Anadromous fish are freshwater fish that migrate to sea then
return to spawn in freshwater. In California, anadromous
fish include coho salmon, Chinook salmon and steelhead. Those in
the Central Valley have experienced significant declines from
Of particular importance is the Chinook salmon as 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, migratory obstacles created by water projects,
unfavorable ocean conditions, pollution and introduced predator
The Anadromous Fish Restoration Program (AFRP), a part of the
Central Valley Project Improvement Act, aims to double the
natural production of fish that migrate between fresh water and
salt water. The goal is to boost the numbers of anadromous fish
to at least twice the levels attained during the period of
Since 1995, AFRP has implemented more than 195 projects through
funding by Congressional appropriations and a surcharge imposed
on Central Valley Project water and power contractors.
Central California Coast steelhead historically thrived in Bay
Area waters, but today, populations are collapsing with only a
fraction of their historical abundance remaining, according to
CalTrout’s SOS II Report. California Trout, along with our
partners at California Department of Fish and Wildlife, San
Mateo Resource Conservation District (RCD), Trout Unlimited,
and others such as California State Parks, private landowners,
and NOAA Fisheries- the federal agency tasked with managing
steelhead and salmon nationwide- are determined to improve this
system for the overall health of the watershed and for its
inhabitants — both fish and people.
The fish need the water, the farmers and ranchers need the
water, and the fish win. Because coho salmon are on the
Endangered Species List in the region, and the Scott and Shasta
Rivers are important to their survival. The State of California
put emergency rules in place governing groundwater around those
rivers, and the people in agriculture take exception. We hear
the environmental side of the issue in this interview. Craig
Tucker, Natural Resources Policy Advocate for the Karuk Tribe,
lays out the importance of the water for the fish …
After decades of negotiation, the largest dam-removal project
in U.S. history is expected to begin in California’s far north
next year. The first of four aging dams on the Klamath River,
the 250-mile waterway that originates in southern Oregon’s
towering Cascades and empties along the rugged Northern
California coast, is on track to come down in fall 2023. Two
others nearby and one across the state line will follow.
… The native flora and fauna in the region are bound to
prosper as algae-infested reservoirs at the dams are emptied,
the flow of the river quickens and cools, and river passage
swings wide open.
The final hurdle is in sight and expected to be overcome, in
the decades-long fight to remove four dams from the Klamath
River and hopefully allow restoration of the river’s Chinook
salmon population which was once the third-largest in the
country, but in recent years has plummeted by as much as
ninety-eight percent. The four dams were built between 1903 and
1967 as part of PacifiCorp’s Klamath Hydroelectric Project and
are now obsolete. Removing them will provide native migratory
fish, like Chinook salmon, access to larger spawning grounds.
It will also help restore the natural flow of the river,
providing innumerable benefits to the entire ecosystem.
Mark your calendars now for our upcoming fall 2022
tours exploring California’s two largest rivers – the
Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers! On our
California Tour, Oct. 12-14, participants
can learn about key reservoirs and infrastructure that
transports vital water resources statewide.
Our San Joaquin River Restoration Tour
Nov. 2-3 returns this year to tell the
story of bringing back a river’s chinook salmon while
balancing water supply needs. Registration is
A decade ago, Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway wrote the seminal
book, Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured
the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming.
Oreskes and Conway documented how scientists paid by the
tobacco industry sowed doubt about the links between smoking
and lung cancer, and how the same strategy has been used with
climate change, acid rain, the ozone hole, and asbestos.
Similar tactics have been used to sow doubt about the causes of
the collapse of native fish populations in the Sacramento-San
Joaquin Delta and its watersheds.
From its headwaters in the Sierra Nevada, the Feather River
flows some 3,600 feet downhill, where, in Oroville, it meets
the tallest dam in the nation. Its path shows exactly why
California geology is ideal for the production of hydropower.
It’s physics. The higher the mountains, the faster the water
falls. Hydropower dams capture this power and divert it through
spinning turbines in nearby powerhouses that activate
generators to produce electricity. But all this hydropower
comes at a cost.
Rivers in California’s Central Valley like to go their own way:
they expand, contract, meander and regenerate soil in the
process. The historic movement of rivers is what made Central
Valley soil so fertile. Naturally flowing rivers recharge and
save water for people and nature, providing habitat for many
species including four distinct runs of chinook salmon.
Before the early 20th century, the Sacramento River had one of
the biggest salmon runs in North America …
California water regulators hosted a public forum on Wednesday
to collect comments about re-adopting drought emergency
regulations for Siskiyou County’s Scott and Shasta River
watersheds. … In response [to current drought conditions],
the California Department of Fish and Wildlife
is requesting the re-adoption of a 12-month drought
emergency regulation to protect salmon, steelhead and
other native fish.
Local watersheds in the Eel River Valley and Southern Humboldt
County will benefit from five grants recently awarded by the
McLean Foundation. Grant recipients are the Eel River Recovery
Project and Friends of the Van Duzen, the Salmonid Restoration
Federation, Mattole Restoration Council, Friends of the Eel
River, and Friends of the Lost Coast.
The science and data are clear. Southern California steelhead
are on the brink of extinction. Southern steelhead populations
have been decimated at the southern end of their native range,
plummeting from tens of thousands to a few hundred remaining
adults due to habitat loss, fragmentation, and degradation from
urbanization. On April 21, an important milestone was achieved
to prevent the irreversible loss of this iconic Southern
California fish species. The California Fish and Game
Commission unanimously voted that the state ESA listing of
Southern steelhead may be warranted.
Critically endangered adult salmon are again swimming above a
century-old dam in this remote corner of far Northern
California in the shadow of the Mount Lassen volcano. But this
isn’t a habitat-restoration success story — at least not yet.
For the past two weeks, state and federal fisheries managers
have begun hauling the winter-run Chinook nearly 50 miles by
truck from the dangerously warming Sacramento River to a
stretch of the north fork of Battle Creek and releasing them, a
handful at a time, into the creek’s icy waters.
Congressman Jared Huffman introduced a new bill this week that
aims to give land back to the Yurok Tribe. HR7581, known as the
Yurok Lands Act, would expand the Yurok reservation boundaries
and give the tribe more than 1,229 additional acres of U.S.
Forest Service land. … By reclaiming land, the Tribe
hopes to help keep local forests and salmon populations
In this new series, our Communications Associate, Kara
Glenwright, sits down for conversations with the women on our
Conservation and Policy/Legal teams. Follow along as these
women share their own stories and experiences as women in
conservation and science at CalTrout.
For the first time in half a century, ocean-going fish will
soon be able to migrate up Alameda Creek to spawn, now that a
second fish ladder has been completed in the lower portion of
the creek in Fremont. Alameda County Water District and Alameda
County Flood Control District officials on Monday celebrated
the completion of the fish ladder, which was finished earlier
this month, according to Sharene Gonzales, a water district
spokesperson. The ladder, which consists of a series of
steadily elevating pools, allows migratory fish such as Chinook
salmon and threatened steelhead trout to get around human-made
barriers in the lower creek …
Nine people were arrested by state wildlife police on suspicion
of poaching, selling animals on the black market and other
offenses after a sprawling investigation by the California
Department of Fish and Wildlife, the agency said. Eight men
were arrested on suspicion of poaching white sturgeon from
Sacramento Valley waterways, the department said last week. A
ninth man was arrested on suspicion of selling Dungeness crab
and red abalone on the black market.
Rather than planning for droughts and ensuring that minimum
water quality objectives are achieved in critically dry years,
the proposed voluntary agreement appears to be a “plan to fail”
to protect the Delta in future droughts. Droughts are a
fact of life in California, even as climate change is making
them worse. The Governor’s Water Resilience Portfolio
recognizes the need to improve drought preparedness, requiring
that the State to be able to protect fish and wildlife during a
six year drought …
In November 2021, salmon entering Putah Creek were part of a
large fish kill in the lower creek. The event took
everyone familiar with the creek by surprise and prevented
successful migration of the creek’s fall salmon. Only 4 or 5
adult Chinook salmon made it upstream to suitable spawning
habitat. The result was particularly tragic as it followed
on the heels of the restoration of a salmon run in the creek,
as well as habitat for other fishes.
No one was surprised by Thursday’s letter granting PG&E an
annual license to run the Potter Valley Project until April of
next year. And, while a last-minute mystery application did
provide a few moments of titillating speculation, the enigmatic
Antonio Manfredini failed to generate any real suspense. The
50-year license to operate the Potter Valley Project, which
diverts water from the Eel River into the east branch of the
Russian River to Lake Mendocino by way of a tunnel, a pair of
dams and reservoirs, and a small hydropower plant, expired on
Northern California farmers use pumped river water during
freezing spring nights to coat the growing grapes with a
protective layer of ice, and without this protection there
could be significant losses to crops. That water, however,
comes from the homes of the hook-mouthed coho salmon and
the threatened steelhead trout. Once plentiful, the coho salmon
is now a protected species under threat (via NOAA Fisheries).
Salmon-Safe seeks to protect important species in California
and beyond, while still supporting the many brewery and winery
industries that need water to thrive.
A total of nine people have been arrested after an
investigation into a large suspected sturgeon poaching
operation along Sacramento Valley waterways. The California
Department of Fish and Wildlife says the investigation started
as two separate cases, but a connection between the suspects
led them to uncovering the larger operation.
The Sacramento River Settlement Contractors are currently
implementing another project on the Sacramento River just
downstream from Keswick Reservoir that will contribute to the
habitat targets established by the recently signed Voluntary
Agreements Memorandum of Understanding. The 2022 Keswick Gravel
Injection Project will provide much needed spawning habitat in
the upper Sacramento River for endangered winter-run Chinook
With very little rain falling throughout our region from
January to March, most of us were already preparing for summer.
However, the April showers hitting the coast are providing a
second winter. These rains will definitely impact the health of
future salmon and steelhead runs, which will likely be stronger
a few years down the road because of it.
To its side is the oldest fish counting station in
California, the Van Arsdale Fisheries Station, run by
the California Department of Fish and Game since 1922. The
station overlooks a fish ladder, built as part of the
agreement to allow construction of the Scott Dam, which allows
fish like salmon and trout to travel upriver to
spawn. Unfortunately, from the beginning it also
overlooked, and not in the scenic way, the needs of the
lamprey, a much-maligned fish that also needs access to the
Eel’s headwaters and unlike its salmonid cousins can’t swim up
The 100-year-old Potter Valley Project consists of two dams
along Northern California’s Eel River. The upstream Scott Dam
blocks salmon and steelhead from reaching prime spawning
grounds, according to Alicia Hamann, the director of Friends of
Eel River. Both fish are threatened under the Endangered
Species Act. Friends of the Eel River are one of a handful of
environmental groups planning to sue PG&E to seek
protections for these dwindling fish populations.
A coalition of fishery groups has formally notified PG&E
that it plans to file suit under the Endangered Species Act,
alleging the continued injury to once abundant federally
protected salmon and steelhead trout as a result of operations
at the utility’s aging Potter Valley powerhouse. The legal
maneuver is part of an effort to expedite removal of Scott and
Cape Horn dams, which pose a threat to vulnerable fish species
in the Eel River and block access to hundreds of miles of prime
Land and waterway managers labored
hard over the course of a century to control California’s unruly
rivers by building dams and levees to slow and contain their
water. Now, farmers, environmentalists and agencies are undoing
some of that work as part of an accelerating campaign to restore
the state’s major floodplains.
Biologists have designed a variety
of unique experiments in the past decade to demonstrate the
benefits that floodplains provide for small fish. Tracking
studies have used acoustic tags to show that chinook salmon
smolts with access to inundated fields are more likely than their
river-bound cohorts to reach the Pacific Ocean. This is because
the richness of floodplains offers a vital buffet of nourishment
on which young salmon can capitalize, supercharging their growth
and leading to bigger, stronger smolts.
This tour guided participants on a virtual journey deep into California’s most crucial water and ecological resource – the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. The 720,000-acre network of islands and canals support the state’s two major water systems – the State Water Project and the Central Valley Project. The Delta and the connecting San Francisco Bay form the largest freshwater tidal estuary of its kind on the West coast.
The southern part of California’s Central Coast from San Luis Obispo County to Ventura County, home to about 1.5 million people, is blessed with a pleasing Mediterranean climate and a picturesque terrain. Yet while its unique geography abounds in beauty, the area perpetually struggles with drought.
Indeed, while the rest of California breathed a sigh of relief with the return of wet weather after the severe drought of 2012–2016, places such as Santa Barbara still grappled with dry conditions.
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:
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.
For decades, cannabis has been grown
in California – hidden away in forested groves or surreptitiously
harvested under the glare of high-intensity indoor lamps in
suburban tract homes.
In the past 20 years, however, cannabis — known more widely as
marijuana – has been moving from being a criminal activity to
gaining legitimacy as one of the hundreds of cash crops in the
state’s $46 billion-dollar agriculture industry, first legalized
for medicinal purposes and this year for recreational use.
This tour explored the Sacramento River and its tributaries
through a scenic landscape as participants learned 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 got an on-site update of repair efforts on the
Oroville Dam spillway.
Zooplankton, which are floating
aquatic microorganisms too small and weak to swim against
currents, are are important food sources for many fish species in
the Delta such as salmon, sturgeon and Delta smelt.
Less than 50 miles northeast of Chico, California, begins the
93-mile Butte Creek – a tributary of the Sacramento River. It is named
after Butte County, which was in turn named for the nearby
volcanic plateaus, or “buttes,” and travels through a massive
canyon on its way southwest to the Sacramento Valley.
As a watershed, it drains about 800 square miles, both for
agricultural and residential use. The upper watershed is
dominated by forests, while the lower watershed is primarily
This 24-page booklet details the conflict between
environmentalists, fish organizations and the Yuba County Water
Agency and how it was resolved through the Lower Yuba River
Accord – a unique agreement supported by 18 agencies and
non-governmental organizations. The publication details
the history and hydrology of the Yuba River, past and present
environmental concerns, and conflicts over dam operations and
protecting endangered fish is included.
This beautiful 24×36 inch poster, suitable for framing, features
a map of the San Joaquin River. The map text focuses on the San
Joaquin River Restoration Program, which aims to restore flows
and populations of Chinook salmon to the river below Friant Dam
to its confluence with the Merced River. The text discusses the
history of the program, its goals and ongoing challenges with
This beautiful 24×36 inch poster, suitable for framing, displays
the rivers, lakes and reservoirs, irrigated farmland, urban areas
and Indian reservations within the Klamath River Watershed. The
map text explains the many issues facing this vast,
15,000-square-mile watershed, including fish restoration;
agricultural water use; and wetlands. Also included are
descriptions of the separate, but linked, Klamath Basin
Restoration Agreement and the Klamath Hydroelectric Agreement,
and the next steps associated with those agreements. Development
of the map was funded by a grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
This 24×36 inch poster, suitable for framing, explains how
non-native invasive animals can alter the natural ecosystem,
leading to the demise of native animals. “Unwelcome Visitors”
features photos and information on four such species – including
the zerbra mussel – and explains the environmental and economic
threats posed by these species.
This 24×36 inch poster, suitable for framing, explains how
non-native invasive plants can alter the natural ecosystem,
leading to the demise of native plants and animals. “Space
Invaders” features photos and information on six non-native
plants that have caused widespread problems in the Bay-Delta
Estuary and elsewhere.
The 24-page Layperson’s Guide to California Water provides an
excellent overview of the history of water development and use in
California. It includes sections on flood management; the state,
federal and Colorado River delivery systems; Delta issues; water
rights; environmental issues; water quality; and options for
stretching the water supply such as water marketing and
conjunctive use. New in this 10th edition of the guide is a
section on the human need for water.
The 24-page Layperson’s Guide to the Central Valley Project
explores the history and development of the federal Central
Valley Project (CVP), California’s largest surface water delivery
system. In addition to the project’s history, the guide describes
the various CVP facilities, CVP operations, the benefits the CVP
brought to the state and the CVP Improvement Act (CVPIA).
The 24-page Layperson’s Guide to the Delta explores the competing
uses and demands on California’s Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
Included in the guide are sections on the history of the Delta,
its role in the state’s water system, and its many complex issues
with sections on water quality, levees, salinity and agricultural
drainage, fish and wildlife, and water distribution.
Battle Creek, a tributary of the
Sacramento River in Shasta and Tehama counties, is considered one
of the most important anadromous fish spawning streams in the
At present, barriers make it difficult for anadromous fish,
including chinook salmon and Central Valley steelhead trout, to
migrate. Battle Creek has several hydroelectric dams, diversions
and a complex canal system between its north and south forks that
Anadromous fish are freshwater fish
that migrate to sea then return to spawn in fresh water.
In California, anadromous fish include coho salmon, chinook
salmon and steelhead. Those inhabiting rivers across the Central
Valley have experienced significant declines from historical
populations. This is due to drought, habitat destruction, water
diversions, migratory obstacles such as dams, unfavorable ocean
conditions, pollution and introduced predator species.
This printed issue of Western Water features a
roundtable discussion with Anthony Saracino, a water resources
consultant; Martha Davis, executive manager of policy development
with the Inland Empire Utilities Agency and senior policy advisor
to the Delta Stewardship Council; Stuart Leavenworth, editorial
page editor of The Sacramento Bee and Ellen Hanak, co-director of
research and senior fellow at the Public Policy Institute of
This printed issue of Western Water examines the issues
associated with the State Water Board’s proposed revision of the
water quality Bay-Delta Plan, most notably the question of
whether additional flows are needed for the system, and how they
might be provided.
This printed issue of Western Water examines science –
the answers it can provide to help guide management decisions in
the Delta and the inherent uncertainty it holds that can make
moving forward such a tenuous task.
California’s native salmon and trout are in trouble. Driven down
by more than a century of adverse impacts caused by development
coupled with a changing climate, salmon and trout populations
have dwindled to a fraction of their historic numbers. The crash
is evident in many areas, none more so than the collapse of the
West Coast salmon fishery in 2008. With the fish plummeting to
record low numbers, federal officials for the first time closed
all commercial and sport fishing off the coast of California and
most of Oregon.
This printed copy of Western Water examines the native salmon and
trout dilemma – the extent of the crisis, its potential impact on
water deliveries and the lengths to which combined efforts can
help restore threatened and endangered species.
This issue of Western Water explores the implications for the San
Joaquin River following the decision in the Natural Resources
Defense Council lawsuit against the Bureau of Reclamation and
Friant Water Users Authority that Friant Dam is required to
comply with a state law that requires enough water be released to
sustain downstream fish populations.