Klamath Tribes Approve Water Share Agreement

The Upper Klamath Agreement complements two other agreements CalTrout has been involved with in the Klamath Basin–the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement and the Klamath Hydroelectric Agreement.

This recent Upper Klamath Agreement represents an important moment of unity in the basin where a joint vision for a productive future for all is supported by a broad swath of Klamath stakeholders.  Together these agreements provide a path for basin wide fisheries sustainability and community health.

For more on the Agreement click to read the story by Herald and News.

CalTrout Presents Mount Shasta Spring Waters Data at Crystal Geyser Meeting: 3/24/14

CalTrout presented our Mount Shasta Spring Waters Report Monday night to a packed house of over 200 concerned residents. In response to Crystal Geyser’s proposed Mount Shasta bottling facility, the City of Mount Shasta hosted a series of presentations to provide information for the community.

The city asked CalTrout to present our report as a means to help inform the community and provide decision makers with existing scientific data.

Mount-Shasta-Spring-WatersCrystal Geyser recently purchased for $5 million an existing bottling facility—once occupied by The Dannon Company, Inc. — to manufacture sparkling water, juices, and teas. The company estimates they will draw a max usage of 365,000 gallons per day of spring water from Big Springs: the headwaters of the upper Sacramento River.

[Read more...]

2013 Pit River Anglers Satisfied With Catch Rates, Size, and Overall Experience

A three year angler survey conducted by Spring Rivers Ecological Sciences on behalf of PG&E suggests that the Pit River remains one of the best wild trout fisheries in northern California.

PG&E’s federal hydropower license requires them to monitor annual fishing results and angler satisfaction in the Pit 3, 4, 5 reaches.

The 100 plus page report, titled Pit 3, 4, and 5 River Fish Monitoring Plan: 2013 Angler Survey Report, surveyed 131 fisherman last season and found that anglers remain satisfied with the “overall fishing experience.” Anglers commented that higher flows do limit previously accessible waters, but the fishing remains above average.

According to the report, “Positive Angler Satisfaction Ratings,” catch rates, size, and overall experience have actually improved slightly in all reaches each consecutive year since the surveys began in 2011.” Additionally, “During the 2011, 2012, and 2013 season, the substantial majority of anglers (>73%) in all three reaches indicated that despite higher flows, they would return and fish the same reach again.”

Pit-River-(Brauneis)Guide satisfaction appears to be a different story. “Guides surveyed for the report indicated that the angling experience for their clients had decreased from the previous year in each of the three survey years.” The majority of guides indicated that the percent of clients capable of fishing the Pit River has decreased each year due to high flows and limited accessibility.

As part of their license, PG&E is also required to conduct numerous other annual monitoring reports that include River Fish, Gravel Augmentation, Macroinvertebrates, and Water Quality and Temperature.

Key highlights from these reports are listed below:

  • Pit River rainbow trout in 2013 exhibit length-at-age estimates that equal or exceed most other northern CA populations reported in scientific literature
  • 2013 trout condition factors remain among highest observed when compared with data from nearby rivers, indicating that Pit River trout are robust and healthy
  • 33 days last season anglers experienced flows that were 2-3 times higher than normal (over 800 cfs) due to power outages and experimental whitewater flows
  • Average biomass of rainbow trout was highest in Pit 3 (9 lbs. per acre) and declined in downstream reaches
  • Catch rates were highest in Pit 3 Reach (2.2 trout per hour per angler) and lowest in Pit 5 (1.3 trout per angler)

To browse the reports, please visit the “Pit 3,4,5 License Implementation Website” set up by PG&E.

For a brief history of the Pit and its flows and what it means for fishermen, check out the video CalTrout produced last year, How to Fish the Pit River’s New Flows.

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California Trout is looking for a Team Leader for the 2014 Hat Creek Youth Initiative

California Trout (CalTrout) is looking for an energetic, organized, and mature college-aged individual to assist in the delivery of CalTrout’s 2014 Hat Creek Youth Initiative. The Team Leader will work under the guidance of the CalTrout Project Coordinator, to supervise and manage a field crew of high school aged students in various stream-bank restoration and scientific monitoring projects. The Hat Creek Youth Initiative is in support of CalTrout’s River Restoration Project and the larger efforts of restoring Hat Creek’s Wild Trout Area. The Team Leader will have opportunities to network with a diverse range of Natural Resource Professionals, and will receive career training and guidance from CalTrout Staff.

Mandatory Requirements of the Position: 

  • US Citizen or Permanent Resident
  • Pursuing or recently graduated with a technical or college degree in Natural Resources is strongly preferred
  • California Driver’s License with a clean driving record (or equivalent from other state)
  • Ability to work with minimal supervision and make field decisions daily
  • College aged
  • Ability to participate in a moderate to high range of physical work
  • Be available full-time during the summer season
  • At least one summer of related field experience

Interested persons with experience and/or education in the following activities are encouraged to apply:

  • Stream-bank restoration
  • Trail layout and building
  • Erosion and sediment control
  • Riparian plant identification
  • Scientific monitoring
  • Public interaction/ supervising youth

This is a paid summer seasonal position at the rate of $16.50/hour with no benefits. The Team Leader will be based during the field season in either Fall River Mills or Burney, in Northern California for the duration of the summer. Having access to your own personal vehicle is encouraged but not required (possibility of using rental vehicle if own insurance is provided). Housing may be provided, but there is no guarantee. Assistance in finding a room/rental can be accommodated if housing is not provided. The area offers numerous opportunities for fishing, hiking, camping and recreating. The town of Burney is located an hour from the city of Redding, CA where there are amenities that the small-town of Burney does not offer. This position does not include benefits or paid holidays.

Experienced and interested individuals are encouraged to forward a detailed cover letter and resume to:

Ally Sherlock
Project Coordinator- Hat Creek Youth Initiative
CalTrout- Mount Shasta Office
701A Mount Shasta Blvd, Mount Shasta, CA, 96067
E-mail: allysherlock@gmail.com
Fax: 530-926-3267

Applications must be received by March 14, 2014 at 12:00 PM PST.

CalTrout Op-Ed — Crystal Geyser Plant, Mt. Shasta

The Mt Shasta office of CalTrout has been closely following Crystal Geyser’s efforts to reopen the dormant Dannon/Coke water bottling facility. Given protecting wild trout is an important part of our mission; we know the area’s cold water springs are critical to local fish populations.  And, while trout fishing is an important economic driver in the area, it doesn’t necessarily mean that we can’t find pragmatic solutions to water issues that can also provide a meaningful economic stimulus to our local community.  Protecting cold water sources and providing jobs do not necessarily have to be mutually exclusive.

In a recent San Francisco Chronicle article (Source of Conflict, February 19th), Crystal Geyser’s CEO said the public’s concern about the project were “overblown”.  The issue of water bottling plants, however, has been a contentious one in many parts of the country.  This is especially true right now during a drought period when people are even more sensitive to potential impacts to water supply.   No doubt, water bottling facilities have impacted water resources in other parts of the country.

In December of 2013, CalTrout established a stream gauge on Mt. Shasta Big Springs in the City Park in cooperation with the Parks and Recreation Department to establish baseline of flow and temperature conditions.  The current flow of the creek is 19 cubic feet per second and the temperature is 45 degrees F.  In a previous study, we found evidence that the majority of Mt. Shasta Big Springs water is sourced from areas above 8,000 feet on the mountain and the water may be underground for 50 years or more before emerging at the spring.  More studies are needed to fully understand these complex spring resources.

Here are a couple of important things to note:

1)     Crystal Geyser is proposing to use 115,000 gallons per day and potentially as much as 365,000 gallons per day.  We know that one cubic [Read more...]

Upper Sac IRWM Plan Approved

In 2009 CalTrout and River Exchange initiated the Regional Approval Process with the Department of Water Resources and the Upper Sacramento, McCloud, Lower Pit Region was accepted, making the Region eligible to apply for an Integrated Regional Water Management (IRWM) planning grant.

CalTrout and River Exchange formed an initial Regional Water Management Group (RWMG) of regional stakeholders and the group asked River Exchange to be the fiscal sponsor for a planning grant to DWR. In 2010 CalTrout provided match funding in the form of staff time to prepare the planning grant which resulted in the Region receiving a grant from DWR to prepare an IRWMP.

Since that time, CalTrout has played an active stakeholder role in the development of the IRWM plan, which was just unanimously adopted by the RWMG on November 25th 2013.

See the Mt. Shasta Herald’s article about the adoption meeting:

http://www.mtshastanews.com/article/20131127/NEWS/131129811

The Upper Sac IRWM plan can be read here:

http://www.uppersacirwm.org/

An informative 8 minute “overview of the region” video, as well as perspectives from CalTrout’s Conservation Director Curtis Knight, and Outreach Consultant Meadow Fitton can be viewed below:

http://uppersacirwm.org/reference/videos

The Shasta Dam: Engineering marvel needn’t be an environmental disaster

(NOTE: This Op-Ed by CalTrout Conservation Direction Curtis Knight originally ran in the Redding Record-Searchlight)

When Shasta Dam was finally completed, it was an engineering wonder — one that provided flood control to the Central Valley, power to its communities, and water to the Central Valley Project’s irrigators.

Unfortunately, the effects weren’t all positive.

The day the gates closed, as much as 75 percent of California’s prime salmon and steelhead spawning habitat disappeared. The winter-run chinook salmon — the only winter-run chinook in the world — lost access to the cold, spring-fed waters of the McCloud, where it evolved.

A hatchery was built to mitigate the salmon habitat losses, but new research tells us the hatchery may be hurting the salmon more than it’s helping them, degrading wild fish genetics and driving “boom and bust” population cycles common to monocultures.

Meanwhile, the flows in the Sacramento River below the dam were managed for water deliveries, not fish. Further downstream, the river was channelized, eliminating the floodplains — which we’re now learning are essential habitat for juvenile salmon.

In other words, Shasta Dam was good for part of the state, but a disaster for salmon, steelhead and other fish.

The dam, of course, is not coming down. In fact, it may even be raised. With anadromous fish populations a fraction of their historic, pre-dam numbers — and the salmon populations subject to wild oscillations — the problem isn’t one of nostalgia. It’s one of optimization.

In the presence of Shasta Dam, how do we protect and restore salmon and other wild fish stocks?

Restore Floodplains

Recent groundbreaking studies in the Knaggs Ranch area of the Yolo Bypass (conducted in part by CalTrout Central Region manager Jacob Katz) show us that a single-minded focus on riverine spawning habitat is misplaced.

Spawning habitat is wonderful, but it appears that floodplains — which once covered huge swaths of the Central Valley — are vital rearing habitat for juvenile salmon and steelhead. In recent trials performed in rice fields, salmon grew several times faster than the juvenile fish left in the Sacramento’s main channel.

In fact, researchers recorded growth rates of up to 1.5 mm per day — some of the fastest ever recorded in freshwater. When it comes to salmon smolt survival in the ocean, size is everything.

Happily, to leverage floodplain growth, we don’t need to revert the entire Central Valley to a marsh. Studies suggest that flooded rice fields provide excellent rearing habitat.

And many growers already flood their fields to rot rice stubble. And yes, opening up floodplains also offers flood protection to downstream communities.

In other words, more study is needed, but we’re working toward a solution that’s good for everyone — especially fish and farmers.

Mimic Natural Flows

Current flow regimes below Shasta Dam are based on archaic, outmoded models that harm both fish and do little to benefit downstream water users.

For example, Lake Shasta is drawn down every fall to make room for winter flooding, yet when winter precipitation doesn’t come, we’re suddenly short of water.

New models suggest it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, a modification to Shasta Dam’s spillway would deliver a sizable increase in water holding capacity.

In addition, flows that better mimic natural flow cycles will benefit the Sacramento’s fisheries. For example, natural flows often ramped up quickly but fell slowly. Today, flows are often ramped down quite rapidly, resulting in stranding issues for juvenile fish, which live in the margins of the river.

Better flow management is needed.

Protect Wild Strongholds

While many of the Central Valley tributaries to the Sacramento River have been destroyed or dewatered, some remain strongholds for salmon and steelhead, including Mill Creek, Deer Creek and Butte Creek.

Since new tributaries aren’t being created, it’s imperative we protect those that remain.

That’s also why the restoration of Battle Creek is so important. Simply put, we’ll never get back what was lost above Shasta Dam, so it’s critical to protect what’s left below it.

A Promising Vision

Shasta Dam is clearly an engineering marvel. It’s our mission to see that it doesn’t become a larger environmental disaster.

Its impacts on California’s fisheries have already been sizable. But we believe proper management and a little vision — like the very promising restoration of wetlands and floodplain rearing habitat — mean future generations of Californians won’t view Shasta Dam as the engineering marvel that killed California’s once-abundant salmon and steelhead fisheries.

Curtis Knight is conservation director of CalTrout.

Representative Huffman Is Right. It’s Time To Fix The Klamath, Not Ignore It.

The Klamath Basin continues to lurch from crisis to crisis, the futility of which is nicely summarized in a Chronicle Op-Ed piece by U.S. House of Representatives Jared Huffman (D-2nd Congressional District):

In “Dirty Harry,” Clint Eastwood memorably asked, do you “feel lucky?” It made for great theater, but it’s no way to manage North Coast salmon. Unfortunately, that’s been the policy of the U.S. Department of Interior toward the near-record run of chinook salmon that is migrating up the Trinity and Klamath rivers. Instead of a comprehensive strategy to fulfill its duty to protect this iconic fishery, the department is rolling the dice. So far, the salmon have been lucky.

A decade ago, they were not so lucky. In 2002, the same conditions we are experiencing this year – large salmon returns, a dry year, and over-allocated Klamath River water unable to satisfy all competing needs – produced a massive fish kill. Insufficient river flows brought death to thousands of salmon and economic disaster for tribes, fishermen, and communities up and down the West Coast.

CalTrout has worked tirelessly in the Klamath basin to try and avoid precisely these issues, and we still believe the Klamath Basin Agreements represent one already-negotiated path forward for the basin.

Instead, action has been slow, and as a result, we end up saddled with irrigator lawsuits aimed at stopping a planned Bureau of Reclamation release of water to protect salmon.

As Mr. Huffman notes, the lack of government action on even decades-old questions threatens the Klamath — and the livelihood of all who depend on a healthy river:

Unfortunately, the Interior Department has been dithering for years. Humboldt County, 200 miles north of San Francisco, is owed 50,000 acre-feet of Trinity River water a year dating back to a 1955 federal law. For years, Humboldt County, the Hoopa Valley and the Yurok tribes, have been asking the department to allow this water right to be used to protect and enhance the downstream salmon fishery. Earlier this summer – well before the pending crisis and the Westlands lawsuit – Democratic Reps. Mike Thompson, George Miller and I asked the secretary of the interior to respond to the long-standing requests for use of this water.

The response from the federal water managers? Crickets. Their silence follows an all-too-common federal tactic of waiting until an emergency, letting the Central Valley water exporters drive the agenda, and hoping for the best: the “do you feel lucky” plan. It’s past time for the department to decide, once and for all, whether Humboldt County’s water allocation will be honored so we can avoid these regular crises on the Trinity and Klamath rivers.

We’d like to say it’s time for the government to step up and fix the problems it helped create in the Klamath Basin, but in fact, Representative Huffman is right — it’s way, way past time for them to do so.

Klamath Salmon, Tribes, Fishermen, Conservation Groups All Breathing A Little Easier

Judge O’Neil Orders Increased Flows Down Trinity, Klamath Rivers To Protect Salmon

CalTrout members wondering if another massive fish kill is in store for the Klamath’s salmon can now breathe a little easier.

A Federal judge allowed a Bureau of Reclamation plan — which released extra water down the Trinity River (a Klamath Tributary) to prevent a salmon die-off like the one that occurred in 2002 — to proceed.

(From the Eureka Times Standard)

Trinity River water will be released to protect salmon after a federal judge lifted his order Thursday afternoon, finding the additional flows critical to preventing a repeat of the massive fish kill from 2002.

”Releases are designed to prevent a potentially serious fish die off from impacting salmon populations entering the Klamath River estuary,” Judge Lawrence O’Neill concluded.

”There is no dispute and the record clearly reflects that the 2002 fish kill had severe impacts on commercial fishing interests, tribal fishing rights and the ecology, and that another fish kill would likely have similar impacts.”

CalTrout had broadcast an alert about the situation on the Klamath (“A Federal Judge To Decide The Fate Of The Klamath’s Salmon“).

CalTrout Conservation Director Curtis Knight applauded the decision to release approximately 20,000 acre-feet of water down the Trinity, pointing out the best available science was used to arrive at the number — which was considerably lower than the 69,000-109,000 acre feet originally forecast.

“We use adaptive management techniques whenever possible to arrive at the best solutions for fish, habitat and those who have other uses for the water. It’s the same kind of adaptive management that would be brought to the Klamath by the Klamath Basin Agreements, where science would be used to manage flows, not rigid guidelines.”

Knight also said “This whole episode underscores the need for a basin-wide solution to the Klamath’s problems. We can’t keep lurching from crisis to crisis, especially considering the impacts these water issues have on the whole state. It’s dumb and it’s expensive. We can do better.”

The increased flows are designed to protect high numbers of salmon currently entering the lower Klamath River from the same conditions — warm water, disease and overcrowding — that led to the massive 2002 Klamath River fish kill.

The original Bureau of Reclamation plan was delayed by a lawsuit filed by the Westlands Water District and San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority — water agencies located over 300 miles south of the Klamath River. They feared that water releases to protect salmon would deprive them of some of next year’s water allocation.

And while the outcome is welcome, not everyone was pleased by the delay. In a statement, Congressman Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) said he was happy the water was released, but was concerned it might still come too late:

“The legal squabbling over water that does not even belong to Central Valley irrigators forced a delay that could prove deadly to salmon migrating into the Klamath,” Huffman said. “I encourage the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to move swiftly in implementing its planned releases.”

For more details about the story, we recommend the Eureka Times-Standard story by Catherine Wong and the Earthjustice website

A Federal Judge To Decide The Fate Of The Klamath’s Salmon

The Fight For The Trinity’s Water Continues. Will Westlands Water District Win — And Possibly Doom The Klamath’s Salmon?

Chinook salmon are already heading into the Klamath and Trinity Rivers — straight into the teeth of one of California’s worst water years. Waiting for them are low flows, warm water, abundant parasites and the kind of crowding that led to the infamous Klamath fish kill of 2002 — where upwards of 60,000 salmon died.

2002 Klamath River fish kill (photo Northcoast Environmental Center)

2002 Klamath River fish kill (photo Northcoast Environmental Center

In early August — with an eye towards avoiding a replay of the 2002 disaster — the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) issued a plan to release an additional 109,000 acre feet down the Trinity River. These additional flows would cool the water, flush out the parasites, and relieve the stresses on migratory fish caused by crowding.

This move was widely supported by tribes, commercial fisherman, and conservation groups (including CalTrout who reviewed the proposal with the BOR because of our participation in the Trinity River restoration Project).

Unfortunately, the release plan sparked a lawsuit by the Westlands Water District, claiming these additional flows will jeopardize their flow allocations in future years. A Fresno area Federal judge issued an injunction against the releases (which were supposed to begin last week), and will decide the fate of the Klamath’s salmon this Friday.

The drought is hard on every sector of the state. But let’s put the demands on the Trinity’s water into perspective.

Trinity Lake currently holds 1.4 million acre-feet of water and is at 60% capacity. These emergency flows do not curtail this year’s water deliveries to Westlands (they already got their deliveries) and make up only 4% of water in Trinity Lake.

In other words, Westlands is willing to throw the dice on the Klamath’s salmon — despite the very limited amount of water involved.

CalTrout supports these additional releases; they’re needed to prevent another fish kill in the Klamath. Kudos to the Hoopa Valley Tribe and Pacific Coast Federation of Fisherman’s Association for intervening in the case.

Remember — all this is happening in realtime. Additional flows are needed now; salmon are already making their way into the lower river and the sizable projected run of 272,000 fish will peak in September.

An evidentiary hearing will be held this Wednesday (August 21) in Fresno. Scientists representing the BOR and the Hoopa tribe will present the facts and make the case for increased flows to protect salmon.

The judge’s decision is due on Friday August 23rd. Should the decision go against the Klamath’s salmon, then Californians will then see the very real results of another skirmish in the state’s water wars. In fact, the Redding Record-Searchlight noted:

Reclamation’s doing the right thing in leaving enough water in the river for fish to thrive, despite the real costs. The Westlands lawsuit just confirms that down-state irrigators’ thirst, in a pinch, will be slaked at the North State’s expense. And if the suit succeeds and the fish suffer as the worst-case scenarios predict, a few thousand extra acre-feet of Trinity Water won’t be nearly enough to wash the stink of dead fish off the irrigators’ reputation.

This fight offers us yet another example of the need for a more comprehensive, watershed-wide approach to managing the Klamath river and its tributaries.

We believe the Klamath Agreements (the KBRA and KHSA) provide real-world, realtime processes that will lead to a better managed system. The agreements remove the Klamath’s salmon-killing dams, manage flows in real-time, improve water quality and restore vital habitat.

The alternative is to continue lurching from crisis to crisis in the Klamath. That’s bad for its fish and those who depend on them – and far more expensive than the alternatives.

After the decision is handed down, we may very well need your help to protect Klamath and Trinity Salmon. Either way, we’ll be in touch.