Nigiri Project in the Spotlight as Salmon Head Out to Sea


Photo courtesy of Carson Jeffres, UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences

CalTrout’s Nigiri Project is receiving a lot of press coverage this week as the project’s salmon, that have been feasting in the flooded rice fields for the last several weeks, are heading out to the Pacific Ocean.

The California Aggie did a great job of reporting the multi-benefit approach of the project and how it’s good for the fish and good for the farmer.

Emily James, sales and logistics manager for Robbin’s Rice Company, explains that turning rice fields into wetland habitat in the off-season generates additional income for farms. She states that, due to concerns about air quality and pollution, rice farmers are no longer allowed to burn their fields at the end of the season and are thus forced to flood the fields.

“That flooded field provides excellent habitat and we usually do it for duck hunting and then a couple years ago we were working on pilot studies to see the benefits for migrating shore-birds since the Sacramento Valley is on the Pacific Flyway,” James said.

She adds that the both the marketing and financial benefits of the floodplains make it very attractive to farmers.

ABC News 10 in Sacramento aired footage of the fields and the migration process, including some comments from CalTrout project director, Jacob Katz.  You can see that video here.

Last but not least, Capital Public Radio featured a piece on the project as student’s from a 5th grade field trip were getting a science lesson from Katz.

“Sunlight is converted by algae into sugars. Those sugars are the foundation of the aquatic food chain. When a river is stuck between two levees, there’s very little room, there’s very little surface area for light to hit,” says Katz. “When you spread that water out, like we’re doing here on these agricultural fields, you end up with the solar battery that really can power the whole aquatic system.”

Katz says shallow ponds on the rice fields provide easily accessible food for fish that wouldn’t find nearly as  much to eat if they were still in the Sacramento River.

“The fish grow incredibly fast. We are looking at fish that are basically doubling their weight every week,” says Katz. “This is what Central Valley salmon should be doing. This is what they did historically.”

Read the full story here. Good stuff.


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Job Announcement: Environmental Restoration for Walker Basin Lahontan Cutthroat Trout

California Trout and California Department of Fish & Wildlife are looking for candidates interested in conducting restoration work in the Eastern Sierra for federally threatened Lahontan cutthroat trout (LCT).


The person(s) selected will work as part of a crew on ecological restoration projects under the direction of CDFW staff. Restoration for Lahontan cutthroat trout will utilize a combination of backpack electroshocking to remove non-native brook trout and placement of temporary barriers to secure recovery waters. Other duties will include: pruning riparian vegetation to facilitate crew access to the stream; maintenance of gear; hauling materials and building a modified weir barrier; and data management. Although outdoors, surrounded by amazing vistas and working with an amazingly beautiful native trout, the work can be tiring and repetitious.

[Read more…]

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Baby Salmon Growing Big and Strong

CalTrout’s Nigiri Project is in full swing and the baby salmon are growing big and strong.

Covering our open house at Knagg’s Ranch last week, The Davis Enterprise reports,

The project looks at how the Yolo Basin historically existed, and implementing these ideas into the current infrastructure to bring back a balanced ecosystem.

When the levees were first built at the turn of the 20th century, water infrastructure was designed for drainage and flood protection.

Very little has changed since then, and now there are visible effects on the ecosystem as populations of Chinook salmon and delta smelt are declining. Researchers with the Nigiri Project say they are here to “bring this industrial era mentality into the future.”

Click here to read the front page article.

The Week’s Newsbytes

Nigiri Project Expands to Six Locations

Baby Salmon went in last week at Knagg’s Ranch and 5 other locations in the Yolo and Sutter Bypasses. CalTrout’s Nigiri Project has expanded to 6 floodplain locations in the Central Valley where we are demonstrating that slowing flood waters down and spreading them out over the floodplain creates incredibly productive habitat for young salmon on their way downstream to the ocean.

As reported in the Chico Enterprise-Record,

“We built a system that is starving the fish,” Katz added. “By spreading everything out, allowing more sunlight, salmon are able to get enough food.”

It was this simple concept that ignited the project back in 2011, and it has been growing ever since.

“We are spreading water out, slowing it down to mimic how the river used to be,” Katz said. “This allows fish to be self-sufficient.”

To read the full story, click here.

CalTrout's Jacob Katz pulls a pair of four-day-old salmon out of a fallow rice field at Knaggs Ranch in the Yolo Bypass.  Sarah Dowling — Daily Democrat

CalTrout’s Jacob Katz pulls a pair of four-day-old salmon out of a fallow rice field at Knaggs Ranch in the Yolo Bypass. Sarah Dowling — Daily Democrat

The Week’s Newsbytes

Stanford University Ordered to Remove Dam

In a recent development, Stanford University has been ordered to remove their abandoned and environmentally harmful Lagunita Diversion Dam from the mainstem of San Francisquito Creek.

Environmental groups, including Beyond Searsville Dam, San Francisquito Watershed Council, American Rivers and CalTrout, have been urging Stanford for decades to remove Lagunita and Searsville Dams. These dams block over 10 miles of steelhead habitat, impeding the recovery of the threatened fish. We’ll continue working to ensure the removal of Searsville Dam isn’t far behind.

While legal wrangling over the fate of Searsville Dam continues, Stanford University is preparing to remove the smaller, defunct Lagunita Diversion Dam.

Both dams have been damned by environmental groups such as National Marine Fisheries Service, San Francisquito Watershed Council and Beyond Searsville Dam for allegedly threatening the endangered steelhead trout population.

Read the full article in the Times Herald News here.


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