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.
The Hoopa Valley Tribe applauded Fresno County Superior Court’s
refusal to validate a proposed contract between Westlands Water
District and the Bureau of Reclamation. … The contract would
have allocated up to 1,150,000 acre-feet of water annually to
Westlands, most of which would be imported from the Trinity
River, which has sustained the Hupa people since time
The rules take the form of a state Fish and Wildlife Department
permit that will govern State Water Project deliveries from the
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta… But the permit does not
explicitly control the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s Central
Valley Project, which exports Delta water to San Joaquin Valley
farms. That means the two big government pumping operations
will likely adhere to different standards — possibly allowing
the federal project to boost deliveries at the expense of the
The Yurok Tribe, the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s
Associations, and the Institute for Fisheries Resources …
have successfully obtained a new three-year plan from the
Bureau of Reclamation for operating the Klamath Irrigation
Project to increase springtime flows in the Klamath River.
The second-largest river in California has sustained Native
American tribes with plentiful salmon for millennia, provided
upstream farmers with irrigation water for generations and
served as a haven for retirees who built dream homes along its
banks. With so many competing demands, the Klamath River has
come to symbolize a larger struggle over the increasingly
precious water resources of the U.S. West…
Winter-flooded rice fields already provide essential habitat
for migratory birds, but could they also provide benefits to
help the state’s salmon populations? Scientists at the
University of California, Davis, are finalizing their fieldwork
on an experiment to find out what management practices farmers
might adopt in their fields to maximize fish survival.
The COVID-19 virus outbreak is affecting us all, whether we
live in a big city or rural Siskiyou County. The economy is
grinding to a halt and governments are planning a massive
response to keep money flowing to small businesses and
employees – the lifeblood of the entire economy. It is through
this lens that I encourage Klamath Basin residents to
view Klamath River Renewal Corp.’s dam removal and river
restoration project as an economic bright spot.
During a week full of COVID-19-related uncertainty, a pair of
new lawsuits are a reminder of one constant: disputes over
Klamath Basin water. This past week, PacifiCorp and Klamath
Water Users Association each filed petitions for review of
Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) for temperature in the Upper
Klamath and Lost River subbasins.
Coho salmon are getting a boost from the California Department
of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) strategic plan to prioritize salmon
restoration and habitat improvement projects in coastal
watersheds from Santa Cruz to Mendocino counties. In most of
these watersheds, coho salmon are in severe decline or locally
extinct due to human alterations to land and water resources.
Two lawsuits challenging the Trump administration’s
authorization of plans to increase water pumping from the
Sacramento and San Joaquin watersheds will be moved from the
Northern District of California to the Eastern District of
California, a federal judge ruled.
In February 2017, damage to the Oroville Dam’s spillways
prompted the evacuation of more than 180,000 people living
downstream along the Feather River. The raging muddy waters
also triggered an emergency decision to relocate millions of
young salmon from the Feather River Hatchery to the Thermalito
Annex Hatchery to be raised and held until river water
conditions improved. … Those fish survived and were later
released to the wild – helping fuel a record class salmon
harvest in the ocean two years later.
Vallee and his team are here to maintain an array of
hydrophones used to track migrating native fish. The work is
part of a multi-agency effort to provide more timely and
detailed information about the movements of salmon, steelhead,
and sturgeon in the Central Valley. Deploying hundreds of
listening stations across the watershed, the program lets
scientists follow thousands of tagged fish as they navigate
from hatcheries and headwater streams toward the Pacific Ocean.
This past fall, CalTrout, and the Wishtoyo Chumash Foundation
conducted water quality sampling at several locations on Santa
Paula Creek, a tributary of the Santa Clara River. Work that
allowed us to glimpse a better understanding of the potential
source of bacterial contamination observed by downstream
The falling cost of renewable energy and continued decline of
manufacturing renders many of these structures unnecessary.
Others require expensive maintenance. Seven in 10 are more than
50 years old and many are falling into disrepair, according to
the American Society of Civil Engineers…
The case, titled Baley v. United States, was filed 19 years ago
when the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation re-allocated Klamath River
irrigation water to threatened and endangered species. A
favorable outcome would mean upwards of $30 million
collectively in compensation for irrigators named in the case.
As discussed below, in the case of west coast salmon, the
scientific evidence is clear that the replacement assumption
has proven faulty as the total abundance of salmon declined at
the same time the propagation and release of hatchery salmon
Burgeoning populations of anchovy and a healthy crop of
California sea lion pups reflected improved productivity off
parts of the West Coast in 2019. However, lingering offshore
heat worked against recovery of salmon stocks and reduced
fishing success, a new analysis reports.
The new rules allow the federal Central Valley Project to kill
100 percent of baby winter run Chinook salmon below Shasta Dam
for three years running. Chinook salmon live for three
years, so authorizing the Bureau of Reclamation to kill every
endangered winter run for three years amounts to an extinction
plan for this species.
Because the State and Federal water managers coordinate
operations of the State Water Project and Central Valley
Project, the State Water Contractors argue that dumping the
biological opinions governing those operations and restarting
the process would create “uncertainty in water supply
availability, potentially affecting the [State Water
Contractor] members’ water supplies from the SWP.”
The 2020 ocean abundance projection for Sacramento River fall
Chinook, the driver of West Coast salmon fisheries, is
estimated at 473,200 adult salmon, higher than the 2019
forecast. However, the Klamath River fall Chinook abundance
forecast of 186,600 adult salmon is lower than the 2019
forecast and will likely result in reduced fishing opportunity
in the areas north of Pt. Arena…
In a Feb. 28 filing, the Klamath River Renewal Corporation,
formed to shepherd the removal of four hydroelectric dams from
the Klamath River in Northeern California and Southern Oregon,
submitted key budget information to the Federal Energy
Regulatory Commission. … This filing is another concrete step
toward implementing the amended Klamath Hydroelectric
Settlement Agreement (KHSA), removing the dams and restoring a
free-flowing Klamath River, KRRC officials said.
If you live in Southern California or Silicon Valley, you might
be surprised to learn that your local water district (a member
agency of the State Water Contractors) is siding with the Trump
Administration, and defending Trump’s plan to increase water
diversions, despite the widespread acknowledgement that this
plan is likely to drive salmon and Delta smelt extinct.
On Thursday, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation delivered its own
salvo to the Newsom administration – it was pushing forward
pre-construction work on raising Shasta Dam. … A push to
raise the dam was made possible by the same law that delivered
new biological opinions – the Water Infrastructure Improvements
for the Nation (WIIN) Act, approved in the waning days of the
The state is projecting lower numbers of adult full-run Chinook
salmon in the Klamath River this year, a discouraging sign for
the Yurok Tribe, whose fisheries have been devastated by
reduced fish counts in recent years.
An official at the Interior Department embarked on a campaign
that has inserted misleading language about climate change —
including debunked claims that increased carbon dioxide in the
atmosphere is beneficial — into the agency’s scientific
reports, according to documents reviewed by The New York Times.
… The misleading language appears in environmental studies
and impact statements affecting major watersheds including the
Klamath and Upper Deschutes river basins in California and
California’s complaint challenges the biological opinions
issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National
Marine Fisheries Service under the Endangered Species Act (ESA)
as well as the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s EIS and record of
decision completed pursuant to the National Environmental
The Klamath River Renewal Corporation (KRRC) continued progress
toward implementing the Amended Klamath Hydroelectric
Settlement Agreement (KHSA) to remove the Klamath dams and
restore a free-flowing Klamath River by selecting McMillen
Jacobs Associates to provide owner’s representation services,
according to a news release.
A Simon Fraser University-led research team has found
significant evidence that human activity in estuaries is
impacting juvenile Pacific and Atlantic salmon. The team’s
review of 167 peer-reviewed studies (from an initial search of
13,000) identified negative impacts from several stressors,
including the effects of flood-protecting tidal gates,
pollution and habitat modification.
Following a promising 2018 fall Chinook salmon season on the
Klamath that saw the run size trending upwards, the 2019
returns fell significantly short of expectations. Looking at
the numbers presented in the PFMC “Review of 2019 Ocean Salmon
Fisheries” document, it’s likely we’ll have some severe
restrictions both in the ocean and in the Klamath and Trinity
rivers in 2020.
A day after President Trump visited the Central Valley to
celebrate a boost in water for California farms, state
officials sued to block the additional water deliveries.
Attorney General Xavier Becerra, in a lawsuit filed Thursday,
maintains that new federal rules designed to increase pumping
from the Sacramento San Joaquin River Delta fail to protect
salmon and other endangered fish in the delta estuary.
Gov. Gavin Newsom, in a pre-emptive strike against President
Donald Trump, said Wednesday he plans to sue Trump’s
administration to block a controversial plan to increase water
deliveries to the San Joaquin Valley. Newsom’s office said he
“will file legal action in the coming days … to protect
highly imperiled fish species close to extinction.”
The Eel River Recovery Project is hosting its first ever art
display at the Plaza Grill in Arcata this month and next.
“Visions of the Eel River” features photographs of the Eel
River and its many branches. Covering 3,600 square miles, much
of the Eel River watershed is inaccessible and unknown to many
During President Trump’s visit to California this week, the
commander in chief who campaigned on a pledge of shipping more
water to Central Valley farms plans to stop in Bakersfield to
boast about a promise kept. … But what confounds some who are
worried that Trump’s water plan could undermine the environment
is how little the state has done to stop Washington.
Hoisting the spoils of victories in California’s hard-fought
water wars, President Donald Trump is directing more of the
state’s precious water to wealthy farmers and other agriculture
interests when he visits their Republican Central Valley
Though the process leading to removal of the Klamath Dams
continues to march forward, numerous citizens in Siskiyou
County have continued fighting to keep the dams in place. Many
of those dam advocates are members of the Siskiyou County Water
Users Association, which in January hosted a presentation about
an alternative fish passage technology the association believes
could “make it possible” for the dams to remain.
It’s time for Gov. Gavin Newsom to own up on water policy. He
can either play nice with a roughshod plan from President Trump
to divert crucial water flows or craft his own blueprint that
balances both wildlife and California’s economy.
Reps. Jim Costa (D–Fresno) and TJ Cox (D–Fresno) joined fellow
Democrats on the House Natural Resources Committee to grant
wide-ranging subpoena power to the committee’s chair, Raul
Grijalva (D–Ariz.)… A key inquiry likely to be explored by
Grijalva … is to dig into the Trump administration’s issuance
of new biological opinions governing the Central Valley
Wednesday, the House Natural Resources Committee is scheduled
to vote on a resolution granting Committee Chair Raul Grijalva
(D–Ariz.) wide-ranging subpoena power over the Interior
Department. One inquiry in the hopper: a closer look at the
process that yielded the Trump Administration’s
freshly-released biological opinions governing the
federally-operated Central Valley Project.
The Central Valley Regional Water Board has issued a 25-year
permit for toxic discharges of agricultural wastewater into the
San Joaquin River and Bay-Delta… Fishermen and environmental
groups have appealed the water board’s decision to the state of
California, leaving the future of this permit uncertain.
The governor’s newest proposal signals Newsom may be softening
his fight against Trump, but opening another battle. Newsom may
have traded a court fight with Trump for a legal battle with
the very environmentalists the Democratic administration has
seen as allies.
California’s governor revealed a plan on Tuesday that would
keep more water in the fragile San Joaquin River Delta while
restoring 60,000 acres of habitat for endangered species and
generating more than $5 billion in new funding for
Current research shows 11 of the remaining 21 anadromous
salmonids in California are at critical risk of extinction in
the next 50 years under present trends. Estuaries are
especially important to the survival of juvenile salmonids
given their important role, helping to increase the number of
adult salmonids that survive to adulthood and return to spawn.
To inform our conservation work on the Eel, CalTrout has teamed
up with partners on this new project – The Adult Salmonid Sonar
Monitoring Program – to tally the annual spawning run of
Chinook salmon, coho salmon, and steelhead on the South Fork
Eel River with a Sound Metrics Dual Frequency Identification
The multi-year, multi-agency effort to transform the lower
landscape of the Carmel River into a natural floodplain took a
massive step forward Jan. 28 when the Monterey County Board of
Supervisors voted unanimously to approve the project’s final
environmental impact report.
Rivers are vital. Like life-giving arteries, they deliver water
for drinking and irrigation and fertile soil for vineyards and
farms. They support watersheds teeming with life. But humans
are hard on rivers. We crowd their banks, dump waste in them
and take out water, fish and other resources. … When that
happens, who speaks for the river?
The City Council passed a resolution to make a formal request
of the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District that it
allocate additional water to develop affordable housing. …
Most of the Peninsula is under a moratorium for additional
water hook-ups following the cease-and-desist order instituted
in 1995 when the State Water Resources Control Board ordered
California American Water to stop over-pumping the Carmel
The main focus of the program are the barriers to fish passage
for salmon from Friant Dam to the ocean and back again. There
are three key barriers: the East Side Bypass Control Structure
which is in the flood bypass; Sack Dam, which is the intake for
Arroyo Canal for Henry Miller irrigation system; and Mendota
Dam which controls Mendota Pool. The program also needs to
ensure enough habitat for the fish when they return to complete
their life cycle,
Siskiyou County supervisors last week supported Sheriff Jon
Lopey’s assessment that illegal marijuana grows are detrimental
to the health and well being of local residents and approved
the extension of a local state of emergency through 2020.
Since July, the Department of Water Resources (DWR) and State
Water Contractors have engaged in fruitless negotiations over
how to pay for a single-tunnel Delta Conveyance Facility. On
December 23, right before the holidays, DWR made their 6th
proposal to the State WaterContractors with a major shift in
At a panel discussion hosted by California Natural Resources
Secretary Wade Crowfoot, the panelists discussed how by
spreading out and slowing down water across the landscape can
provide multiple benefits year-round by allowing farmers to
cultivate the land during the spring and summer, and provide
habitat for fish and wildlife in the fall and winter months.
The Sonoma Index-Tribune recently published a couple of
articles about beavers and otters in Sonoma Creek… It’s a
good sign, not just because it’s nice to know that Sonoma
Valley’s main waterway is actually clean enough to support
wildlife, but also because beavers can actually improve life
for other critters, including my favorite, rainbow trout.
Now Trump’s team is set to impose new environmentally damaging
Bay-Delta water diversion and pumping rules. … These new
rules would wipe out salmon and other wildlife by allowing
wholesale siphoning of water from Northern California rivers to
a few agriculture operators in the western San Joaquin
The number of Coho salmon in Northern California’s Shasta and
Scott rivers in 2019 was too low to sustain a viable
population. That’s according to a just-released report from the
California Department of Fish and Wildlife. The most recent
count identified only 334 Coho on the Scott, and 61 on the
The territory encompassed by the 5th State Senate District has
been a battleground for California’s complex water politics. So
it’s not surprising the two Democrats and three Republicans
running to succeed Sen. Cathleen Galgiani, D-Stockton, who is
terming out this year, might tap dance around questions
regarding Tuolumne and Stanislaus river flows and water quality
in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
The Central Valley fall-run population is a fraction of its
historic size and continues to face challenges as a result of
factors that range from loss of habitat and changing ocean
conditions to pressures from predation and harvest in
freshwater and the ocean. Even under good environmental
conditions, fall-run Chinook face a slew of challenges over the
course of their lives.
With virtually no public notice, state officials quietly gave
away a significant portion of Southern California’s water
supply to farmers in the Central Valley as part of a deal with
the Trump administration in December 2018. One year later, it
remains unclear why the California Department of Water
Resources signed the agreement…
Since he took the new post in July 2017, Bernhardt’s former
clients have spent a lot of money trying to influence the
Department of Interior. Seventeen of them have coughed up a
combined $29.9 million to lobby the Trump administration since
January 2017, according to a new report from the consumer
advocacy group Public Citizen…. Bernhardt’s former client
Westlands Water District, which has lobbied to weaken
endangered species protections to divert more water for
agriculture… has spent more than $1.5 million lobbying
Interior and Department of Justice since 2017.
At the December meeting of the Delta Stewardship Council,
Caitlin Sweeney, Director of the San Francisco Estuary
Partnership, briefed the Council on the 2019 update to the
State of the Estuary report. She began with some background on
California’s governor has restarted a project to build a giant,
underground tunnel that would pump billions of gallons of water
from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to the southern part of
the state. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration on Wednesday
issued a Notice of Preparation for the project, which is the
first step in the state’s lengthy environmental review process.
As they walked to the river’s edge holding baby salmon in cups,
second graders warned the tiny fish of predators before gently
setting them free into the water. Two classes from Oakdale
Heights Elementary School took part in a salmon study that came
to a close Friday at Riverbend Park in Oroville.
Biologists, heavy equipment operators, government agencies, and
non-profits all working together. Hopefully, they’re major
steps toward restoring the endangered chinook salmon winter run
in the Sacramento River.
Yes, aggregate mining on the San Joaquin has been going on for
more than a century. But with production tapering off and newer
operations opening on the nearby Kings River, it was generally
assumed the poor San Joaquin would finally be given a break…
Unfortunately, a proposal by Cemex threatens to dash those
hopes while ensuring another century of heavy industry on
California’s second-longest river…
Every year since 2014, I have petitioned the State Water
Resources Control Board to end the widespread practice of
irrigation, especially of cattle pastures, outside the legal
irrigation season. So far, however, State Water Board staff
have not taken effective action to end the illegal water use
and the resulting degradation of Scott River stream
What started as a plan for a fun trip down the Sacramento Rver
turned into a storytelling mission for Mitch Dion and his
friend Tom Bartels, who set out to interview farmers,
politicians and others who were impacted by the river.
Since 2015, the state’s commercial fishermen have reported
nearly record-low catches. Fish hatcheries produce most of the
salmon caught in California today, and with much of their
inland habitat badly degraded, truly wild salmon are scarce.
But a small circle of biologists and fishermen believe they can
revive California’s legendary Chinook to something resembling
its historic glory.
The fish’s growth rates peaked at average water temperatures of
61.8 degrees fahrenheit, and what Lusardi calls an “unheard of”
maximum weekly temperature of 70. So, how did the cold-water
fish survive the warmer temperatures? There was enough food —
aquatic invertebrates like freshwater shrimp or mayflies — in
the water to compensate for the rise in temperature.
The new guidelines call for diverting more water from the
Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to agribusiness and urban
areas further south. Barbara Barrigan-Parilla with the group
Restore the Delta, says despite Newsom indicating he was going
to sue over the new federal guidelines, that hasn’t happened
Large numbers of fall-run Chinook salmon have returned to the
Mokelumne River in Clements this fall despite challenging
salmon fishing on the river and adjacent sloughs this season. A
total of over 12,658 salmon have gone over Woodbridge Dam in
Lodi as of Dec. 10, according to William Smith, manager of the
CDFW’s Mokelumne River Fish Hatchery.
The heavy management of river systems in California is causing
a compression in the migration timing of Chinook salmon to the
point that they crowd their habitats. As a result, they might
miss the best window for entering the ocean to grow into
The manipulation of rivers in California is jeopardizing the
resilience of native Chinook salmon. It compresses their
migration timing to the point that they crowd their habitats.
They may miss the best window for entering the ocean and
growing into adults, new research shows. The good news is that
even small steps to improve their access to habitat and restore
natural flows could boost their survival.
On Monday, the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District
board is set to consider approving $1.24 million on consultants
to prepare for a potential vote by the summer on a resolution
of necessity to acquire Cal Am’s local system.
In a recent exclusive interview, U.S. Agriculture Secretary
Sonny Perdue told Western Farm Press that the low-interest loan
will help fund projects associated with the off-stream storage
site in western Colusa County. … “The USDA is putting up
almost $500 million in rural development funds,” Perdue said.
Lower Butano Creek had been clogged by a mile-and-a-half long
plug of sediment where the stream once flowed through the marsh
to meet the ocean. … In June, the resource conservation
district, in partnership with California State Parks and the
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, embarked on a
$7 million restoration project to remove the sediment dam
blocking Butano Creek.
Salmon are swimming back into the Lagunitas Creek watershed.
Not only is that a natural phenomena, but it is a sign that
hard work at restoring habitat and promoting greater public
awareness are paying off.
Votes of support by local jurisdictions bring the project one
step closer to reality. Reality is a costly giant tunnel that
would divert Sacramento River water bound for the
Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta and transport the water directly
to Central Valley farms and urban users in the Bay Area and
In the United States, many of the structures that were once
engineering marvels are nearing the age most humans decide to
retire. Despite steadily increased budgets for dam repair and
maintenance, over the past four decades more than a 1,000 have
failed … Although some dams are having critical maintenance
done, states and private entities are also coming up with a
different solution: take them down. California, once a
bastion of dam building, took down 35 dams just last year,
making it the leader in dam removals in 2018.
An all-out attempt to save the historic coho salmon runs
through Muir Woods intensified this year as the National Park
Service began a creek restoration and habitat enhancement
program in the famous redwood grove.
A new study from UC Davis, published in the Canadian Journal of
Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, offers a glimmer of hope, with
a caveat. It found that salmonids can likely thrive in slightly
warmer waters, provided they eat like bodybuilders trying to
bulk up for a competition.
In August, the Lake County Board of Supervisors passed a
resolution of intent to join this group, now being called the
Two-Basin Partnership. But Lake County was recently denied
entry, with the partnership citing “expediency” concerns and
saying it would not admit any more members.
Butano Creek runs through the sleepy little farm town of
Pescadero, just down the road from San Francisco and over the
hill from the heart of Silicon Valley. This modest creek once
connected endangered native salmon and steelhead to their
historical spawning and rearing habitats through Pescadero
Marsh. But the channel filled with sediment over time,
ultimately blocking the connection to the Pacific for many
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
In what has become an all-too-familiar occurrence, three water
projects designed to serve the Monterey Peninsula have again
experienced delays, including the Pure Water Monterey recycled
water project and its proposed expansion, and California
American Water’s proposed desalination project.
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
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.
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…
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
Native American tribal water rights are guaranteed by the
federal government to the extent that endangered species, like
salmon in the Klamath River, aren’t placed in danger, according
to a court decision on Thursday.
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.
A local coalition formed in the hopes of maintaining the most
important aspects of the Potter Valley Project is making
progress toward a two-basin solution, Janet Pauli told the
Ukiah City Council at its last meeting.
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
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.
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.
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 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.
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 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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
In today’s Film Friday, we follow the evolution of Honolulu Bar
in the Stanislaus River through a restoration and floodplain
enhancement project. The project including leveling an
intstream island to create more flooded rearing habitat,
sorting gravel to create improved spawning habitat, clearing
invasive plants and planting native ones. Watch the
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.
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
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…
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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 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.
Thousands of fall-run salmon have returned to Battle Creek in
Shasta County. The Coleman National Fish Hatchery opened the
fish ladder Tuesday morning so the salmon will begin to flow
into their holding ponds. However, local native American tribes
are not exactly praising the return to the hatchery, saying the
population is still at risk.
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…
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.
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…
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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 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.
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 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