Policy Work

CalTrout maintains a strong presence in Sacramento in an effort to:

  • Develop legislation to improving funding and management for trout, steelhead and salmon priorities
  • Support legislation that furthers our mission and oppose harmful legislation
  • Track the state budgeting process to ensure fish and water programs are funded
  • Raise state legislators’ awareness about the importance of trout, steelhead and salmon

We actively follow and help influence legislative bills and statewide policy which affect the health and livelihood of wild trout, steelhead and salmon. Our regional presence throughout California allows us to bring tangible examples and real world solutions to Sacramento. CalTrout’s goal is to use our regional success to set a precedent for state-wide policy.

We have a united voice in Sacramento led by Curtis Knight, CalTrout Conservation Director. We work closely with Trout Unlimited (TU). Our government affairs consultant, Conservation Strategies Group (CSG), provides strategic advice and lobbies for important bills and legislative issues on our collective behalf.


Currently, CalTrout and TU are working closely with CSG to track many different bills – some that we support and have helped develop and some that we oppose. Below you will find a brief summary of a few or our highest priority bills. We have assisted in developing these and are actively shepherding them as they make their way through the legislative sessions.

Water Bond
There is nothing like a big water spending bill during a time of drought to rile up all water interest groups in Sacramento. The water bond was punted in 2010 and negotiations are back now with the governor and legislators proposing alternatives ranging from a $6 billion to $10 billion bond. As we write this newsletter the scope and size of the bond changes almost hourly. For CalTrout we are very supportive of funding for watershed restoration, groundwater storage, Integrated Regional Water Management and water use efficiency measures. We are concerned about funding for water storage, in particular, how much funding and for what purposes does it include groundwater storage.

Past water bond funding has been important to implementing many CalTrout projects. For example, the past water bond (the $5.4 billion Prop. 84, passed in 2006 by 53.9% of the voters) funded important habitat restoration, fish passage and water management work. Specific examples of CalTrout projects supported by past bond bills include those on Hat Creek, in the Eastern Sierra, Shasta River, and on the Eel River.

Proposed water bonds will provide funding for Integrated Regional Water Management (IRWM) – it’s a clunky term, but this is the new way of water management in California. Water must be managed locally and in a watershed context taking into account multiples uses. IRWM’s programs bring multiple parties together to develop management plans to coordinate water use, funding for water infrastructure needs, and watershed restoration projects. It’s the way California’s water will be managed in the future. And CalTrout is there, leading the IRWM program in Inyo and Mono counties and actively involved in the Upper Sac/McCloud IRWM and the North Coast IRWM. Fish need water and CalTrout’s local involvement through our regional offices ensures trout are a priority.

Any potential water bond needs to provide funding for California’s portion of Klamath River Agreements. California is obligated to spend up to $250 million for Klamath dam removal in 2020. This water bond is California’s best chance to fulfill that commitment towards restoring the embattled Klamath River. CalTrout has been a leader in negotiations for the Klamath Agreements and improving river conditions, fish production and community sustainability in the Klamath Basin – historically California’s second largest salmon producer – remains one of our highest priorities.

Any water bond negotiation comes with a big call for water storage. The question is how much money will be allocated to this line item and for what uses would the money be restricted? Do we really need more surface storage? Making reservoirs bigger does not mean they will fill more often. For each million acre feet of storage added only 10% of that water is realized as additional yield for downstream uses.

For CalTrout, when we think storage opportunities we think replenishing groundwater aquifers and restoring Sierra meadows streams to capture snowmelt runoff for slow release during summer months. And if our focus is water yield, we can achieve a lot through water use efficiency, conservation and facility upgrades.

Groundwater Bills
California remains the only state in the union without statewide regulation of groundwater. Lack of regulation creates an unsustainable ‘tragedy of the commons’ use of groundwater, especially during dry years. California’s severe drought and full consequences of increased groundwater pumping – including dry wells, rivers drying up, and land subsidence – have prompted the legislature into action.
AB 1739 (Dickinson) and SB 1168 (Pavely) are two groundwater bills in which CalTrout has been actively involved. The Assembly and Senate bills are similar and are in the process of being reconciled. Groundwater is a wonky topic, but important to fish because it often sustains river flows during drought, not to mention the heavy reliance of agriculture and municipalities on groundwater during dry times. Both bills require local agencies to develop sustainable groundwater management plans and require monitoring and reporting of groundwater levels. Sustainable management includes maintaining groundwater levels at 2015 levels by replenishing groundwater aquifers during wet years for use during dry years.

Other Bills We Actively Support

SB 1319 (Paveley) – Crude Oil Transportation by Rail: Updating Spill Preparation and Response. The Upper Sacramento metam sodium spill in 1991 is still fresh in CalTrout’s mind as derailments continue to happen on the winding canyon of the Upper Sac. Fortunately, derailments have, to date, only resulted in lumber, cement, beer and other relative non-toxics from entering the river. However, the mode of transportation for crude oil into California is expected to shift dramatically, from marine boats to rail, as domestic oil drilling increases. By 2016, 25% of all the crude oil refined by CA is expected to be transported by rail. This bill will provide added protection against spills for railway corridors and improved response training in the event of a spill.

Bills We Supported That Didn’t Make It Through Legislature

AB 1914 (Chesbro) – Trinity River Water Rights: CalTrout was supportive of AB 1914 which would have required the State Water Resource Control Board to update the Bureau of Reclamation’s Trinity River water right to reflect the federal Record of Decision for flows in the Trinity. To us this only makes sense – state water rights should match federal requirements for temperature objectives, stream flows and minimum cold-water carryover storage. This bill died due to cost concerns by the State Water Board. We will work to address this concern next year and pass this priority legislation.

AB 504 (Chesbro) – Transgenic Salmon: CalTrout was supportive of AB 504 to prohibit transgenic (genetically modified) fish production and stocking in California. Transgenic salmon would directly threaten California wild salmon stocks. This bill died because of intense lobbying pressure from the biomedical industry. We will try again next year.

Implementation of Past Legislation
AB 1961 (Huffman) passed in 2012 and developed the Coho HELP Act through the Department of Fish and Wildlife to expedite restoration projects in the range of coho salmon. In short, the Act makes it easier to implement streambank restoration, fish passage culvert removal and to place large woody debris in coho salmon streams. Passing legislation is one thing, implementing is another. One of the challenges of this Act is getting a new program up and running within DFW. DFW has done a good job in establishing website and permitting processes for Coho HELP projects. However, early wrinkles in pushing projects through the process have caused delays and caused some potential applicants to balk at submitting projects through the Act. Our concern is the Act fades before it has a chance to get going. CalTrout and partners joined a salmon hearing hosted by now Congressman Huffman (who sponsored the original bill while in the CA Assembly) to vet issues with the bill. We are hopeful that continued work with DFW and project proponents will result in more coho projects being implemented more efficiently


5th Annual Casting Call

On what turned out to be a sweltering day at the State Capitol, California Trout and Trout
Unlimited staged our annual Casting Call event. With the goal of raising awareness for salmon, steelhead, trout and their waters throughout the state, much of our focus this year was on the water bond proposals and effective groundwater management.

Now in its fifth year, the event featured a friendly fly casting competition that had three lawmakers casting for hula hoop ‘ponds’ after their legislature’s morning session adjourned.

Senate GOP Leader Bob Huff (R-Diamond Bar), Senator Tom Berryhill (R-Twain Harte) and Assemblyman Brian Dahle (R-Bieber) all did an admirable job of casting in the wind and
placing their fly in the makeshift targets. Assemblyman Dahle was ultimately crowned victor, though only after he was given more time since he has the most trout streams in his district.

The north walkway of the Capitol was lined with posters and booths filled with literature
on our restoration projects. Complimentary ice cream and ‘chinooky cookies’ were offered to passers-by who stopped to learn more about the organizations and our work around the state. By day’s end, we had achieved our goal of raising awareness of fish and water issues to legislators and their staff.

CalTrout’s Conservation Director Curtis Knight, Assemblyman Dahle, Senator Berryhill, Senator Huff, and TU’s Sam Davidson

CalTrout’s Conservation Director Curtis Knight, Assemblyman Dahle, Senator Berryhill, Senator Huff, and TU’s Sam Davidson