Truckee River Flows Drop

The flows have just significantly dropped on the Truckee river. That, compounded with already high water temperatures, is putting extra stress on the fish. Local anglers have decided to make an ethical call to stop fishing the river after noon. This is a good idea not only on the Truckee but something we can all think about on temperature impacted fisheries across the state.

The proposed ‘Hoot Owl Closure’ is explained in this video by catchsnaprelease.com in partnership with Truckee River Keepers. Please support the effort.

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).

Duties:

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…]

CalTrout Interview: Eastern Sierra/Northern Sierra Regional Manager Mark Drew

Another interview with our regional managers — this one with Eastern Sierra/Northern Sierra Regional Manager Mark Drew.

 

Tell us about yourself and your region.

My name is Mark Drew, and I’m the regional manager for the Eastern Sierra and Northern Sierra regions. The Eastern Sierra region stretches from Mono County to the Southern Sierras and includes a lot of popular rivers and streams like Hot Creek, the Walker River and of course the Owens River. To give you an idea of its diversity, my region includes Mt. Whitney and Death Valley — the highest and lowest places in the lower 48.

CalTrout Regional Manager Mark Drew

Eastern/Northern Sierra Manager Mark Drew

A significant portion of the region is public land managed by the US Forest Service — which includes a lot of small Sierra creeks — but it’s also a place where the water is scarce, the legal battles over it are significant, and dividing the region’s water fairly is a big challenge.

I’m also managing the Northern Sierra region, where we’re focused on a whole different set of issues.

I formerly worked for The Nature Conservancy in the Caribbean, and hold a PhD in Forestry and Resource Conservation.

Let’s talk about the critical issues facing you in the Eastern Sierra.

Our biggest challenge is the fair use of water resources.

The Eastern Sierra region is unique; water is scarce and much of it is exported, which does not help the fisheries. Nor are the legal issues simple. In some instances, we’re still implementing stream flows stemming from court decisions CalTrout won more than 20 years ago.

Given the complexity of water issues, the best way to shape water use policy is to be in on the planning process. That’s why we’re part of a Mammoth Lakes Basin water quality study that will help determine the overall water quality for key fisheries like Hot Creek and the Owens River.

We also played a key role in writing the fisheries and aquatic management sections of National Forests In The Sierra Nevada: A Conservation Strategy. This document will help guide the land-use planning process that our national forests undergo every 15 or twenty years. Now we have the ability to shape fisheries and aquatic management) on a forest-wide basis.

I’m also proud to say we led the creation of the Inyo-Mono Integrated Regional Water Management Plan (ED: IRWMP) in 2008. The Inyo-Mono IRWMP has become a model of the regional approach to water use, and it now encompasses 11% of the state.

In the Northern Sierra region, Lahontan Cutthroat recovery is the critical challenge. That will continue to happen on a stream by stream basis. Invasive species are also an issue, especially in Lake Tahoe.

What are the long-term issues facing your region?

The long-term issues are probably the same issues we’re dealing with right now — protracted fights over scarce water resources. In the next two decades, forest planning will become a big issue, which is why we’re investing so much time being part of the National Forest planning process, which will affect not just fishing, but grazing, fire fighting, meadow restoration, water management, etc.

I’m optimistic that some of the issues we’re dealing with now will have been resolved in a decade.

Tell us about your favorite place in your region.

Just one? I spend a lot of time in the outdoors, so a lot of the Eastern Sierra seems special to me. The East and West Walker, Kern Plateau’s Golden Trout, and the Devil’s Postpile are all places I’d visit in a heartbeat.

They’re beautiful and very special, even if you don’t fish.

Fast-Reproducing New Zealand Mud Snails Discovered in Truckee River

New Zealand Mud Snails reproduce at a frightening rate (one snail can produce 40 million offspring annually), and these invasives can push out native snails and invertebrates.

And sadly, they’ve been found in the Truckee River.

So far, the infestation has been limited to a one-mile stretch of the Truckee near Sparks.

We’ll keep you updated as we learn more.

California’s Vanishing Glaciers Spell Trouble For Trout, Steelhead and Salmon

Lyell Glacier No Longer Big Enough To Be A Glacier

Climate change is already affecting California’s landscape; according to a recent survey, Yosemite’s Lyell Glacier has lost enough ice that it’s technically no longer a glacier, but simply a “dead” patch of ice (from KQED’s Science Blog):

The Lyell Glacier is rapidly approaching a similar fate. A photograph from 1903 shows the Lyell Glacier as an unbroken swath of white. In the 110 years of melting since, the Lyell has been cleaved into two separate ice fields. The indications of disappearance are even more dramatic from the Lyell’s surface. High on a cliff on Mt. Lyell is a hand-painted orange letter “K.” When Point K was established in the 1930s, it was at the level of the ice; today, more than 120 feet of bare rock separate it from the glacier’s surface.

The fading glaciers signal serious problems for the state’s already strained water supplies. A 2008 study conducted by a former hydrologist for Hetch Hetchy Water and Power, for example, predicted that 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming would trigger an uphill shift of snowpack by 2,000 feet by the end of the century – rendering nearly 60 percent of the Hetch Hetchy watershed snow-free by 2100. The Feather River, the main tributary of the Sacramento River, the state’s largest river (and key source of water to the State Water Project) is particularly vulnerable, says Michael Anderson, California’s state climatologist, since much of its snowpack is held at “lower” elevations between 5,000 and 6,000 feet.

Most of California’s native trout, steelhead and salmon species are already at risk (see CalTrout’s “SOS: California’s Native Fish Crisis”); a loss of snowpack and glaciers isn’t going to help.

For more information, visit With so many of California’s native trout, steelhead and salmon species at risk (see CalTrout’s “SOS: California’s Native Fish Crisis”CalTrout’s “Fish” web page.

After Two Dry Months, California’s Waterpack Swings From Feast To Famine

A warm early winter storm and record-setting Holiday snowfall put California’s snowpack at 150% of normal at the turn of the year, but the driest January and February on record have moved the pendulum the other way — the snowpack is now only 63% of normal.

With little in the way of precipitation in the forecast, it’s clear that California’s water users — and its steelhead, salmon and trout — could be facing a painful, low-water year (from the SacBee):

If February concludes without additional storms — and none are expected — the northern Sierra will have seen 2.2 inches of precipitation in January and February, the least since record-keeping began in the region in 1921.

That is well below the historical average of 17.1 inches.

And,

The prospects for more rain this winter are not good. The National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center released a long-range forecast on Feb. 21, saying that the odds favor dry conditions across California and the Southwest through May.

Fortunately, it’s too early for fishermen to panic; California has experienced heavy late precipitation the last few years, and while you never want to find yourself counting on late storms to prop up a sub-par snowpack, it’s possible.

Should the water situation not improve dramatically, expect California’s reservoirs to end the rainy season far below capacity, leaving the water users and fish to deal with the consequences of too many promises for too little water.

CalTrout Participates In Sierra Forest & Water Conservation Planning Projects

While strategic planning exercises don’t attract a lot of media attention, CalTrout participates in the creation of planning, strategy and integrated management plans, believing that getting good management practices set in writing makes the public planning process far easier.

With many of California’s forests heading for a strategic planning process in upcoming years, Mark Drew and Jenny Hatch (CalTrout’s Eastern Sierra and Northern Sierra managers) were instrumental in creating the National Forests In The Sierra Nevada: A Conservation Strategy document — a guide for protecting the Sierra’s forests.

(CalTrout’s Mark Drew also participated in the creation of the SNEP Plus 15 Years: Ecological & Conservation Science for Freshwater Resource Protection & Federal Land Management in the Sierra Nevada document)

The following is the overview from the Sierra Forest Conservation Strategy:

Introduction To The Conservation Strategy Overview

California is the most biologically diverse state in the nation. Compared to other states, California has the greatest number of plant species and the most endemic species – plants and animals that occur only in California. The California Floristic Province, which includes the Sierra Nevada, has been designated as a global biodiversity hotspot by Conservation International, The Nature Conservancy and the World Wildlife Fund. Floristic diversity in the California Floristic Province is highest in the Sierra Nevada and Transverse ranges (Richerson and Lum 1980). The rich biological diversity and high endemism are the result of adaptation and evolution in response to the highly varied topography, climate zones, fire regime, geology, and soils found in the Sierra Nevada. The region contains one of the most biologically diverse temperate conifer forests on the planet, with 27 different species of conifers and over 3,000 vascular plants, 400 of which only occur in the Sierra Nevada (Centers for Water and Wildland Resources 1996). About 300 species of terrestrial vertebrates, including mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians use the Sierra Nevada as a significant part of their range, with an additional 100 species occupying the bioregion as a minor part of more extensive ranges elsewhere (Id.). One hundred thirty-five plant species and sixty-nine terrestrial vertebrate species found predominantly in the Sierra Nevada are considered at risk by state or federal agencies (Id.). These species are threatened by a variety of stressors – California’s rapid pace of development, habitat loss, habitat degradation, new pathogens, competition from introduced invasive species, and disruption of essential ecological processes such as fire. The additional stress from expected changes in future climate and the synergy among stressors are likely to affect the Sierra Nevada bioregion in ways not previously anticipated.

Land management planning on national forest lands in the Sierra Nevada offers a critical opportunity to define biologically appropriate protection and restoration strategies in this diverse region. With approximately 40 percent of the region comprised of national forest lands, the Forest Service is the largest land manager and oversees eleven national forests covering approximately 11.5 million acres. Thoughtful and forward thinking planning has the potential to positively influence a significant portion of the region. It is also timely to undertake a comprehensive review of biological resources in the region. Management activities on national forest are governed by their respective forest plans. The forest plans are intended to have a life time of about 15 years. The forest plans for the national forests in the Sierra Nevada were first adopted in the mid to late 1980s. Collectively, these forest plans have been amended three times since first adopted, and they are now ripe for a thorough review and revision. Forest Service leadership is in agreement with the need to revise the forest plans. The agency, in July 2012, released a draft revised forest plan for the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit and began in 2012 the process to revise three other forest plans (Inyo, Sierra, and Sequoia national forests). The Forest Service has adopted an ambitious schedule to revise a forest plan within three years of initiating the process.

In anticipation of the public dialogue about forest planning, our coalition developed the following conservation strategy for the national forests in the Sierra Nevada. The purpose of the strategy is to identify issues we believe to be a high priority to address during the process of revising forest plans and to suggest specific tools, methods, or actions to resolve or address these issues.

Slinkard Creek Restoration Key To Preserving Native Lahontan Cutthroat Trout

Preserving Native Lahontan Cutthroat Trout in Slinkard Creek

Near Monitor Pass lies Slinkard Creek, a beautiful little tributary of the West Walker River. It’s found within Slinkard Valley — a DFG Wildlife Refuge accessible only by foot — and it holds Lahontan Cutthroat Trout, which currently occupy less than 10% of their historic stream habitat.

Slinkard Creek Lahontan

A Slinkard Creek Lahontan.

Due to its isolation and the quality of its habitat, Slinkard Creek has become one of the last best places for preserving Lahontans. In fact, the most robust LCT restoration population is located in 1.2 miles of Slinkard Creek above a man made barrier.

This population is on the brink of a genetic bottleneck — the minimum population limit where the Lahontan’s unique genetics may be conserved.

In addition, small, isolated populations are also extremely vulnerable to catastrophic events, which could wipe out a few small pockets of native fish far easier than an expansive, wide-ranging population.

Clearly, it’s a critical time for the Lahontan Cutthroat.

That’s why CalTrout is helping restore Slinkard Creek and native Lahontan populations, and why we’ve set a goal that within a decade, we will secure and maintain self-sustaining LCT populations across the six recovery tributaries of the Upper Walker River (including Slinkard Creek).

Slinkard Meadows

Slinkard Meadows

For more information about this project you can contact our project manager-Jenny Hatch at 530-541-3495 or by email at jhatch@caltrout.org

Truckee Snapshot Day Scheduled for May 11, Website Live Now

Snapshot Day is one of the brilliant little ideas; it puts volunteers on the water to take “snapshot” of the Truckee watershed — it’s health (or lack of it) at one moment in time.

Because you’re nothing if you’re not on the Internet, here’s the Snapshot Day website — which includes a place where you can sign up, assuming you’re not a commitmentphobe.

Snap Shot Day

Snap Shot Day website (click image to visit)

From their shiny new website, an explanation:

the 12th Annual Snapshot Day is the one-day volunteer based annual event that takes a picture of 1 moment in time of our watershed: the greater Truckee River. Volunteer monitoring teams will go out to various monitoring sites to perform a stream walk (visual assessment), collect field data, grab samples and take photos. Streams will be field tested for dissolved oxygen, conductivity, pH, and temperature. Water samples will be taken back to central meeting locations and measured for turbidity, nutrients and fecal coliform bacteria. All necessary equipment will be provided.

When and Where:
Reno/Lower Truckee River
Friday, May 11th , 9am – 12pm

South Lake Tahoe, North Lake Tahoe, Middle Truckee River
Saturday, May 12th, 9am – 12pm

See How We’re Helping Protect Lahontan Cutthroats in Independence Lake

It’s Friday, so take a minute to watch this great short film with our partners at the Nature Conservancy that highlights our work at Independence Lake.

Watch Explore Independence Lake on PBS. See more from Rob on the Road.

This pristine lake in the Northern Sierra is home to one of the only two remaining lacustrine wild populations of Lahontan cutthroat trout left in the world.