s ability to recover. But projects are now underway to restore these tributaries to their previous state with the hope of simultaneously restoring the once bountiful runs in state’s third largest river basin.
In California’s small coastal streams, where hundreds of thousands of Coho salmon once returned each year to spawn, most wild populations now barely cling to survival. Habitat loss and intensive water use have pushed them to the brink; now climate change and increasing competition for water resources could send them over the edge.