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.
One of California’s last great salmon runs tallied a perilously
low number of surviving offspring in 2015, scientists said
Monday, marking a second year of drought-driven problems for
the Sacramento River chinook, which loom on the verge of
Endangered native salmon suffered a second straight disastrous
year in California’s drought, with all but 3 percent of the
latest generation dying in too-shallow, too-hot rivers, federal
officials said Monday.
Not content to hope for El Niño storms, state officials on
Tuesday approved a plan that — though watered down in the end —
could result in better flows next year for endangered fish
species decimated by drought.
California regulators set a minimum level of water that should
be held behind Shasta and Folsom lakes Tuesday in an effort to
avoid another catastrophic die-off of Sacramento River salmon,
but they reserved the right to change the limit if El Niño
rains fill up the reservoirs.
California drought regulators on Tuesday backed off a
controversial plan to withhold water from farms and cities next
year in an effort to preserve an endangered species of salmon,
instead choosing a more flexible approach they said still could
do the trick.
Five years after a high-profile deal was struck to remove four
hydroelectric dams and improve conditions on one of the West
Coast’s prime salmon rivers, the agreement is on the verge of
collapse for lack of action by Congress.
Scientists were knee deep in the Feather River on Friday,
systematically injecting 20,000 fertilized salmon eggs into the
bottom of the river. … The eggs were injected near the
Oroville Wildlife Area, just a few miles north of Gridley.
Officials with the US Bureau of Reclamation, the federal agency
that operates Shasta Dam, have blamed the drought for the mass
salmon die off and say there simply wasn’t enough water to go
around. … But environmentalists and fishermen note that by
the end of summer 2015, many farmers in the Central Valley had
received 75 percent of their water contract allotments, while
at least 95 percent of the endangered winter-run Chinook’s
fertilized eggs and newborn fish had been killed.
This month’s rainfall and cooler temperatures have helped
lessen the strain on salmon migrating on the Eel River, but not
near enough to ease the concerns of local researchers. And they
have their reasons.
The East Bay Municipal Utility District, which manages the
salmon on the Mokelumne River, relies on a camera that records
every single salmon swimming past Woodbridge Dam. The footage
is relayed to East Bay MUD’s office three miles away.
San Francisco State University, in what a furious U.S. Rep.
Jared Huffman called a deliberate betrayal of Marin County, has
ended negotiations and renewed its eviction of a popular salmon
conservation program from its home of four decades at the
Romberg Tiburon Center.
Escalating the fight over California’s diminished water supply,
a coalition of environmental groups sued Central Valley farmers
and the federal government over the possible extinction facing
an endangered run of salmon.
Despite some troubling signs of disease and blindness, this
year’s Eel River salmon run is so far shaping up to be on par
with recent annual runs, according to a recent survey by the
Eel River Recovery Project.
Much of the honest debate about global warming has focused on
the costs and pace of switching from fossil fuels to
renewables. The discussion, however, should widen to include
examination of programs favored by environmentalists and
governments to preserve species.
Visitors to the Feather River Fish Hatchery will find new signs
with updated information. The signs replace displays that were
erected when the hatchery first opened in 1967, according to
Penny Crawshaw, fish hatchery manager.
Recent high tides and brief mid-September rains gave some Eel
River salmon a fleeting chance to move closer to their spawning
grounds. But a lack of adequate flows on the river is causing
many fish to fall ill as they crowd within small pools for
weeks at a time, according to a recent survey by the Eel River
One of the last wild runs of chinook salmon in California is
sinking fast amid the four-year drought and now appears
perilously close to oblivion after the federal agency in charge
of protecting marine life documented the death of millions of
young fish and eggs in the Sacramento River.
For the second straight year, huge numbers of juvenile
winter-run Chinook salmon appear to have baked to death in the
Sacramento River because of California’s drought-stretched
water supplies, bringing the endangered species a step closer
Construction is nearly complete on a $2.5 million fish barrier
at the Knights Landing Outfall Gates. The project will block
migrating salmon from straying off course as they make their
way up the Sacramento River.
A month’s worth of Trinity Reservoir dam releases into the
lower Klamath River intended to protect fish and human health
from the dangerous and sometimes deadly consequences of warm,
low-flowing waters seems to have done the trick, officials say.
In just two years, Chinook salmon could be swimming above
Shasta Dam for the first time in nearly eight decades under a
proposal that would truck endangered hatchery-raised fish into
a cold-water tributary that feeds the state’s largest
Commercial salmon fishing got off to a slow start in May due to
windy weather and has stayed in a slump that local fishermen
are blaming on unusually warm ocean water in one of the worst
king salmon seasons in memory.
This spring, state fisheries officials sent a letter to the
Nevada Irrigation District alleging it was in violation of two
sections of the state’s Fish and Game Code over a small dam
near Lincoln that blocks fall-run Chinook salmon as they
migrate up Auburn Ravine Creek.
The gates will open Monday on the fish ladder to the Feather
River Fish Hatchery in Oroville, beginning the two-month
process that will see 15 million chinook salmon eggs harvested
for further continuation of the species.
U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill of the Eastern District
of California fired the latest shot in the most recent court
skirmish in the Golden State’s endless water wars. In denying
two Central Valley Project water districts’ attempt to halt
fish kill prevention flows from the Trinity to the Klamath
River, Judge O’Neill delighted Hoopa and Yurok tribal officials
In a study published Tuesday in the online journal Scientific
Reports, researchers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration found that embryonic herring and salmon exposed
to low levels of crude oil developed misshapen hearts.
Thanks to a novel injection of cold, clear water from Camp
Meeker’s water system, about 3,400 imperiled coho salmon and
steelhead trout have a better chance of surviving in Dutch Bill
Creek until rain sweeps them to safety in the Russian River.
It might seem easy, summarizing the conflict over the Trinity
River in Northern California. But amid record drought, this
long-running and singular battle has become a case study about
the difficulties in balancing Western water use.
A U.S. District Court judge has denied two Central Valley
Project water districts’ attempt to halt fish kill prevention
flows to the Klamath River on Wednesday, making it the second
year in a row that the federal court has sided outright with
protections of Klamath River fish.
Last summer, a narrow, rock-rimmed stretch of the Sacramento
River near here turned into a mass graveyard for baby salmon.
Upstream releases of water from Shasta Dam were so warm that
virtually an entire generation of endangered winter-run Chinook
was wiped out.
With water scarce in Northern California’s Klamath Basin, a
federal agency is again releasing cool, clean water into the
Klamath River to prevent a repeat of the 2002 fish kill that
left tens of thousands of adult salmon dead.
On Thursday afternoon, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation agreed to
release fish-kill preventative flows from a Trinity River dam
starting this weekend in order to protect fish on the lower
Klamath River from deadly pathogens caused by warm, low-flowing
water conditions, tribal fisheries officials said.
With ceremonial dam release flows expected to reach the Trinity
River waters near Hoopa this evening, federal and tribal
officials are still working out the details and timeline on
another set of dam releases proposed to protect salmonids on
the lower Klamath River from deadly infections caused by warm,
After missing ambitious deadlines to restore the San Joaquin
River, federal leaders this week extended deadlines to 2030 and
beyond while holding down federal appropriations funding to
less than $50 million annually.
With recent fish counting surveys on two Klamath River
tributaries showing alarmingly low numbers for one of the last
wild Chinook salmon runs, local fisheries experts are growing
increasingly concerned about the effects of the ongoing
statewide drought and the possibility of a devastating fish
kill in the near future when fall-run salmon begin to enter the
For salmon to survive in Butte Creek, the fish will need as
much water as they can get from Pacific Gas and Electric Co.
… PG&E showed the Enterprise-Record that water system
Tuesday during a helicopter tour.
More than one-tenth of the largest wild population of
threatened salmon in the Central Valley died after repair work
near a power plant led Pacific Gas & Electric Co. to cut off a
cooling flow of water into a creek, wildlife and utility
officials said Friday.
The Delta smelt, a tiny fish, steals most of the attention in
the war of words over water use and environmental goals in
California. But other species play a role, too. This week,
state and federal agencies ordered water restrictions for two
northern California watersheds in order to guard the health of
The state’s wildlife department has counted about 1,950
spring-run salmon swimming upstream past a Vaki River Watcher
video system located in a fish ladder. Last year, the
department counted 5,083, with an estimated 16,782 in 2013 and
16,317 in 2012.
State and federal officials said Tuesday that they’re revising
their strategy for releasing water from the California’s
largest reservoir for the coming long, hot summer to avoid
killing off this year’s run of endangered salmon.
Less than 2%. That’s how much water has been provided from the
entire Central Valley in 2015 to help salmon and other fish
survive the drought. Here’s a pie chart prepared by staff from
the State Water Resources Control Board showing this breakdown
C. shasta is naturally present in major river systems
throughout the Northwest, from the Cowlitz to the Columbia,
Willamette and Deschutes, and all the way down into central
California. But this year, the Klamath River has been like a
tropical resort for the parasite.
California is taking desperate steps to save the last
endangered salmon in Wine Country creeks that are going dry
because of over-pumping and the drought, officials said
Thursday. … Threatened steelhead trout are also being pulled
from drying stretches of the waterways.
Thousands of landowners along Sonoma County’s four major coho
salmon spawning streams would be required to report their use
of water from both surface sources and wells under proposed new
state regulations intended to protect the highly endangered
From the State Water Resources Control Board: “The State Water
Resources Control Board has posted a proposed emergency
regulation to provide a minimum amount of water in four Russian
River tributaries to protect Central California Coast coho
salmon and steelhead.”
Yes, it will rain again someday. And when it does, and the
Calaveras River once more becomes a flowing stream, officials
want to give migrating fish their best possible chance at
journeying to prime spawning habitat below New Hogan Dam.
In a potentially significant setback for a system already
stressed by epic drought, California regulators have ordered a
temporary curb in the flows being released from Lake Shasta in
order to protect an endangered species of salmon.
Citing drought conditions and low water levels in Lake Shasta,
state officials have ordered releases from Keswick Dam into the
Sacramento River be reduced to help salmon spawning later this
summer and fall.
The California State Water Resources Control Board has
temporarily suspended a Sacramento River management plan in
order to protect a salmon run. The Board is expected to
consider its next moves during its Tuesday meeting.
Salmon leap over rocks and other small obstacles as they swim
up the Tuolumne River to spawn every fall. But they cannot
surmount the 110-foot-tall dam that created La Grange
Reservoir, much less the 585-foot dam just upstream at Don
What do you do when you have 30 million young salmon ready for
their big journeys downstream, but drought and development have
dried your riverbeds to sauna rocks? In California this year,
you give the fish a ride.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife is hoping to
foster partnerships with Sonoma County landowners in four
critical coho salmon spawning watersheds to help juvenile fish
survive a fourth year of drought.
After spending decades trapped in the lower Yuba River,
endangered Chinook salmon could once again swim the cold pools
in the upper reaches of the waterway — staving off extinction
and settling a dispute that has lingered for years.
Reflecting optimism about this year’s abundance of chinook
salmon, fishing industry regulators on Wednesday approved the
longest commercial season in more than a decade. But the
state’s record drought has darkened the long-term outlook for
one of California’s most valuable fish.
About 30,000 juvenile coho salmon may be doomed by the drought
as Sonoma County streams shrink and become disconnected from
the Russian River, trapping the young fish in pools that will
dry up or degrade over the long, hot summer, experts say.
By 3 a.m. [Dave] Lunsford was loading his tanker truck with
about 140,000 fingerling Chinook salmon to haul from Coleman
National Fish Hatchery in Anderson to Rio Vista in the Bay
Area. … The young salmon are usually released from Coleman
into nearby Battle Creek, so they can make their way into the
Sacramento River and downstream, eventually reaching the
The sound of splashing drew me to the stream. A dark finned
back cut the surface. Salmon? … The scene I’m [Peter
Moyle] recalling from December was not the Sacramento
River or some other salmon highway, but a lowly back alley long
associated with carp and suckers: Putah Creek, my hometown
stream west of Sacramento.
The Pacific Fisheries Management Council released estimates for
the number of chinook salmon that returned from the Pacific
Ocean in the fall to spawn in rivers where they were born or
released from hatcheries.
In the Consolidated Salmonid Cases, the Eastern District Court
of California reviewed a Biological Opinion (“BiOp”) issued in
2009 by the National Marine Fisheries Service (“NMFS”) that
placed restrictions on the Projects’ [Central Valley Project
and State Water Project] operations to protect endangered
A multi-agency partnership, involving state and local agencies,
this week finished inspections of 14 private properties with
active marijuana grow operations along Sproul Creek within the
Eel River watershed.
Looking back on 2014, it’s hard not to feel despair for
California salmon. … There was, however, a startling
exception to the run of bad salmon news. On the Shasta River, a
lifeline for Siskiyou County cattle ranchers, more than 18,000
fall-run Chinook salmon returned from the ocean. That’s more
than double the return from the previous fall.
Scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey and Washington State
University have discovered that endangered Chinook salmon can
be detected accurately from DNA they release into the
environment. The results are part of a special issue of the
journal Biological Conservation on use of environmental DNA to
inform conservation and management of aquatic species.
The lake of [Jay] Hall’s memory is dead, its salmon all but
vanished in the past decade – a collapse so swift that
fisheries biologists have likened it to driving off a cliff.
For a brief few decades, those biologists had turned this Great
Lake into a Pacific chinook factory, taking a wildly popular
sport fish from faraway ocean waters and setting it loose to
gorge upon the swarms of invasive alewives that had decimated
native fish species.
The bonanza of rain over the last week has boosted Marin’s
totals to above average, filled reservoirs and has allowed
endangered coho salmon to make their way back to local streams
sooner than normal. … And the rain is far from over with more
predicted for the weekend and early next week.
Crews are out working in the Sacramento River in Redding this
week repairing a side channel they hope will soon be filled
with spawning salmon. But the workers aren’t with one of the
state or federal agencies charged with managing fish and
wildlife. Instead, the Glenn-Colusa Irrigation District out of
Willows is spending about $250,000 to improve salmon habitat in
The cherished coho salmon that historically wriggled their way
past beachgoers up Redwood Creek into Muir Woods vanished this
year and are now on the verge of extinction, prompting a
last-ditch attempt by fisheries biologists to save the
genetically unique species.
On a recent day after a rainstorm, several dozen fall-run
Chinook salmon trying to migrate upstream in Auburn Ravine
found their progress frustrated. Efforts to complete their long
spawning run from the Pacific Ocean were halted by a small dam
on the outskirts of Lincoln.
The peace and quiet of the moment is suddenly broken by a
splash in the middle of the river. It’s the sound of fall run
Chinook salmon returning to the San Joaquin, bringing with them
the foundation for new life and a cause for celebration.
Just hours into the experiment, the prognosis was grim for
salmon that had been submerged in rain runoff collected from
one of Seattle’s busiest highways. … The research being
conducted by scientists with NOAA, Washington State University
and U.S. Fish and Wildlife offers a promising solution to
stormwater pollution, a major problem for Puget Sound and other
streams and lakes in the nation.
A miraculous thing happens each fall in the Sacramento Valley,
and it’s not the end of 100-degree weather: Salmon return to
the area’s rivers and creeks. One hundred miles from the
Pacific Ocean, the valley hosts one of the largest annual
salmon spawning runs in America.
For decades, California’s management and restoration of salmon
and trout populations have focused on principles rooted in
coastal redwood streams, mostly fed by rainfall runoff. These
concepts portray ideal salmonid habitat as deep pools, shallow
riffles and “large woody debris,” such as fallen trees and
limbs. Recent studies on spring-fed streams challenges this
The public will have a chance next week to witness the annual
spectacle of the American River salmon run. About 10:40 a.m. on
Nov. 3, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife will
open the fish ladder at Nimbus Hatchery on American River.
The Water Education Foundation’s popular Northern California
Tour features a diverse group of experts talking about
groundwater, flood management, the drought, water supplies,
agricultural challenges, and the latest on salmon restoration
efforts. The tour also includes a houseboat cruise on Lake
Shasta. … The tour travels the length of the Sacramento
Valley with visits to Oroville and Shasta dams.
A federal judge ruled Wednesday that a federal water agency did
not violate the law when it made special reservoir releases
last year to help salmon in Northern California’s Klamath River
survive the drought, rather than save it for farms.
The state Supreme Court on Wednesday allowed California
regulators to order farmers along the Russian River to reduce
cold-weather water sprays that have helped preserve their crops
while killing thousands of endangered salmon.
Construction crews that have spent more than two years
reconfiguring a mile-long stretch of Dry Creek outside
Healdsburg are about to mark completion of the critical first
leg of what, by 2020, is to be a six-mile project designed to
create new habitat for threatened and endangered fish.
State and federal wildlife agencies Tuesday unveiled ambitious
plans to restore endangered salmon and steelhead fish in
California’s Central Valley, including returning them to some
habitats where they were shut out decades ago by dams and other
20-minute version of the 2012 documentary The Klamath Basin: A
Restoration for the Ages. This DVD is ideal for showing at
community forums and speaking engagements to help the public
understand the complex issues related to complex water management
disputes in the Klamath River Basin. Narrated by actress Frances
For over a century, the Klamath River Basin along the Oregon and
California border has faced complex water management disputes. As
relayed in this 2012, 60-minute public television documentary
narrated by actress Frances Fisher, the water interests range
from the Tribes near the river, to energy producer PacifiCorp,
farmers, municipalities, commercial fishermen, environmentalists
– all bearing legitimate arguments for how to manage the water.
After years of fighting, a groundbreaking compromise may soon
settle the battles with two epic agreements that hold the promise
of peace and fish for the watershed. View an excerpt from the
This 30-minute documentary-style DVD on the history and current
state of the San Joaquin River Restoration Program includes an
overview of the geography and history of the river, historical
and current water delivery and uses, the genesis and timeline of
the 1988 lawsuit, how the settlement was reached and what was
This 25-minute documentary-style DVD, developed in partnership
with the California Department of Water Resources, provides an
excellent overview of climate change and how it is already
affecting California. The DVD also explains what scientists
anticipate in the future related to sea level rise and
precipitation/runoff changes and explores the efforts that are
underway to plan and adapt to climate.
This beautiful 24×36 inch poster, suitable for framing, features
a map of the San Joaquin River. The map text focuses on the San
Joaquin River Restoration Program, which aims to restore flows
and populations of Chinook salmon to the river below Friant Dam
to its confluence with the Merced River. The text discusses the
history of the program, its goals and ongoing challenges with
This beautifully illustrated 24×36 inch poster,
suitable for framing and display in any office or classroom,
focuses on the theme of Delta sustainability.
The text, photos and graphics explain issues related to land
subsidence, levees and flooding, urbanization and fish and
wildlife protection. An inset map illustrates the tidal action
that increases the salinity of the Delta’s waterways. Development
of the map was funded by a grant from the California Bay-Delta
This beautiful 24×36 inch poster, suitable for framing, displays
the rivers, lakes and reservoirs, irrigated farmland, urban areas
and Indian reservations within the Truckee River Basin, including
the Newlands Project, Pyramid Lake and Lake Tahoe. Map text
explains the issues surrounding the use of the Truckee-Carson
rivers, Lake Tahoe water quality improvement efforts, fishery
restoration and the effort to reach compromise solutions to many
of these issues.
The 24-page Layperson’s Guide to Flood Management explains the
physical flood control system, including levees; discusses
previous flood events (including the 1997 flooding); explores
issues of floodplain management and development; provides an
overview of flood forecasting; and outlines ongoing flood control
The 24-page Layperson’s Guide to California Water provides an
excellent overview of the history of water development and use in
California. It includes sections on flood management; the state,
federal and Colorado River delivery systems; Delta issues; water
rights; environmental issues; water quality; and options for
stretching the water supply such as water marketing and
The 24-page Layperson’s Guide to the Central Valley Project
explores the history and development of the federal Central
Valley Project (CVP), California’s largest surface water delivery
system. In addition to the history of the project, the guide
describes the various CVP facilities, CVP operations, the
benefits the CVP brought to the state, and the CVP Improvement
The 24-page Layperson’s Guide to the Delta explores the competing
uses and demands on California’s Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
Included in the guide are sections on the history of the Delta,
its role in the state’s water system, and its many complex issues
with sections on water quality, levees, salinity and agricultural
drainage, fish and wildlife, and water distribution.
The Red Bluff Diversion Dam, its gates raised since 2011 to allow
fish passage, spans the Sacramento River two miles
southeast of Red Bluff on the Sacramento River in Tehama County.
It is owned by the Bureau of Reclamation and operated and
maintained by the Tehama-Colusa Canal Authority.
At present, barriers make it difficult for anadromous fish,
including Chinook salmon and Central Valley steelhead trout, to
migrate. These barriers include natural waterfalls
and hydroelectric diversion dams.
This issue of Western Water looks at the BDCP and the
Coalition to Support Delta Projects, issues that are aimed at
improving the health and safety of the Delta while solidifying
California’s long-term water supply reliability.
This printed issue of Western Water features a
roundtable discussion with Anthony Saracino, a water resources
consultant; Martha Davis, executive manager of policy development
with the Inland Empire Utilities Agency and senior policy advisor
to the Delta Stewardship Council; Stuart Leavenworth, editorial
page editor of The Sacramento Bee and Ellen Hanak, co-director of
research and senior fellow at the Public Policy Institute of
This printed issue of Western Water examines the issues
associated with the State Water Board’s proposed revision of the
water quality Bay-Delta Plan, most notably the question of
whether additional flows are needed for the system, and how they
might be provided.
This printed issue of Western Water examines science –
the answers it can provide to help guide management decisions in
the Delta and the inherent uncertainty it holds that can make
moving forward such a tenuous task.
This printed issue of Western Water examines the Russian and
Santa Ana rivers – areas with ongoing issues not dissimilar to
the rest of the state – managing supplies within a lingering
drought, improving water quality and revitalizing and restoring
the vestiges of the native past.
This printed copy of Western Water examines the native salmon and
trout dilemma – the extent of the crisis, its potential impact on
water deliveries and the lengths to which combined efforts can
help restore threatened and endangered species.
This printed copy of Western Water examines the Delta through the
many ongoing activities focusing on it, most notably the Delta
Vision process. Many hours of testimony, research, legal
proceedings, public hearings and discussion have occurred and
will continue as the state seeks the ultimate solution to the
problems tied to the Delta.
This issue of Western Water explores the implications for the San
Joaquin River following the decision in the Natural Resources
Defense Council lawsuit against the Bureau of Reclamation and
Friant Water Users Authority that Friant Dam is required to
comply with a state law that requires enough water be released to
sustain downstream fish populations.
Fresh from the ocean, adult salmon struggle to swim hundreds of
miles upstream to spawn — and then die — in the same stream in
which they were born. For the salmon, the river-to-ocean,
ocean-to-river life cycle is nothing more than instinct. For
humans, it invites wonder. The cycle has prevailed for centuries,
yet as salmon populations have declined, the cycle has become a
source of conflict. Water users have seen their supplies reduced.
Fishermen have had their catch curtailed. Environmentalists have
pushed for more instream flows for fish.