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.
After a dry fall, the first storms of the winter kicked off the
annual migration of coho salmon from the Pacific Ocean to the
streams where they spawn. Over 10 inches of rain fell on Lake
Lagunitas last week… Streamflows are now high enough to allow
endangered central California coast coho to migrate.
The bitter drought validated scientists’ warnings that despite
longstanding endangered species protections, the state’s
outdated and overtaxed water management plans are failing in
the face of climate change. … A report released Thursday by
the Public Policy Institute of California recommends the state
stop prioritizing individual species recovery plans and adopt
holistic management methods that improve entire freshwater
The Supreme Court today will weigh in a closed-door conference
whether to take up a dispute over states’ role in water
permitting for pipelines, hydroelectric dams, and other
projects. … The question in the case is whether states
unlawfully extended their review time for a hydropower project
on the Klamath River. It’s an issue that has cropped up in
litigation over pipelines and other projects.
We face an important opportunity to finally put the seemingly
permanent conflicts that have defined water and environmental
management in California behind us, but not if we let it drift
away. This new era of opportunity springs from a common
recognition that our ways of doing business have failed to meet
the needs of all interests.
In her address to the State of the Estuary conference, Felicia
Marcus spoke about the connections of the Delta to all
Californians and the importance of working together and more
broadly to solve the challenging problems before us.
Rather than physically move water hundreds of kilometers across
earthquake country between Northern California and San
Bernardino, the plan involves reallocating water virtually,
just as you would electronically transfer funds from one bank
account to another. Once the Chino Basin Program is
operational, in times of drought the southern region can draw
water from the new reserve instead of from the State Water
Project… That will mean water impounded by Oroville Dam can
be released into the Feather River, benefitting endangered
While local tribes celebrated a federal appellate court ruling
last month upholding their senior water rights on the Klamath
River, a trio of threats facing the Trinity River combine to
paint a foreboding picture for local salmon populations.
The fracas over California’s scarce water supplies will tumble
into a San Francisco courtroom after a lawsuit was filed this
week claiming the federal government’s plan to loosen previous
restrictions on water deliveries to farmers is a blueprint for
wiping out fish.
Most of the Trump administration’s lawsuit challenging
California water management rules affecting the San Francisco
Bay Area has been paused indefinitely so a state court can
consider parallel claims the government filed there. Both suits
target changes the State Water Resources Control Board made to
the “water quality control plan” covering the Bay Area and the
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Estuary.
The complaint says the Trump administration did not fully
consider scientific facts or logic, and arbitrarily concluded
that the projects would not have a damaging effect on
endangered fish species, including salmon and steelhead. …
The projects at issue divert water from the Sacramento and San
Joaquin Rivers to the San Francisco Bay/Sacramento-San Joaquin
River Delta, primarily for agricultural and municipal uses.
CalTrout has identified Scott Dam, which impounds Eel River
water in Lake Pillsbury, as one of five aging dams it considers
“ripe for removal,” especially in the wake of PG&E’s
license surrender. There is, however, a potential middle course
backed by Friends of the Eel River, a Eureka-based nonprofit
that has long called for the dam’s removal.
The work, which started in August, focused on restoring natural
habitat for the fish by removing boulder walls called ripraps
along the creek banks and placing large pieces of trees into
the creek. The riprap walls … channeled the water into a
swift current during the rainy season, which scoured away
salmon eggs and salmon fry that were attempting to survive the
long year-and-a-half in freshwater.
California’s water policy community continues to be embroiled
on how best to manage what remains of California’s native
aquatic ecosystems, particularly for the Sacramento-San Joaquin
Delta and its tributaries. One aspect of this controversy is
the dedication and use of habitat and flow resources to support
Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration has given environmentalists
much of what they presumably want as it released a 610-page
draft Delta environmental report recently that calls for $1.5
billion in habitat restoration among other environmental
projects. … But as much as they cheered the lawsuit
announcement, environmentalists were aghast at the report
because the state plan will allow some additional water for
Reliable water is critical to every aspect of the economy as
more than 40 percent of the nation’s fruits, nuts and
vegetables are grown in the Central Valley, much of that using
water from the Central Valley Project (CVP) and its largest
reservoir — Shasta Lake.
There’s a war over the future of water on the Monterey
Peninsula and it’s taking place in the board chambers of half a
dozen state and local government entities. It’s also taking
place on social media and in the press.
Lots of stories circulate about the unethical actions of
Bernhardt and Gov. Newsom’s reluctance to fight Trump on water
— stories about Bernhardt’s effort to get rid of scientists who
concluded the new Trump Water Plan jeopardizes endangered
species in the Delta. Then there’s his work to give Westlands a
permanent water contract to irrigate poisoned selenium-ridden
lands… What’s not being covered: the impact these projects
will have on the Trinity and Klamath Rivers, and Newsom’s
reluctance to stop them.
Exactly what the Potter Valley Project will look like in the
future is not set in stone. The partnership is committed to
identifying solutions that meet the needs of the communities
and wildlife affected by the project’s operations.
Central Valley agriculture faces a looming existential water
crisis from the interlocking problems of drought, climate
change, and falling underground water tables. Yet the potential
answer to this problem is incredibly simple and only a lack of
political will may defeat it. The solution is to send south to
California the abundant waters of the Columbia River.
California officials sent mixed signals Thursday when they said
they will sue to block a Trump administration rollback of
endangered species protections for imperiled fish — while also
proposing new water operations that mimic parts of the Trump
plan. The state moves reflect political pressure the Newsom
administration has been under as it confronts one of
California’s most intractable environmental conflicts — the
battle over the ailing Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta…
Researchers in Canada and the U.S. investigated potential
reductions in streamflow, caused by groundwater pumping for
cannabis irrigation, in the Navarro River in Mendocino County,
California… Reporting in the journal Environmental Research
Communications, they note the combination of cannabis
cultivation and residential use may cause significant
streamflow depletion, with the largest impacts in late summer
when streams and local fish species depend most on groundwater
Known as Forecast-Informed Reservoir Operations (FIRO), the
approach centers on using the latest forecast technology to
plan for the arrival of atmospheric rivers. Those are the
torrents of moisture in the sky that barrel into California
from the Pacific Ocean. Atmospheric rivers are critical to the
state’s water supply, accounting for as much as half of its
annual precipitation. But they can also cause catastrophic
Work on the Rio Vista Side Channel Habitat Project in Red Bluff
has been completed, marking another milestone for the Upper
Sacramento River Anadromous Fish Habitat Restoration Program,
with immediate results observed… Within one week of opening
the side channel, endangered winter‐run Chinook juveniles were
observed making use of it.
In Napa County, adjacent to Sonoma and the source of perhaps
the most expensive cabernet sauvignon outside of Bordeaux,
activists are pushing back against a steady conversion of
woodland into new vineyards. Kellie Anderson, an independent
watchdog who has harried local officials for years to step up
enforcement of environmental laws, says the county’s planning
department has ignored numerous violations by grape growers.
Westlands Water District, Fresno-based agricultural water
district, is set to convert its temporary, renewable water
service agreements with the Federal government into a permanent
contract. And while Westlands is the first of its class to make
the switch, it certainly won’t be the last water agency to do
Initially, federal scientists wrote a draft report that found
increasing water exports would harm California’s native salmon
population, a species already imperiled. Those scientists were
reassigned. Now, the Trump administration and David Bernhardt
have released a new proposal, and guess what? Westlands can
grab even more water from the Bay-Delta.
On Thursday (11/21) we may find out whether the California
Department of Water Resources (DWR) is proposing operations of
the State Water Project that are significantly more protective
than the Trump Administration’s biological opinions, or whether
DWR will be aligning with the Trump Administration.
For the past two centuries, California has relied heavily on
the natural resources of the North Coast region, exploiting its
pristine watersheds for agriculture and its forests for timber.
… Now the Yurok are working with local and state
organizations to revitalize the forests, rivers and wildlife, a
comprehensive feat requiring collaboration among community
leaders up and down the Klamath and Trinity Rivers.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation spent months working with the
National Marine Fisheries Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service to mitigate potential harm to endangered sucker fish in
Upper Klamath Lake, as well as threatened coho salmon in the
lower Klamath River. … However, the bureau now says it
received “erroneous data” from an outside source during
consultation, meaning it must scrap the plans and start over
The water coalition has been meeting since 2018 and started
under the facilitation of Alan Mikkelsen, senior adviser to
Secretary of the Interior on water and western resources. …
The coalition aims to address challenges to fisheries, water
supply, and waterfowl and forest health.
The extra 90 cubic feet per second are designed, in part, to
attract salmon up the creek – and the flows start a little
later than in recent years due to the failure of state
Department of Fish and Wildlife pumps in the Yolo Bypass. Rich
Marovich, streamkeeper for the Solano County Water Agency
and Lower Putah Creek Coordinating Committee, said because
it has been so dry this fall, the later release may be
California is in trouble. We can’t keep the lights on, the
fires out, or the air clean. Worst of all, from my perspective
as a farmer, is that we’ve failed to keep the water flowing.
That may change, thanks to the Trump administration.
California’s perpetual, uber-complex conflict over water
progresses much like the tectonic plates that grind against one
another beneath its surface. In much the same way, interest
groups constantly rub on each other in political and legal
venues, seeking greater shares of the state’s water supply,
which itself varies greatly from year to year. And
occasionally, there’s a sharp movement that shakes things up.
The novel and rapidly evolving challenges of global climate
change will test the adaptability of all species, and some will
be hit harder than others. Identifying the species and
populations most vulnerable to climate change is critical to
target restoration and adaptation efforts for those closest to
the brink. With this in mind, climate vulnerability
assessments, which are an effective method of evaluating the
relative risk faced by different populations, were recently
applied to Pacific salmonids
Paul Souza is regional director of the Pacific Southwest
division of the US Fish and Wildlife Service… At the November
meeting of Metropolitan Water District’s Water Planning and
Stewardship Committee, Mr. Souza gave a presentation on the
recently released biological opinions for the long-term
operations of the Central Valley Project and the State Water
After touring film festivals in two dozen cities across the
country, the documentary, Visions of the Lost Sierra, will be
released online Wednesday for all to view. … Visions is a
short film exploring how the Wild and Scenic Middle Fork
Feather River has connected communities and inspired outdoor
enthusiasts for generations.
Hydropower facilities store water in reservoirs in order to
release it in a constant flow and produce energy consistently.
If wind turbines and solar panels, paired with battery storage,
took the pressure off of these facilities to fill the needs of
the grid during a drought, more of that water could be released
downstream for agricultural use, preventing further groundwater
An unlikely coalition in California — including
environmentalists, law enforcement agents, politicians,
wildlife ecologists and representatives of the legal cannabis
industry — have joined forces to try to reduce these illegal
operations and the environmental threat they pose.
Westlands has had water service contracts with the Central
Valley Project since 1963. But they were subject to renewal,
when the reclamation bureau could, at least in theory,
renegotiate terms. In contrast, the so-called repayment
contract the bureau now proposes to award Westlands would not
expire, permanently locking in the terms, including the amount
of 1.15 million acre-feet of water.
The nation’s largest water agency signed an agreement that
legally bars it from participating in a controversial plan to
raise Shasta Dam, a move applauded by environmental groups that
fiercely opposed the proposal out of fears enlarging the
state’s biggest reservoir would swamp a stretch of a protected
Northern California river and flood sites sacred to a Native
The shallow wells Sonoma County’s water agency is drilling near
11 waterways have nothing to do with delivering water to
600,000 residents of Sonoma and Marin counties. Instead, the 21
wells will serve as measuring sticks to determine whether
pumping groundwater in the county’s three basins … is curbing
the flow in creeks inhabited by federally protected fish and
The city’s fate is linked inextricably with the San Joaquin
River… Much of the water upstream is diverted for
agriculture, although a legal settlement ensures that the river
no longer runs dry. Additional diversions at the downriver end
… greatly reduce the amount of water that actually makes it
through the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, the San
Francisco Bay and then the Pacific. It is as if one of the
state’s two great arteries … is detached from its heart.
Today, annual salmon runs in Eel River that once may have
totaled a million or so adults consist of a few thousand.
Lamprey eels, too, have dwindled. Now, there is serious talk of
removing Scott Dam, owned by PG&E since 1930. For fishery
proponents, such a river makeover is the optimal way to revive
the Eel’s salmon runs.
On October 15th, an excavator trundled out onto the narrow
isthmus of land separating the freshwater Tule Red pond from
Suisun Bay and began digging. As the salty water from Grizzly
Bay began to pour through the breach, the 460-acre pond felt
the push and pull of the tides for the first time in a century,
beginning its transition back into marsh habitat.
The Interior Department is proposing to award one of the first
contracts for federal water in perpetuity to a powerful rural
water district that had employed Secretary David Bernhardt as a
lawyer and lobbyist. … Environmental groups say a permanent
deal would let California’s water contractors forgo future
negotiations before the public and environmental groups,
further threatening the survival of endangered native fish and
other wildlife that also need the water.
In October, the Trump Administration released politically
manipulated “biological opinions” under the federal Endangered
Species Act that dramatically weaken protections for the
Bay-Delta, endangered fish species and commercially valuable
salmon runs. … However, in an uncharacteristically subdued
response, the Newsom Administration stated that it “will
evaluate the federal government’s proposal, but will continue
to push back if it does not reflect our values.”
Eight-hundred pages into the text of a lengthy new report,
federal biologists have quietly granted government water
managers permission to nearly exterminate an endangered run of
Sacramento River salmon so they can send more water south from
the river’s delta to farmers in the arid San Joaquin Valley.
The thinking started small and then grew much bigger at a
gathering Tuesday in Bakersfield intended to provide a
“survival toolkit” for farmers and water managers facing
drastic restrictions on Central Valley groundwater pumping. …
By the end of the day, however, isolationism gave way to calls
for unity as speakers asserted that the only real solution was
to increase the region’s water supply by as much as 10 million
acre-feet per year on average by diverting water south from the
The executive director of the San Mateo Resource Conservation
District was admiring the restoration of 8,000 feet of the
Butano Creek stream channel, the largest and most ambitious of
a series of projects the district is spearheading to stop
chronic flooding, bring back endangered fish and restore 28
acres of degraded wetlands at Pescadero Marsh Natural Preserve.
Welcome to the Two States of California: one boasts one of the
largest economies in the world while another is shamed with
water rationing, third-world power outages, uncontrolled
wildfires, an ever-expanding homeless population riddled with
medieval diseases. This is the tale of the latter California
and the continued alarmism about its water.
Authorities seized more than $1.5 billion worth of illegally
grown marijuana plants in California this year — an amount an
industry expert said is roughly equal to the state’s entire
legal market — as part of an annual eradication program,
officials said Monday. … Law enforcement raids often find
illegal farms that have dammed or diverted public streams and
dumped dangerous pesticides including carbofuran, methyl
parathion and aluminum phosphate…
On a cool and misty morning somewhere south of Redding,
California, jet boats roar across the tranquil Sacramento
River. Armed with tridents, machetes and poleaxes, it seems
akin to a scene from an action movie; except that “California
Department of Fish and Wildlife” is painted on the boats.
Freshman Democratic Rep. TJ Cox represents some of the farmers
who would likely benefit from the additional water. … Facing
what could be a tough reelection fight in 2020, Cox’s future in
Congress could depend on whether Bernhardt’s former client gets
what it wants.
An environmental group, highly critical of a federal agency’s
newly proposed recommendations to protect endangered species in
the Delta, states that they would seriously harm those species
and their habitat. The new recommendations, released Oct. 22 by
the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation, are to be
used as guidelines for operating the federal pumping plant in
There are lots of pressing environmental issues to focus on,
from water shortages to deforestation to climate change. Fish
hatcheries and farms wouldn’t necessarily come immediately to
mind. That’s a problem, says Josh “Bones” Murphy. … Which is
why “Artifishal,” the documentary he co-wrote, produced and
directed for Patagonia, is a call to action. It will air Nov. 5
on Amazon Prime and iTunes.
Prior to a commission meeting earlier this year, the Commission
hadn’t met since 2010, according to Curtis Anderson, commission
member representing the California side of the river. …
“We’re seeing if we can be helpful by at least providing
information and providing an opportunity for people to raise
concerns concerning the Compact itself,” Anderson said.
The Trump administration last week launched an attack on the
health of San Francisco Bay and Delta and California’s salmon
fishing industry with new rules allowing big increases in water
diversions from this teetering, vulnerable ecosystem. … The
new Trump administration rules replace prior ones that weren’t
strong enough to protect salmon and other wildlife in the last
drought. They only make the situation worse.
Amid horrific wildfires and rolling blackouts, the Trump
Administration this week brought welcome relief to the Golden
State by allowing more water to be sent to farmers and folks in
the south. Will California liberals accept the deregulatory
California is providing health care to undocumented immigrants
while President Donald Trump wants to build a border wall, and
Gov. Gavin Newsom circumvented the White House with a side deal
on auto emissions standards. But when it comes to water, Trump
and California are closer than you might think.
Today’s noisy partisan divide concerns me and makes the thought
of meaningful collaboration across parties seem impossible.
However, the largest river restoration project in history,
spanning the California-Oregon border, tells a hopeful story
offering a blueprint for political, conservation and economic
The decadeslong Pacific Northwest salmon war may be nearing the
end. But it’s economics, not fish, that could be the demise of
four dams at the center of the fight. The dams on the Lower
Snake River — besieged by conservationists and biologists for
killing fish — are now battered by falling prices for renewable
energy, skyrocketing replacement costs for aging turbines and a
growing tab for environmental mitigation.
President Donald Trump’s administration rolled out an
aggressive plan Tuesday to ship more water from the Delta to
farmers in the San Joaquin Valley, a move that’s certain to
trigger lawsuits by environmentalists concerned about
endangered fish species.
Los Padres ForestWatch has sued the Department of Interior, the
Bureau of Reclamation, and the Santa Maria Valley Water
Conservation District, charging that Twitchell Reservoir dam
operations are inflicting serious ongoing damage to the
steelhead trout, a federally endangered species, that rely on
the Santa Maria River.
In a move that would boost water deliveries to San Joaquin
Valley agriculture and Southern California cities, federal
fishery agencies are weakening decade-old endangered species
protections for some of the state’s most imperiled native fish
A smaller run is expected to return this year because of the
lower number of spawning adults recorded a few years ago…
Coho salmon spend about a year and a half in freshwater and a
year and a half in the ocean before returning to freshwater to
spawn and die. What’s encouraging researchers more is how well
the newly hatched coho from last season are surviving.
For more than 20 years, California pondered what to do about
steelhead in the Santa Ynez River. On Sept. 17, the State Water
Resources Control Board finally made a decision. It voted to
pass an order that will increase water releases from Lake
The project includes improvements along more than 3 miles of
dirt roads, repairing culverts and building erosion control
features designed to reduce sediment flow into the creek. The
aim is to protect gravel nests, called redds, where female
salmon and steelhead lay their eggs, suffocating the eggs as
well as clogging the gills of adult fish…
Agriculture is part of what makes our state’s economy strong
and helps provide for all our families, which is why it is
crucial that we do absolutely everything we can to protect our
state’s farms and allow them to operate without the fear of
major obstacles. California agriculture nearly faced such an
obstacle with Senate Bill 1, which would have placed harsh
regulations on water pumping from the Sacramento-San Joaquin
A major fish restoration project is underway on private
property near Cottonwood. River Partners shared a video of new
side channels that are being built to help the recovery of
struggling wild salmon populations in the Sacramento River.
Gov. Gavin Newsom’s veto of Senate Bill 1 means the honeymoon
may be over with environmental groups who saw the bill as a
bulwark to protect California’s water quality and endangered
species from the Trump administration’s regulatory slashing.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the San Luis & Delta-Mendota
Water Authority announced the environmental reports, which
“analyze potential impacts of approving water transfers to
increase water reliability for those suffering shortages during
While cities on the Monterey Peninsula have been working to
address housing needs and the business community is actively
looking to create more jobs, there is one component they all
need to complete their plans – reliable, drought-proof access
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.
Fish in San Geronimo Creek are again the source of litigation.
… For the average Marinite to know what’s at stake, fish
proponents and the county need to answer three obvious but, so
far, unanswered questions.
A staggering number of Chinook salmon are returning to a
California river that hasn’t sustained salmon for decades due
to agricultural and urban demands, giving biologists hope that
threatened fish are finally spawning in their native
grounds without human help.
Building on the Governor’s call to “position California to meet
broad water needs through the 21st Century” there are unique
opportunities in the Sacramento River Basin to more effectively
integrate 21st Century infrastructure into our multi-benefit
water management approaches to help achieve resiliency.
Over the past decade, state and federal agencies have continued
to publish peer reviewed scientific research that largely
strengthens our understanding of how the volume, timing,
temperature, and quality of water – and the operations of
existing dams and water diversion facilities, including the
state and federal water projects – adversely affect salmon and
other fish and wildlife.
The National Marine Fisheries Service owes an explanation for
why it decided that two dams on the Yuba River do not adversely
affect threatened Chinook salmon, steelhead and green sturgeon,
three Ninth Circuit judges ruled Thursday.
A salmon habitat project will get underway Monday just outside
the city of Red Bluff. One of several such projects in the
North State, the Rio Vista Side Channel Habitat Project will
offer protection for juvenile salmonids, including endangered
How does one achieve temperature and flow targets for listed
species with such different requirements, while also meeting
the needs of human water users? A recent study sought to
achieve an equitable solution by using a multi-objective
approach to identify trade-offs and model an optimal dam
release scenario to meet the needs of salmon, sturgeon, and
Just how far will Gov. Gavin Newsom go in his high-profile
fight with the Trump administration over environmental
protections? The next few months will provide an answer, as
Newsom is forced to take a stand on Trump rollbacks in a
long-contested battleground — the Northern California Delta
that helps supply more than half the state’s population with
drinking water and fills irrigation canals on millions of acres
President Trump’s political feud with California has spread
collateral damage across more than a dozen other states, which
have seen their regulatory authority curtailed and their
autonomy threatened by a Trump administration intent on
weakening the environmental statutes of the country’s most
The Oregon Court of Appeals won’t resolve a dispute over the
impact of Klamath basin wells on surface waters due to newly
imposed regulations in the area. The appellate court has
dismissed the case because it’s moot and unworthy of review
after the Oregon water regulators adopted different rules
governing surface water interference from wells in the Upper
Klamath basin earlier this year.
Although the Water Board made clear that they are not, at this
time, issuing notices of violation, the letters serve as a shot
across the bow to an industry that is beginning to appreciate
the importance of compliance with environmental regulations and
portends more significant enforcement efforts in the near
The Westlands Water District on Sept. 30 formally stopped its
environmental review of a $1.4 billion U.S. Bureau of
Reclamation plan to raise the 602-foot dam by another 18.5
feet. It is unclear what Westlands’ decision will mean for the
future of the project…
The Trump administration has retreated on a plan to push more
water through the Delta this fall after protests from
California officials on the harmful impacts on endangered
Chinook salmon and other fish.
To help protect endangered fish and other critters that rely on
the Ventura River for habitat, migration and procreation, the
city of Ventura has agreed to better monitor and reduce its
water draw in dry times. The city will also take steps to
remove barriers for steelhead trout to make the journey to and
from the sea…
Following losses in court, a Fresno-based irrigation district
has backed off its plans to do an environmental study on
raising the height of Shasta Dam. The Westlands Water District
announced Monday that it has stopped working on the report
because it could not meet the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s
schedule for the project.
A Native American tribe has granted personhood to a river in
northern California making it the first known River in North
America to have the same legal rights as a human, at least
under tribal law. The Yurok Tribe based near the southern
border of Oregon confirmed the new status on the Klamath River.
For years, the Interior Department resisted proposals to raise
the height of its towering Shasta Dam in Northern California.
The department’s own scientists and researchers concluded that
doing so would endanger rare plants and animals in the area…
But the project is going forward now, in a big win for a
powerful consortium of California farmers that stands to profit
If there is a hell for salmon, it probably looks like this.
There were many more golf balls in the water than salmon this
summer, whacked there by enthusiasts at Aqua Golf, a driving
range on the bank of the Sacramento River. Below the surface,
the gravel salmon need to make their nests had been mined
decades ago to build Shasta Dam, 602 feet tall and with no fish
passage. The dam cut off access to all of the cold mountain
waters where these fish used to spawn.
The lawsuit, filed by the Center for Biological Diversity and
the Salmon Protection and Watershed Network, or SPAWN, concerns
the protection of endangered coho salmon and threatened
steelhead trout in streams in Marin’s San Geronimo Valley.
Jaime Jahncke, a marine biologist with Point Blue Conservation
Science, which is headquartered in Petaluma, said the concern
is that another long-lasting warm water episode could do
serious harm to an already fragile ecosystem. “We’re going into
a blob and we don’t know what’s happening next,” said
The Center for Biological Diversity has taken what appears to
be a preliminary step toward suing Marin County over its
supplemental environmental impact report to the Marin
Countywide Plan, which focuses on potential cumulative impacts
to salmonids from development in the San Geronimo Valley.
There are nut festivals. There are fruit and vegetable
festivals. Hot sauce and spicy food are cheered in other
places. There are wine and beer events. All are fun and bring
entertainment to our lives. But for all of that, there is
something extraordinary about Saturday’s Salmon Festival in
The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality has issued a new
plan to reduce water temperatures for endangered fish in the
Upper Klamath and Lost River watersheds, though it could come
at a price for farmers and ranchers.
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.
Aurelia Skipwith, who is already a top official at the interior
department, formerly worked at the agrochemical giant Monsanto.
New revelations show she also has ties to the Westlands Water
District, a political powerhouse with a history of chafing
against Endangered Species Act regulations that can interfere
with farmers’ demands for water in California.
The state Department of Fish and Wildlife, in a letter to the
U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, said the federal plan would harm
the nearly-extinct Delta smelt and other species. The state
said the plan would also hurt the mostly urban water agencies
that belong to the State Water Project, which might have to
surrender some of its supplies to compensate for the federal
A plan to remove four dams on the Klamath River – one of the
most ambitious river restoration projects ever attempted – is
either mocked or praised depending on the audience. It will
expand salmon habitat or destroy a fishery. The only certainty
is that lives will change forever.
The lawsuit … argues that the changes undertaken by the U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries
Service are unlawful. Endangered species protections are
bedrock environmental law, and California leaders warned that
less protection will leave threatened species at risk of
extinction. California is leading the suit along with
Massachusetts and Maryland. Altogether, 17 states have signed
on, along with New York City and the District of Columbia.
It’s been nearly a decade since California ordered coastal
power plants to stop using seawater for cooling, a process that
kills fish and other marine life. But now state officials may
extend the life of several facilities that still suck billions
of gallons from the ocean each day.
A white egret delicately dips its beak into a small puddle. A
mother otter and pups dive and roll in a clear, still pool.
Tiny minnows dart in the shady shallows. And all of this takes
place a stone’s throw from backyards and byways. Our local
creeks and streams are literal rivers of life flowing through
Sonoma County communities.
Trucking juvenile hatchery salmon downstream is often used in
the California Central Valley to reduce mortality during their
perilous swim to the ocean. But is it all good? Researchers …
published an article in Fisheries this month exploring the
history and implications of salmon trucking in a changing
An improved understanding of cannabis cultivators’ water use
practices is a particularly pressing need. Given the propensity
of cannabis growers to establish farms in small, upper
watersheds, where streams that support salmonids and other
sensitive species are vulnerable to dewatering, significant
concerns have been raised over the potential impacts of
diverting surface water for cannabis cultivation.
A dozen kayakers paddled down the tree-lined, sandy-bottomed
Los Angeles River in late August, running their hands through
sycamore and willow leaves and gliding over carp and steelhead
trout as traffic noise from the nearby 405 Freeway buzzed
A project to restore a portion of Brentwood’s Marsh Creek got a
big boost with a new $1.4 million U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency grant. … The Three Creeks Parkway Restoration project
aims to improve the creek’s floodplain, provide quality habitat
for Chinook salmon and Swainson’s Hawk as well as expand
recreational opportunities in the area.
By any reckoning, the steelhead trout won a significant legal
victory this week, along with CalTrout and the Environmental
Defense Center, which have been arguing the case for two
decades. But it remains uncertain exactly how much more water
will have to be released downstream from Lake Cachuma to create
a habitat wet enough along the main stem of the Santa Ynez
River for the federally endangered fish to wage a meaningful
At least 85 different federal laws and regulations affecting
California have been weakened or undermined by the Trump
administration since January 2017. … That’s why I, along with
many proponents, believe that Senate Bill 1 would safeguard our
All of September, crews have been dumping rocks into the bed of
the river to create an ideal habitat for salmon to spawn. Dams
along the American River cut off access to the salmon’s natural
I’m writing to express our tribe’s dismay at Gov. Gavin
Newsom’s announcement that he plans to veto Senate Bill 1. …
Vetoing this bill will green-light President Trump’s plan to
divert even more water from our struggling rivers for
industrial agriculture. Many well-respected fish biologists and
environmentalists have concluded Trump’s attempt to ignore the
best science and rewrite the rules will essentially be an
“extinction plan” for Chinook salmon and other threatened fish.
Before all those thousands of miles of levees went in, the
Central Valley had one of the West Coast’s largest salmon runs,
with a million or more of these mighty fish returning each
year. A big reason for the salmon’s suc-cess was that the
valley was among the most extensive floodplains in the world.
Our beaches, bays and waterways are central to who we are as
San Diegans and to our unique way of life. But in a heavily
urbanized region clean water doesn’t just happen; it takes hard
work and stewardship.
Newsom has said he won’t approve Senate President Pro Tem Toni
Atkins’ bid for a legal backstop against environmental
rollbacks by the Trump administration. And Washington is poised
to reduce protections for endangered fish species in the
state’s largest watersheds. The result may be the heightened
regulatory uncertainty that opponents of the bill said they
hoped to avoid…
Last week, the Legislature acted to thwart President Donald
Trump on water matters by passing a bill to essentially
pre-empt the execution of federal environmental law. The
Metropolitan Water District opposed Senate Bill 1 because it
would have unleashed rounds of state-federal litigation, and
would have likely brought 13 years of effort to a halt. Gov.
Gavin Newsom has signaled he plans to veto the measure.
A concerted effort to put a $4 billion bond measure for safe
drinking water, drought preparation, wildfire prevention, and
climate resilience on the March 2020 ballot in California died
quietly in the state legislature last week. But the bond
measure proposal will rise again early in the new year…
State officials have ordered increased water flows on the Santa
Ynez River in Santa Barbara County to protect steelhead trout,
which are endangered in Southern California. The State Water
Resources Control Board action follows two decades of legal
efforts to address long-term declines in native fish
populations in the Santa Ynez.
Whatever satisfaction might be gained by telling the president
to pound sand is nowhere near as important as protecting the
water supply of Modesto and thousands of farmers depending on
the Stanislaus, Tuolumne and Merced rivers.
The threats came in a dispute over reintroducing winter-run
Chinook salmon into the McCloud River, a pristine river above
Shasta Dam, as part of a federal plan approved under the Obama
administration to try to stave off extinction for the
critically endangered fish.
An intensifying marine heat wave in the northeastern Pacific
Ocean has triggered government warnings about harm to salmon
and other fisheries along the U.S. West Coast, and it’s raising
concerns about hurricane risks to the Hawaiian islands and
wildfire risks in California.
Some 45,000 to 50,000 spring-summer Chinook spawned here in the
1950s. These days, the average is about 1,500 fish, and
declining. And not just here: Native fish are in free-fall
throughout the Columbia River basin, a situation so dire that
many groups are urging the removal of four large dams to keep
the fish from being lost.
Newsom saw SB 1 as a mortal threat to something he’s been
supporting since shortly before he took office: a tentative
truce in California’s longstanding water wars. The truce
revolves around the flow of water in and out of the Delta from
California’s most important river systems, the Sacramento and
Steelhead trout … trapping is taking place in an undisclosed
portion of Gaviota Creek in Goleta where the water is drying
up. There are more than a dozen barriers that restrict the
movement of the fish when they get trapped below them.
Salmon and steelhead that were once abundant in this great
watershed are now at risk of extinction, a preventable disaster
that can be averted by moving forward with the planned removal
of four aging hydroelectric dams. While the Klamath River was
once the third-largest salmon producer on the west coast, its
fish runs have been declining for decades.
Because there are moral, aesthetic, and legal obligations to
provide fish with water in streams, biologists like me often
get asked the question “Just how much water do the fish need,
anyway?” This, of course, is the wrong question…
At the Association of California Water Agencies‘ spring
conference, a panel of lawyers covered the basics of the legal
framework for the Delta. The panel was billed as ‘All the
Acronyms You Need to Know”, but no 1.5 hour panel discussion
could possibly cover all that. However, the panel did a good
job of hitting the main ones and highlighting current issues.
Completion and operation of the much-anticipated Pure Water
Monterey recycled water project have been delayed again and it
is now expected to miss another key water delivery deadline set
for the end of this year.
Gov. Gavin Newsom plans to veto a bill passed by California
lawmakers that would have allowed the state to keep strict
Obama-era endangered species protections and water pumping
restrictions for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Newsom’s
intentions … comes less than 24 hours after state lawmakers
passed the sweeping legislation.
Removing the four aging hydroelectric dams from the river would
significantly improve ecological and geomorphic conditions
throughout the Klamath watershed and play a key role in
returning salmon to stable population levels.
The new marine heatwave, which started spreading out from the
Gulf of Alaska in June and now covers much of the Pacific
Ocean, has not yet fully become The Blob 2, particularly in
California. Which means the effects, too, might not be as dire
as last time.
The Trump administration, under Interior Secretary David
Bernhardt, is finalizing plans to rip up restrictions on
diverting Northern California water to its friends in the
agricultural industry in the dry western San Joaquin
Valley. However, some of the state’s biggest water
districts oppose SB 1, hoping Trump administration efforts will
translate into increased water diversions.
Facing fierce lobbying from well-financed water districts, the
bill’s author, Senate President Toni Atkins, D-San Diego,
acknowledged Tuesday that the bill might get pulled from
consideration until next year.
The Bureau of Reclamation, in coordination with the California
Department of Water Resources, today announced its decision to
move forward with a restoration project to improve fish passage
and increase floodplain fisheries-rearing habitat in the Yolo
Water managers across the state face new and more extreme
challenges as the climate warms—from balancing the sometimes
conflicting needs of urban, agricultural, and environmental
water users to reducing risks from fires, floods, and droughts.
We talked to Grant Davis, general manager of the Sonoma County
Water Agency, about how his agency is approaching these
challenges comprehensively, at the scale of the entire
We applaud Gov. Gavin Newsom’s efforts in leading discussions
with the United States Department of the Interior, public water
agencies and environmental groups to craft voluntary agreements
that will restore the ecological health of the Sacramento-San
Joaquin Delta while providing California with clean, reliable
When the salmon are healthy, the world is healthy. That means
the waters are clean and fast-running and the bottom gravel is
clean. It means the rivers … are pouring as they should into
our oceans, bringing nutrients and sediments into the salt- and
Senate Bill 1 has strong support from some of California’s most
influential environmental and labor organizations, including
some that helped get Gov. Gavin Newsom elected. But several of
California’s water suppliers and agricultural interests …
oppose the measure. This includes the Metropolitan Water
District of Southern California, which has made SB 1 a top
A massive marine heat wave that caused record warming of ocean
waters off the West Coast five years ago, sending salmon
numbers crashing and malnourished sea lions washing up on
beaches across California and other Pacific states, is back,
scientists said Thursday.
DWR is currently overseeing five habitat restoration projects
in Suisun Marsh. In October 2019, one of these projects, the
Tule Red Tidal Habitat Restoration Project – which converts
approximately 600 acres of existing managed wetland into tidal
habitat – is expected to finish construction.
Recently, the Sacramento Press Club hosted a panel discussion
on the future of California water featuring Secretary Wade
Crowfoot, Metropolitan General Manager Jeff Kightlinger, and
State Water Contractors General Manager Jennifer Pierre.
In the Sacramento River near Redding this spring, water
districts, government agencies and others collaborated to
construct the Market Street Gravel Project to benefit fish. …
Reclamation District 108 Deputy Manager William Vanderwaal said
that to complete the $429,000 project, 12,000 tons of gravel
were placed into the river and developed as new spawning
habitat for chinook salmon and steelhead trout.
It was only a little dam, a couple feet high, but it blocked
juvenile salmon from swimming the upper 2 miles of Ashland
Creek. On Tuesday, a powerful excavator tore it out with one
bite and soon the stream will be restored to its ancient look,
feel and flow.
Now, some are arguing that the bill should be stripped of its
longstanding provision applying the State’s own Endangered
Species Act to the operations of the federal Central Valley
Project. Here’s why that’s a terrible idea.
Senate Bill 1 is seen as a pre-emptive strike by California
lawmakers before the Trump administration ushers in new
biological opinions to alter water deliveries through the
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
While researching the impacts of industrial site restoration on
aquatic ecosystems in the Coyote Creek watershed, a major
tributary in the southern San Francisco Estuary, scientists
with the University of California, Davis, observed surprisingly
high densities of reproductive adult smelt in the marshlands,
which were not previously known to be heavily exploited by the
A state court of appeal has upheld a Shasta County Superior
Court decision to stop a Fresno-based water district from doing
an analysis of the effects of raising the height of Shasta Dam.
The Westlands Water District had asked the California Third
District Court of Appeal to overturn the lower court’s
preliminary injunction that ordered the district to stop work
on an environmental impact report.
Here we provide an updated account of Suisun Marsh fishes to
show why the marsh is so important for conserving fishes in the
upper San Francisco Estuary in general…and why we continue to
be enthusiastic about working there.
Managing a river is no easy feat. Consider the needs for water
released at Shasta Dam into the Sacramento River: salmon need
cold water, sturgeon need warm water, and irrigators just need
water. Recent research shows that all three needs can be met in
all but the most drought-stricken years. How?
The latest assault on the Delta, which supplies roughly
one-third of the Bay Area’s water, is the Trump
administration’s efforts to gut the federal Endangered Species
Act. Removing protections in existence for nearly 50 years
threatens not only the Delta’s wildlife but also the quality of
its fresh water.
The California Department of Fish & Wildlife (CDFW) is
considering listing the Northern California Summer Steelhead,
which lives in portions of Mendocino and Humboldt counties, as
an endangered species.
Trump started promising more water to Central Valley growers
before he was elected. During a campaign stop in Fresno three
years ago, he dismissed the drought, then in its fifth year, as
a hoax and snorted at legal protections for endangered fish in
the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
Aquatic animals in regions like California that have
historically experienced frequent droughts have evolved
remarkable adaptations to dealing with dry conditions. However,
the duration, severity, and frequency of droughts are all
increasing as a result of ongoing climate change and an
increased human demand for water, leaving even drought-hardened
The successes and failures of Australia’s recent reform of the
Murray-Darling Basin hold valuable lessons for policy makers in
California and elsewhere who are likely to grapple with the
environmental repercussions of extreme drought in the future.
Commercial salmon catches have surpassed official preseason
forecasts by about 50%, said Kandice Morgenstern, a marine
scientist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Harvests have been particularly strong in Morro Bay, Monterey
and San Francisco, but weaker along California’s northern
The Lake County Board of Supervisors approved an amended
resolution Tuesday that will open the door for Lake County to
join a group vying to take over responsibility for the Potter
Valley hydroelectric project.
Federal scientists pulled no punches in their report: The Trump
administration’s plan to send more water to San Joaquin Valley
farmers would force critically endangered California salmon
even closer to extinction, and starve a struggling population
of West Coast killer whales.
The headwaters of Blue Creek is also among the tribe’s most
sacred sites, said Gene Brundin, a member of the tribe’s
cultural committee. The stream begins at a place called Elk
Valley near Chimney Rock and its cold water ensures the
viability of the salmon runs, he said.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife has increasingly
cracked down on commercial boat operators who escort passengers
into MPAs to illegally catch everything from rockfish to bass
to yellowtail. Wardens issued 1,053 warnings and 686 citations
for illegal fishing in the protected areas in 2017, according
to the agency’s most recently available data. That’s up
dramatically from 2013, when wardens gave out just 396 warnings
and issued 327 citations.
The plan affecting Sacramento River tributaries has not been
released, but water-resource managers in the region said they
have been collaborating with government agencies and
environmental groups to develop voluntary agreements that would
accomplish the goals of the state board’s flows-only
The July 1 assessment, obtained by The Times, outlines how
proposed changes in government water operations would harm
several species protected by the Endangered Species Act,
including perilously low populations of winter-run salmon, as
well as steelhead trout and killer whales, which feed on
A controversial environmental report that could lead to new
rules on property changes along San Geronimo Creek was
certified by the Marin County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.
The supplemental environmental impact report evaluates the
potential for future development in the San Geronimo Valley
watershed and identifies … impacts to the survival of coho,
steelhead and chinook salmon.
Westlands Water District says a preliminary injunction ordering
it to stop work on an environmental impact report may prevent
it from helping to pay for raising the height of the dam,
according to the appeal filed last week.
Ariel Rubissow Okamoto, the editor in chief of Estuary Magazine
and long-time Bay Area science writer, talks about the
resiliency of the largest estuary on the West Coast, the
challenges facing the Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta, and the
potential impacts of climate change and sea-level rise on the
San Francisco Bay.
In a paper published Tuesday in the Journal of Applied Ecology,
scientists at the University of California, Santa Cruz and the
National Marine Fisheries Service used statistical modeling to
determine an optimal water management plan that would protect
both species and ensure other water users would benefit as
Earlier this week, the Trump Administration announced final
regulations that would gut the Endangered Species Act
nationwide, weakening protections for our most imperiled
wildlife. … SB 1 is intended to help fill these gap to ensure
no backsliding in protecting clean air, clean water, and
A decade’s worth of junk including cars, refrigerators and even
goat carcasses that were illegally dumped into a West Marin
creek is being removed this week through a collaborative effort
between environmental groups, local businesses and government
A team of researchers from Washington state recently studied
the effects of acidification on salmon’s sense of smell, also
known as “olfaction,” which is particularly important for
salmon to navigate back to their home streams to spawn. The
scientists made the alarming discovery that at the pH levels of
seawater predicted to occur in the next 50 to 100 years,
salmon’s sense of smell may be significantly impaired.
On Monday, Aug. 19, the Yurok Tribe, Green Diamond Resource
Company and Western Rivers Conservancy will celebrate a
decade-long, hard-won effort to preserve and place into tribal
ownership approximately 50,000 acres of forest surrounding four
salmon sustaining streams, including Blue Creek, according to
Two species of Klamath Basin sucker have been dying before they
can reach adulthood, and U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley is showing
continued interest in expediting efforts already underway to
save the fish species.
We are a profession that depends on, and you might even say
reveres, a good map. Rights to water flowing in surface streams
are fundamentally defined by geography, and maps have long been
a requirement of appropriation and essential evidence of
Removing four hydroelectric dams along the lower Klamath River
in Southern Oregon and Northern California is expected to cost
just under $434 million and could happen by 2022, according to
a new filing with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
Westlands Water District isn’t giving up on raising Shasta
Dam… The district, stopped in late July by a Shasta County
judge from conducting an environmental study on the impact of
raising Shasta Dam, filed a petition with the Sacramento-based
Third District California Court of Appeal on Monday to vacate
the trial court’s injunction.
The Trump administration on Monday extended rollbacks of the
nation’s environmental laws to the Endangered Species Act, a
cardinal conservation program that’s helped keep wolves, whales
and condors, among scores of other critters, flourishing across
At his inaugural Speaker Series on July 15, California
Secretary for Natural Resources Wade Crowfoot led a discussion
on restoring local wildlife species and habitats by
reactivating floodplains. The Secretary’s Speaker Series
provides a public discussion on emerging ideas and priorities
in the natural resources arena.
Funding is available for projects that: Increase the
reliability of water supplies through infrastructure
improvements; improve water management through decision support
tools, modeling and measurement; provide protection for fish,
wildlife and the environment. Up to $300,000 per agreement is
available for a project that can be completed within two years.
Up to $750,000 per agreement is available for a project that
can be completed within three years.
A new report from a Portland-based economics firm, which says
the removal of dams on the Snake River in Eastern Washington
would have broad financial benefits, is getting pushback from
local politicians in the Tri-Cities area.
Next spring, the Yurok Tribe will begin its Redwood Canoe
Adventure Tour and it will utilize six hand-crafted redwood
canoes made using traditional tribal tools and techniques. …
According to the tribe, it’s an opportunity you won’t find
anywhere else in the world due to the unique relationship
between the Yurok people and the Klamath River.
Whether you are a water utility manager, elected official, or
homeowner, future water availability is a concern. There are
several factors fostering that concern and one of them is
climate change. … But as the empirical evidence mounts and a
once doubtful citizenry become more informed, it is instructive
to review what a changing climate fundamentally means to
California’s water resources; arguably our most important.