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.
Seeking to stave off the extinction of a storied species, state
and federal wildlife officials are releasing 200,000
hatchery-raised salmon into a restored High Sierra creek where
once-magnificent winter runs were wiped out over the past
Alaskan fishing guide Jason Lesmeister stopped fishing for
Chinook salmon more than a decade ago. The population, he said,
“plummeted” on the Kenai River, his main fishing ground and a
watershed renowned for producing enormous Chinooks, also called
king salmon. But the fish aren’t just less abundant today.
They’re also noticeably smaller.
Anglers hoping to catch Chinook salmon this year along the San
Francisco Bay and in the Central Valley’s rivers are likely to
see curtailed fishing seasons, due to poor fish numbers linked
to California’s historic five-year drought.
After reviewing the Karuk Tribe’s November petition to
recognize the spring-run salmon as a separate species from its
fall-run counterparts and to list them as an endangered
species, the National Marine Fisheries Service this week found
the tribe’s request “may be warranted.” The federal agency will
now begin a 12-month review before making a final decision on
the tribe’s requests.
A third straight year of low king salmon runs is expected to
deliver another blow to one of the North Coast’s most iconic
and lucrative fisheries, wildlife managers indicated Thursday,
as both regulators and fishermen faced the prospect of a
federally mandated plan to reverse the trend and rebuild key
Three Republican U.S. House members are criticizing Democratic
Sen. Patty Murray and other lawmakers for opposing their
legislation that would prevent the breaching of four dams on
the Snake River to restore endangered salmon runs.
Federal fisheries officials said Tuesday they will consider
putting the Pacific Northwest’s once-flourishing wild
spring-run Chinook salmon on the list of threatened or
endangered species. The National Marine Fisheries Services
plans a 12-month review on whether to give protected status to
the salmon in and around the Klamath River.
A drought year similar to 2015’s dry conditions are anticipated
by the Klamath Irrigation District, and without the financial
resources available in 2015, as well as at least a week delay
in water delivery to Klamath Project irrigators in April,
according to Ty Kliewer, board president, on Friday.
As work to restore the San Joaquin River continues, scientists
are seeing promising signs that salmon can thrive in the river
as hatchery fish reach new milestones. A recent breakthrough
came in fall 2017, when spring-run Chinook salmon created their
nests, called redds, in the deeper and colder parts of the
river below Friant Dam.
The Eel River was once home to one of the largest salmon
populations on the West Coast. But for nearly a century, a
large share of its flow has been diverted for hydroelectric
power and irrigation, helping build Northern California into a
world powerhouse of winemaking. … So it should come as no
surprise that the prospect of ending those water diversions is
stirring concern across the region.
The project is called the Fish Food on Floodplain Farm Fields
Project. It’s part of a greater effort to restore threatened
fish species — the Sacramento Valley Salmon Recovery Program.
The project comes at a key time: A recent UC Davis study
suggests that winter run chinook salmon could go extinct if
efforts to recover the species aren’t taken up.
The federal government’s top fisheries experts say that three
widely used pesticides — including the controversial
insecticide chlorpyrifos — are jeopardizing the survival of
many species of salmon, as well as orcas that feed on those
salmon. It’s a fresh attack on a chemical that the
Environmental Protection Agency was ready to take off the
market a year ago — until the Trump administration changed
The U.S. government will temporarily stop killing beavers in
Oregon after environmental groups threatened a lawsuit alleging
the practice reduces the number of dams that create deep pools
that are ideal habitat for young, endangered coho salmon.
In a new study published this week in Biological Conservation,
researchers from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern
California, UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences, NOAA
Fisheries, and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory used
salmon otolith (“earstone”) chemistry to reveal the migration
patterns and secret hang out spots used by juvenile winter run
on their way to the ocean.
We ventured through California’s Central Valley, known as
the nation’s breadbasket thanks to an imported supply of surface
water and local groundwater. Covering about 20,000 square
miles through the heart of the state, the valley provides 25
percent of the nation’s food, including 40 percent of all fruits,
nuts and vegetables consumed throughout the country.
A team of researchers and Marysville rice farmers initiated a
study this week in Yuba County to see if introducing fish to a
flooded rice field could both reduce methane emissions and
allow for a new reliable protein source.
Biologists assumed baby winter-run Chinook salmon hung out in
the Sacramento River where they hatched until they grew large
enough to make the trip downstream to the Pacific Ocean. A
recently released scientific study challenges that assumption –
and may have implications in how fisheries agencies manage
Sacramento Valley waterways to protect the critically
It could be a record year for salmon on the Mokelumne River,
but not without some extraordinary human intervention. More
than 15,200 adult salmon had returned to the fish hatchery
below Camanche Dam as of last week. … This year’s strong
return is good news in part because it shows how changes in
hatchery operations can help fish survive the aftermath of a
It appears this is an average year for the number of fall-fun
Chinook Salmon returning to spawn in the American River. The
numbers were expected to be much lower because of high water
temperatures and predators when the fish were juveniles heading
to the ocean during the drought.
A fish species rarely seen south of Washington state has turned
up more than 700 miles away in Lagunitas Creek, part of what
has been dubbed a strange beginning to the spawning season. In
recent years attention on the Lagunitas Creek watershed has
been focused on federally endangered coho salmon and threatened
steelhead trout, with efforts made to restore habitat to help
Thousands of salmon make the grueling journey from the Pacific
Ocean up the American River each fall. The spawning run ends
for many with a whack on the head at the Nimbus Fish Hatchery,
where salmon eggs are gathered and fertilized.
Salmon and steelhead trout are migrating to the Mokelumne River
just east of Lodi in what could be record numbers. … Abundant
rainfall last year helped to release more water from Camanche
Reservoir to help move the salmon up the river.
This tour explored the Sacramento River and its tributaries
through a scenic landscape as participants learned about the
issues associated with a key source for the state’s water supply.
All together, the river and its tributaries supply 35 percent of
California’s water and feed into two major projects: the State
Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project. Tour
participants got an on-site update of repair efforts on the
Oroville Dam spillway.
Last spring, the outlook for California’s 2017 Chinook salmon
fishing season was dire. Years of drought had taken a toll on
the rivers where salmon spawn, reducing them to lukewarm
trickles. As a result, the number of adult fish was seriously
depleted, reported scientists with the Pacific Fishery
They may not have been salivating, but fishers were definitely
savoring the moment Wednesday when 160,000 finger-size baby
salmon were poured from a tube out of a tanker truck into a net
pen at Pillar Point Harbor in Half Moon Bay.
Salmon crowded in and around the Mokelumne River Fish Hatchery
on Thursday, offering leaping and squiggling proof of what so
far is a near-record return of the big pinkish delicacies after
several years of low breeding numbers. … The Mokelumne,
one of California’s major salmon-producing rivers, flows from
the Sierra foothills through the Central Valley.
The Klamath River is the site of what could be the largest dam
removal project in the nation’s history, but there are still
several hurdles to jump before the dams come down and many more
if they do. Fortuna resident Neil Palmer was one of more than
40 people who attended an open house at Eureka’s Adorni Center
on Thursday evening to learn more about the now 7-year-old
The Bristol Bay watershed, in southwest Alaska, comprises
40,000 square miles of bogs and evergreen forests, rimmed by
distant mountains and shimmering with rivers and feeder
streams. In these waterways, miracles happen. Together they
sustain the largest remaining salmon fishery on Earth.
Removing Shasta Dam is the single best action we can take to
save California’s wild salmon. Not possible, you say?
Then there are two alternatives. One is to provide plenty of
cold water and diverse, highly managed habitat below dams. The
other is to transport fish to now-inaccessible habitat above
The specter of rain washing potentially toxic ash from
thousands of burned homes into sensitive Sonoma County
watersheds has injected a new sense of urgency to local fire
cleanup efforts, with the immediate focus shifting to erosion
control needed to safeguard water quality.
State regulators and fishing officials said at a Eureka hearing
on Friday that only by working together can they overcome the
trials and uncertainty that several California’s fisheries face
today. … The federal government declared a fishery disaster
in January for the 2015-2016 California Dungeness crab season
and the Yurok Tribe’s 2016 salmon season because of season
delays and poor catch.
In Southern California, the mountain yellow-legged frog, of
which there were about 400 living in remote, drying streams in
the San Gabriel, San Bernardino and San Jacinto mountains,
could face a hard winter after fires destroyed their habitat.
Over the past several weeks crews have been out on Whiskeytown
Lake repairing the temperature curtains in the water near the
Visitors Center. … The curtains are an important part of the
bureau’s Central Valley Project, which includes Trinity and
Lewiston dams and Shasta and Keswick dams.
For many homeowners in Sonoma and Napa counties, nothing
could have been more welcome than the splashing of rain that
fell on Northern California last Thursday – the first
significant precipitation in about five months.
With the California crab season opener approaching and a poor
salmon season winding down, a California legislative committee
is set to meet in Eureka on Friday to discuss what the future
holds for two of the North Coast’s most important fisheries.
Scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration think two main factors caused low numbers of
spring-run chinook salmon to return this year: drought and
abnormally warm temperatures.
Fisheries officials plan to turn a series of ponds in the
Henderson Open Space into a side channel of the Sacramento
River that will be used for salmon rearing habitat. The Western
Shasta Resource Conservation District plans to excavate the
channels and connect them to the river, creating a safe space
for young salmon and other fish.
This fall, the number of chinook salmon making their way from
the ocean up the Klamath River in the far northwest corner of
California is the lowest on record. That’s devastating news for
the Yurok tribe, which has lived along and fished the Klamath
When Bay Area steelhead were listed as threatened under the
federal Endangered Species Act in 1997, [Jeff] Miller suddenly
had a lot of help realizing his dream of restoring migratory
fish in the Bay Area. … Since then, local, state and federal
agencies and organizations have collaborated on restoring
steelhead in Alameda Creek.
The owners of Don Pedro Reservoir made their pitch Tuesday for
how it can serve both people and Tuolumne River fish over the
next half-century. The boards of the Modesto and Turlock
irrigation districts each voted 5-0 at separate meetings to
submit their final application for a new federal license for
The number of salmon returning to spawn at Coleman National
Fish Hatchery in Anderson could reach historic lows this year
— a legacy of the five-year drought that ended last year.
At this time of year dozens of salmon would normally be teeming
in the waters of Battle Creek near the hatchery.
Where are all the fish? That’s what hatchery workers are
wondering, left scratching their heads after seeing low levels
for spring-run Chinook salmon – about a third of the
average for this time period.
Scientists at U.C. Davis have found a genetic distinction
between Chinook salmon that migrate in spring and fall. That
has a Northern California tribe calling to make spring Chinook
an endangered species. But some farmers are skeptical.
It’s not every day that logging practices are put to use to
restore salmon habitat. But for the past two weeks along the
foggy, redwood-strewn banks of San Vicente Creek that’s exactly
what has been taking place.
Documents filed with state regulators show that a fish farm
that broke apart Aug. 19 in the San Juan Islands released more
than 160,000 farm-raised Atlantic salmon into Washington state
waters — far more than the original estimate — and that the
holding pen for the fish was “due for complete replacement.”
… The accident prompted state and Native tribal
officials to declare a fish emergency.
The state of Washington is calling all fishermen to catch
unlimited farmed Atlantic salmon with no size or weight limits
after a net pen broke last week, allowing thousands of the
non-native fish to escape into the open ocean.
A coalition of government agencies and advocates for
sustainable fisheries came together Tuesday to launch a
long-term effort to save California’s beleaguered salmon
populations in the Sacramento and San Joaquin river systems.
… The partnership deal was signed Tuesday by John Laird,
California’s secretary for natural resources.
Investigators have confirmed that a federal water agency
misspent $32 million in funds meant to protect fish and
wildlife in the Klamath basin of California and Oregon, a
finding that Obama-era officials attempted to sideline after
whistleblowers first alerted them to it.
A study published Wednesday by researchers at UC Davis may have
major conservation implications for salmon in California and
the Pacific Northwest. The study provides new evidence that
“springers” and other salmon that migrate upstream from the
ocean to spawn early in the year are genetically different than
later migrating populations.
A dismal salmon run in the Klamath River has forced the Yurok
Tribe — which normally catches its salmon from the Klamath
River — to purchase the fish from an outside source for
its annual Salmon Festival on Saturday.
The state Department of Water Resources is beginning to lay the
gravel foundation for spawning salmon. This comes as much of
the gravel was washed away with high flows from the Oroville
Dam spillway this winter.
Congressional appropriation committees are considering whether
to provide millions of dollars in disaster relief funds to West
Coast fishing fleets as part of the 2018 federal budget. …
The disaster declaration made in January by then-U.S. Secretary
of Commerce Penny Pritzker includes California’s Dungeness and
rock crab fishery as well as the Yurok Tribe’s Klamath River
Chinook salmon fishery.
Another troubling sign of the poor state of this year’s Pacific
Ocean salmon runs was discovered on one the Klamath River’s
tributaries after an annual fish survey counted the second
lowest number of spring-run Chinook salmon on record.
The State Water Resources Control Board announced in
September that it plans to return the San Joaquin River to
40 percent of its “unimpaired flow.” … The goal, according to
the water board, is to rebalance water demand on the state’s
second-largest river. … The board plans a similar process for
the Sacramento River, the state’s largest river.
With New Zealand’s Southern Alps looming above, about 30
members of the Winnemem Wintu tribe from Northern California
sat on the windswept bank of the Rakaia River cradling in their
hands dark and wormy salmon fry, a long-lost relative finally
found. As they released the salmon into a gurgling rivulet, a
couple of Winnemem broke down in tears while others began
softly singing a prayer song, barely louder than the breeze.
Under a purple pre-dawn sky, a small group of Northern
Californian Indians ventured out onto the wet sand where the
mighty Klamath River meets the Pacific Ocean. They had come to
honor and fight for the salmon that have sustained their
ancient culture for generations.
From hundreds of fish annually to nearly 9,000 per year, Butte
Creek salmon are thriving, thanks to a project begun 20 years
ago. That project was celebrated Thursday at Gorrill Ranch on
the Midway. … Bruce Babbitt, Secretary of the Interior for
the Clinton administration, helped bring the players to the
negotiating table to get the Butte Creek Salmon Recovery
Project, completed in the late 1990s.
The National Park Service has plans to replace aging sewer and
water lines in the Muir Woods National Monument that could
cause “significant damage” to the environment if they rupture,
including to Redwood Creek, home to delicate fish populations.
Quick thinkers who came up with a plan to rescue millions of
salmon using fresh water from fire hydrants during the Oroville
Dam emergency were recognized for their efforts Sunday by
legislators, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife and
This year has brought the mighty river flows that environmental
and fishing groups say are vital to salmon. A farmer or city
water user might disagree: Yes, the fish need high water at
times, but not at the 2017 volume. And we should be adding
reservoir space to carry over the excess for dry years ahead.
To no one’s surprise Tuesday, the Turlock Irrigation District
board endorsed Tuolumne River fishery improvements that do not
involve boosting reservoir releases. Directors voted 5-0 to
support a proposal made by San Francisco in response to a state
effort to sharply increase flows for salmon and other native
fish on this and nearby rivers.
State officials released a strategic plan Friday aimed at
reducing risks associated with different stages of migration
for salmon and steelhead throughout the Sacramento Valley river
system. “These resiliency strategies are an exciting new path
for improving conditions for fish and wildlife in the
Sacramento Valley,” said David Guy, president of the Northern
California Water Association.
Pieces of the Feather River Fish Hatchery have been patched
back together in time for the return of spring-run chinook
salmon. However, the shoveling, shifting and trucking will
continue for a while until its smooth swimming for the
important fish-rearing station on Table Mountain Boulevard.
The discussion of flows on the lower Tuolumne River will return
to the Turlock Irrigation District boardroom Tuesday. Directors
will consider endorsing a proposal from San Francisco, another
river user, that is an alternative to the major flow increases
sought by a state agency for native salmon and steelhead trout.
State and federal agencies have big plans to change the way
water flows through Anderson River Park. … The test pits
are being dug to prepare for a project that would create a
place where young salmon can eat, grow and get ready for their
migration out to the Pacific Ocean, officials said.
California Gov. Jerry Brown and Oregon Gov. Kate Brown called
on the U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross on Thursday to
declare a federal fisheries disaster due to this year’s
unprecedented low number of ocean salmon, according to the
California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
“Four or five Friday nights” of work has paid off for Briana
Conners, who recently won $10,000 for her winning entry in a
contest seeking proposals to get fish past tall dams like
Shasta Dam. … While the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation sponsored
the contest to solicit ideas for getting fish around tall dams,
the agency is specifically interested in finding ways to get
young endangered salmon around Shasta Dam.
Already faced with unprecedented low numbers of returning
salmon and drastically reduced fishing allowances, California’s
fishing fleets and communities are not expected to find any
relief in the next few years, according to testimony by a host
of experts and regulators at the State Capitol on Wednesday.
Before dams were built on the upper
Sacramento River, flood water regularly carried woody debris that
was an important part of the aquatic habitat.
Deprived of this refuge, salmon in the lower parts of the upper
Sacramento River have had a difficult time surviving and making
it down the river and out to the ocean. Seeing this, a group of
people, including water users, decided to lend a hand with an
unprecedented pilot project that saw massive walnut tree trunks
affixed to 12,000-pound boulders and deposited into the deepest
part of the Sacramento River near Redding to provide shelter for
young salmon and steelhead migrating downstream.
With one report saying the state is facing an unprecedented
loss of fish species, a local group has won $158,000 to look at
how water released from Kent Lake affects local coho salmon and
steelhead trout. The Marin Municipal Water District — the
agency that operates the Kent Lake reservoir — is under a 1995
state Water Resources Control Board order to release water
periodically to aid federally endangered coho salmon and
threatened steelhead trout.
Before dams were built on the upper Sacramento River, flood
water regularly carried woody debris that was an important part
of the aquatic habitat. Deprived of this refuge, salmon in the
lower parts of the upper Sacramento River have had a difficult
time surviving and making it down the river and out to the
A harrowing report released by the environmental nonprofit
organization California Trout and the University of California
Davis on Tuesday states that nearly 75 percent of the state’s
31 salmon, steelhead and trout species are likely to become
extinct within the next century if current trends continue.
Researchers have issued a dire warning for California’s native
trout and salmon: Three-quarters of them will be extinct in the
next 100 years unless urgent action is taken. This bleak
assessment came Tuesday from biologists at the UC Davis Center
for Watershed Sciences and from California Trout, a nonprofit
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife has pulled the
plug on plans to release a quarter-million hatchery-born
Chinook salmon into Bodega Bay after several North Bay
conservation groups demanded the agency first conduct a full
The two bills written by [Congressman Jared] Huffman and
[Congresswoman Jackie] Speier would provide nearly $22.5
million in relief funds to the Yurok Tribe to aid salmon
fishing communities and salmon restoration and monitoring
projects. The bills would also provide more than $117 million
for California Dungeness crab and rock crab fishermen affected
by the delayed 2015-16 season.
Then-Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker declared a fisheries
disasters for nine West Coast fisheries in January, including
for the 2015-16 crab season in California and the 2016 salmon
season for the Yurok Tribe. California 2nd District Congressman
Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) was one of 17 members of Congress
who drafted a bipartisan letter to congressional party leaders
in early April urging that they include the disaster funds in
the new spending bill.
For anyone who wants to get out on the Sacramento River and
fish the section of water from Keswick Dam to Highway 44, time
is running out. The California Fish and Game Commission on
Wednesday approved permanently closing that section of the
river to all fishing from the beginning of April to the end of
July every year.
[California 2nd District Congressman Jared] Huffman and a
bipartisan group of 16 other legislators are urging
congressional appropriation committees to include fisheries
disaster funding in the spending bill for fishing fleets in
Alaska, Washington, Oregon and California, which includes the
California crab fleet and the Yurok Tribe salmon fishing fleet.
The fall-run Chinook fishery on both the Klamath and Trinity
rivers will be closed in 2017. On Thursday, the California Fish
and Game Commission voted to close both rivers to the take of
any size Chinook salmon after the fall seasons begin — Aug. 15
on the Klamath and Aug. 31 on the Trinity.
Native American communities are bracing for a public health
crisis this year in California’s misty, rugged northwestern
corner. In the Pacific Ocean off the mouth of the Klamath
River, record-low numbers of fall-run adult Chinook salmon are
ready to make their annual migration up the river and its
primary tributary, the Trinity River, to spawn.
The top West Coast fishery council has recommended the full
closure of the sport and commercial Chinook salmon fisheries
near the Klamath River for the 2017-18 season. The Pacific
Fishery Management Council’s recommendation Tuesday was
expected after it forecast the lowest return of Klamath River
Chinook salmon on record, with about 12,000 fish expected to
For the first time in its history, the Karuk Tribe will be
limiting ceremonial salmon harvests for tribal members because
of the record low forecast for returning Chinook salmon on the
Klamath River. … The tribe’s announcement came as the Pacific
Fishery Management Council met in Sacramento to discuss catch
limitations for this year’s salmon season.
For the second year in a row, California officials are likely
to shorten the chinook salmon season, making the local
specialty costly and hard to find throughout the summer and
possibly beyond. … The low numbers are due to lingering
effects of the drought, because impacts on the population are
felt about three or four years behind years with little rain.
California tribes and fishermen stated Thursday they will be
calling on Gov. Jerry Brown to declare a fisheries disaster
because of the dismal forecast for this year’s salmon season.
… These statements came exactly a year after top state,
federal and tribal officials gathered at the mouth of the
Klamath River to sign a renewed agreement to remove four dams
from the river.
A bipartisan group of congressional representatives sent a
letter to House and Senate leaders Wednesday urging them to
include disaster relief funds for nine West Coast crab and
salmon fisheries in a government spending bill this month.
A dearth of endangered coho salmon in Muir Woods has prompted
the National Park Service to develop a plan to remove 1930s-era
walls, put logs into Redwood Creek and replace foot bridges to
improve fish habitat at the national monument.
For the past two years fisheries officials — concerned
about the plummeting numbers of winter-run chinook salmon
— have gone to the state Fish and Game Commission to get
an emergency closure of a section of the Sacramento River in
Speaking at California’s 44th annual “state of the fisheries”
forum at the State Capitol on Wednesday, North Coast Sen. Mike
McGuire and other state officials conveyed a dire future as the
state experiences its lowest forecast salmon return on record
and continuing poor ocean conditions.
Both sport and commercial salmon fishing near the Klamath River
could be completely closed this year as a result of what the
Pacific Fishery Management Council is projecting to be the
lowest return of spawning Chinook salmon on record.
About one million endangered fish flooded into a stretch of the
Feather River near Yuba City Monday, transported out of the
Thermalito annex of the Feather River Fish Hatchery by the
California Department of Fish and Wildlife and National Oceanic
and Atmospheric Administration National Marine Fisheries
California’s chinook salmon — or some of them — are in trouble
again. And under a set of proposed rules approved Monday,
that’s likely to mean a very restricted salmon season for both
commercial fishers and recreational anglers alike.
Crews worked Tuesday to clean up dirt and debris from the base
of Oroville Dam and biologists rush to save stranded fish after
state officials shut off the flow of water from a damaged
spillway at the Northern California lake.
When California state biologists crested a sandbar along the
Feather River on Tuesday morning, they expected to find at
least some of the water that just a day before had raged
through the channel, too deep to stand in – and plenty of fish
needing to be rescued.
The federal government can redirect water from a Northern
California dam to prevent mass die-offs of salmon in drought
years, water that otherwise would be shipped to Central Valley
farmers, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday.
Days before nearly 200,000 people downstream of Lake Oroville
were ordered to evacuate because of problems with two spillways
at the dam, there were millions of other evacuees – residents
of the Feather River Fish Hatchery. … Why all the
trouble for some fish? Spring-run Chinook salmon and steelhead
are both listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.
Protecting and restoring California’s populations of threatened
and endangered Chinook salmon and steelhead trout have been a big
part of the state’s water management picture for more than 20
years. Significant resources have been dedicated to helping the
various runs of the iconic fish, with successes and setbacks. In
a landscape dramatically altered from its natural setting,
finding a balance between the competing demands for water is
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation ramped up flows on the lower
Klamath River on Friday morning in an attempt to reduce the
risk of threatened fish from contracting a deadly parasite as
had occurred in years past. The move came just over a day after
a federal judge found that the bureau’s past dam operations had
caused harm to threatened juvenile Coho salmon in 2014 and
The U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker declared a
fisheries disaster for nine salmon and crab fisheries in
Alaska, Washington and California in January. Of the nine
fisheries, the two in California include the Dungeness and rock
crab fishery and the Yurok Tribe Klamath River Chinook salmon
A federal judge is set to issue an order in the coming weeks
for two federal agencies and a group of local tribes and
environmental organizations to work together to develop a new
water flow plan for the lower Klamath River.
A new study concludes that salmon have not benefited much from
autumn water releases into the lower Stanislaus River. The
research by the Fishbio consulting firm backs up claims by the
Oakdale and South San Joaquin irrigation districts that the
October releases are wasting water from New Melones Reservoir.
The final hearing on the state’s river flow plan Tuesday dealt
in part with how long salmon stay in the streams each year. The
State Water Resources Control Board proposes to roughly double,
from February through June, the volume of the Stanislaus,
Tuolumne and Merced rivers.
More than 900 people packed a Modesto hearing on boosting river
flows Tuesday, most of them determined to stop the state’s
plan. … The round of hearings started Nov. 29 in Sacramento
and will finish there Jan. 3.
New Melones Reservoir would hold virtually nothing in about one
in seven years if the state’s river flow plan goes through,
water managers said Friday. They spoke at a State Water
Resources Control Board hearing that also drew support for
boosting the lower Stanislaus, Tuolumne and Merced rivers to
California farmers and Southern California cities were aghast
last winter when much of the heavy rainfall that fell in
Northern California washed through the Sacramento-San Joaquin
Delta and out to sea.
Both California senators took to the floor Friday to take
opposite sides in a debate over provisions of a national water
resources bill that allows more water to be pumped south to
Central Valley agriculture at the expense of the salmon
Tuesday, I visited a couple of projects in the Sacramento
Valley that are aimed at helping salmon on both ends of the
life cycle. They are collaborations between farmers and
environmentalists, two groups that are often at each other’s
throats in the never-ending battle over who is entitled to
California’s precious water supply.
Two federal agencies are the target of a second lawsuit
alleging they violated the Endangered Species Act by allowing
up to 90 percent of juvenile Klamath River coho salmon to
become infected by an intestinal parasite in 2014 and 2015.
River restoration on the Trinity River, the largest tributary
for the Klamath River, was not walk through the park. Instead
it was restoring what used to be labeled a dumping zone and
transforming it into salmon habitat by creating a separate
channel for the river.
Asking the public to listen carefully to their controversial
plan, state water officials began a series of hearings Tuesday
on permanently shifting a share of water away from farms and
cities and reallocating it to wildlife on streams feeding the
San Joaquin River.
Fishing and environmental groups will get the first say Tuesday
about how much water should run down the Stanislaus, Tuolumne
and Merced rivers. The session in Sacramento will be the first
of five before the State Water Resources Control Board, which
is considering a major boost in the flows.
Year after year, volunteers return to tributaries of the
Klamath River, just like the fish they’re trying to help
do the same thing. Jimmy Peterson, a fisheries project
coordinator for the Mid-Klamath Watershed Council, places rocks
and stones to make fish passages in Fort Goff Creek, 60 miles
up from the river’s mouth on California’s North Coast.
Restoring salmon in the Russian River and protecting the North
Coast from oil rigs — two long-standing campaigns with broad
public support — are among the goals likely to be challenged if
not stifled by the sharp right turn of Donald Trump’s
administration, environmental advocates and Democratic
Excavators, loaders and dump trucks began moving earth around
the Sacramento River this week as part of the latest effort to
help endangered chinook salmon. … Money for the project
comes from the federal Central Valley Project Improvement Act.
The picture has brightened slightly for endangered winter-run
Chinook salmon after two disastrous spawning seasons. The
number of juveniles migrating downstream this fall is roughly
twice what it was last year, thanks to better temperature
conditions in the Sacramento River.
For the past two years state fisheries officials have asked the
state Fish and Game Commission to close on an emergency basis a
51/2-mile section of the river to fishing from April 1 to July
31 to protect spawning winter-run chinook salmon.
A massive concrete structure, built to withstand floods and
earthquakes beside the Russian River near Forestville, is the
latest step toward restoring the river’s beleaguered salmon and
Four hydroelectric dams may soon be demolished along the
Klamath, near the California-Oregon border. … What’s made
this possible is compromise, forged over years of negotiation,
among upriver and downriver interests, in California and
Oregon, farmers and tribes and fishery advocates.
A decade ago, environmentalists and the federal government
agreed to revive a 150-mile stretch of California’s
second-longest river, an ambitious effort aimed at allowing
salmon again to swim up to the Sierra Nevada foothills to
Water users in San Francisco and its suburbs face a day of
reckoning as state regulators move to leave more water in
California’s two biggest rivers in an effort to halt a collapse
in the native ecosystem of the San Francisco Bay and its
estuary, the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.
For well over a decade, federal officials have failed to fix a
mechanical flaw in the water outflow system of Shasta Dam on
the Sacramento River that fishery and river advocates say has
caused millions of fertilized salmon eggs and juvenile fish to
die in lethally warm river water.
Signaling a cutback in water supplies for farming and cities,
California regulators on Wednesday issued a new scientific
analysis that proposes overhauling the management of the
Sacramento River and devoting more water to Northern
California’s dwindling fish populations. … The proposal
comes a month after the water board called for people to take
far less water out of the San Joaquin River system.
U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell penned a letter
this week to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission urging it
to approve a plan to remove four dams from the Klamath River to
protect the interests of fish and farmers.
Four dams on the Klamath River in California and Oregon are a
step closer to being taken down. In an October 17 letter to
federal dam regulators, the Department of the Interior signaled
its approval of a multi-party agreement that would result in
dismantling the Copco No. 1, Copco No. 2, Iron Gate, and J.C.
Boyle dams, which stand along a 30-mile stretch of the Klamath.
A project to rebuild the Wallace Weir, a century-old levee
northwest of Sacramento, could help both farmers and salmon.
Bringing together a coalition of unlikely allies, it promises a
more sophisticated approach to water management.
After the state entered into its sixth year of drought on
Saturday, Humboldt County walked away with its best rainfall
total in the last five years. … A year ago at this time,
the Eel River was approaching record low flow levels with
salmon showing alarming signs of blindness and lethargy as they
waited for heavy rains.
The Winnemem Wintu Tribe of Shasta County has been tracing the
journey that follows the spawning route of the winter-run
chinook salmon to raise public awareness of the fish’s plight,
said Caleen Sisk, the Winemmem’s chief and spiritual leader.
Salmon are struggling to survive all along the West Coast,
where runs that historically numbered in the millions of fish
have dwindled into the thousands or even dozens. Environmental
laws that have been put in place to see that these fish remain
healthy and plentiful are not working in many places.
The owner of four dams on the Klamath River and the nonprofit
corporation created to take responsibility for their
destruction recently filed long-awaited applications with
federal regulators to remove the dams.
At this point in the Sacramento River restoration game, one big
fix will not change the outlook for endangered and threatened
salmon. However, fish scientist Dave Vogel hopes that a series
of smaller fixes will make a big difference.
Five years of drought have severely taxed California’s rivers,
reservoirs and groundwater. The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta –
the hub of California’s water supply, an agricultural center
and a crucial ecological resource – hasn’t been immune from the
impacts of the prolonged drought.
At this free one-day briefing in Stockton
on Oct. 25, keynote speaker Jay Lund, Director of the UC Center
for Watershed Sciences, and other experts will
discuss the drought’s effects on the Delta.
Other confirmed speakers include Delta Watermaster Michael
Patrick George, Michelle Banonis, Manager of the Bureau of
Reclamation’s Bay-Delta Office, Michael Dettinger, senior
scientist and research hydrologist at USGS, and Peter Moyle, one
of the foremost experts on California’s freshwater fish.
Stockton Memorial Civic Auditorium
525 N. Center Street
Less than 50 miles northeast of Chico, California, begins the
93-mile Butte Creek – a tributary of the Sacramento River. It is named
after Butte County, which was in turn named for the nearby
volcanic plateaus, or “buttes,” and travels through a massive
canyon on its way southwest to the Sacramento Valley.
As a watershed, it drains about 800 square miles, both for
agricultural and residential use. The upper watershed is
dominated by forests, while the lower watershed is primarily
The Bureau of Reclamation released water from the Trinity
Reservoir early Thursday morning to the lower Klamath River to
help prevent the spread a parasitic fish disease, within
Chinook salmon. Supplemental flows from the Lewiston Dam will
also extend into late September to protect the fall salmon run.
To prevent an outbreak of a deadly fish-killing disease,
federal officials plan to begin tripling the amount of water
flowing out of Lewiston Dam and into the Trinity River. … The
Trinity River flows into the Klamath River and the higher flows
in the Trinity are meant to aid salmon and trout in the
As you grunt up the path in the depths of Deer Creek Canyon,
the incongruous sound of a large piece of gasoline-driven
machinery becomes audible over the rhythmic rumbling of the
creek. … But it’s one of those things where a temporary
intrusion into the wild may end up enhancing the wild for the
After nearly a month in port, local fishermen are once again
heading out to sea in search of the highly prized king salmon.
Also known as Chinook, it’s a sleek, silver fish that boasts a
high oil content, sweet flavor and a deep orange color due to
its fat-laden diet of krill, anchovies and squid.
From a Hoopa Valley Tribe press release: Today, the Hoopa
Valley Tribe (HVT) filed its lawsuit against the federal
government for violations of Endangered Species Act (ESA)
regarding its management actions on the Klamath River,
California’s second largest river system.
As Operation Yurok — which the Yurok Tribe carries out each
summer with help from local, state and national agencies —
continues this week, Yurok Tribe Chairman Thomas P. O’Rourke
Sr. said Wednesday the tribe may carry out similar raids later
this year. … Illegal diversion of water from stream and
creeks lead to less water for the Yurok people and the salmon
that live and spawn in the rivers.
While conditions on the Klamath River are looking more
favorable for fish compared to recent years of drought and
disease, North Coast researchers and tribes are not expecting
fall-run salmon to have an easy journey.
Two federal agencies could face a third legal challenge over
alleged Endangered Species Act violations on the Klamath River
after a group of environmental and fishing organizations filed
a notice of intent to sue this week.
Whether the temperature management of the runoff of Northern
California water reservoirs, including Shasta Dam, results in
improved survivability of endangered fish or uncertainty for
human water users was debated at a House Natural Resources
subcommittee hearing Tuesday.
A bill passed by U.S. House of Representatives seeks to limit
predator fish, such as striped bass, in the Sacramento-San
Joaquin Delta to aid struggling salmon populations. But
scientists say the strategy won’t work.
Federal officials on June 29 released a temperature management
plan for the Sacramento River that schedules releases from
Shasta Lake in a way they believe provides adequate
temperatures for winter-run Chinook salmon without cutting farm
A four-year effort by a coalition of diverse stakeholders along
California’s third largest river, the Eel River, recently
culminated in the completion of a new plan aimed at restoring
the watershed’s once thriving fish runs and ecosystems.
In a case that could have big implications for dams and other
development in the Northwest, a federal appeals court panel
said Monday that Native American tribes have a right not only
to fish for salmon, but for there to be salmon to catch — a
ruling that affirms the duty of the United States to protect
the habitat of the prized fish under treaties dating back more
than 150 years.
The Karuk and Yurok tribes are planning to sue two federal
agencies for what they perceive to be a failure to protect
threatened juvenile coho salmon from deadly parasitic outbreaks
on the Klamath River in 2014 and 2015.