There is no doubt that the threats to California’s Central Valley salmon are many. And just as there are many threats and reasons for their decline, there is the need for a variety of solutions. No one approach will bring our native salmonids back to abundance. There must be an ecosystem-wide approach to restoration and reconciliation.
These recent articles take a look at what has caused the decline in Chinook salmon and other native fish and suggest solutions for turning the tide.
In the Water Deeply article, “Is California’s Water System Really Broken,” Alastair Bland looks at whether striped bass are the main culprit of Chinook salmon’s decline, as many Central Valley water managers and farmers contend, or could it be the increased amount of water being pumped from the Delta thereby harming the entire ecosystem?
In an average year, more than half the Central Valley’s winter–spring runoff is captured behind dams or pumped out of the Delta, according to Jon Rosenfield, a conservation biologist with the Bay Institute. That’s too much. Scientists have calculated that a healthy Delta ecosystem would need closer to 75 percent of that flow moving through the estuary and into San Francisco Bay.
But water alone may not be enough to help the fish. Jacob Katz at California Trout says Chinook salmon also need riverside habitat that floods annually. Katz has led research showing that juvenile salmon that are given access to flooded rice fields beside the Sacramento River grow exceptionally fast and, ultimately, have vastly better odds of avoiding predators and reaching the ocean. This habitat has been mostly eliminated from California’s rivers by levees and berms.”
In the Merced-Sun Star’s article “What’s eating the salmon?” fingers again point to the striped bass as a major problem in salmon declines but also recognize the need to restore floodplains and tidal habitats as effective solutions.
Another area where improved management can help is restoration of tidal habitat. Young salmon need a place to grow before migrating to the ocean. The Delta that existed before development began 150 years ago had vast swaths of tidal marshland that served as incubators for young fish. Today it is estimated that just 15 percent, and some say as little as 4 percent, of natural areas remain unchanged.
Recent experiments in the Yolo Bypass west of Sacramento show that restored habitat can help salmon grow stronger, which Hayes said would improve their survival chances as they migrate to the ocean.”
CalTrout’s Nigiri Project addresses this critical floodplain restoration solution, demonstrating that the creation of surrogate wetlands to mimic the floodplain rearing habitat used historically by young salmon benefits fish, farms and people.
We also support Measure AA on Bay Area county ballots this June which will provide funds for tidal habitat restoration across all nine Bay Area counties. To learn more about Measure AA, click here.
The Nigiri Salmon project at Knaggs Ranch got some love in the most recent episode of Angler West TV. CalTrout Central California Director Jacob Katz and UC Davis’ Carson Jeffries do a great job of explaining the importance of flood plain habitat for salmon and steelhead. Check it out!
- CalTrout's Spring 2016 issue of The Current ->
- March Streamkeeper's bLog – energized by young and old – https://t.co/0iEGgeIhoo #flyfishing #cawater #steelhead ->
- The Current – Spring 2016: Headwater to Sea Approach to Eel Restoration – https://t.co/SotJDXAbOP #flyfishing #eelriver #steelhead ->
- Spring Current is out highlighting our projects https://t.co/Gm57orcRsc
@therodmob https://t.co/IO0IC72j8i ->
- At long last…Dam removal announcement years in the making https://t.co/e8ykMyrxra via @eurekaTS #flyfishing #KBRA ->
- Klamath Dams Coming Down https://t.co/zqPBjLjKdN ->
For Immediate Release
April 6, 2016
Steve Rothert, American Rivers, 530-277-0448
Curtis Knight, California Trout, 530-859-1872
Lowell Ashbaugh, International Federation of Fly Fishers, 530-277-6722
Glen Spain, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations and Institute for Fisheries Resources, 541-689-2000
Brian Johnson, Trout Unlimited, 415-385-0796
General inquiries: Nina Erlich-Williams, 541-230-1973 or 415-577-1153
CONSERVATIONISTS, ANGLERS AND COMMERCIAL FISHERMEN UNITED IN SUPPORT OF KLAMATH DAM REMOVAL
Revised KHSA means renewed focus on opportunities for broad environmental
and economic recovery in drought-ravaged Klamath Basin
Klamath, Calif. – Today in this remote, rural community near the mouth of the Klamath River, representatives from the States of California and Oregon, the federal government and dam owner PacifiCorp signed an amendment to the historic Klamath Basin Hydroelectric Agreement. The amended KHSA provides a path forward for the removal of four hydroelectric dams from the Klamath River. At the same time, conservation and fishing groups and agricultural leaders also recommitted to a basin-wide solution for water sharing, water supply infrastructure, and habitat restoration with a new Klamath Power and Facilities Agreement.
The KHSA was developed in partnership with the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA). The KHSA, KBRA and a third companion agreement were conceived as a broad set of agreements aimed at providing water-sharing balance in the Klamath Basin. When Congress failed to authorize the agreements before the KBRA expired at the end of 2015, PacifiCorp and other partners sought a path forward for removing the dams that would not require Congressional action. The Klamath River was historically the third most productive watershed for salmon and steelhead on the West Coast. Dam removal will open up more than 400 miles of spawning and rearing habitat for fish.
American Rivers, California Trout, the Federation of Fly Fishers, the Institute for Fisheries Resources, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations and Trout Unlimited released the following statements in response to the signing of the amended KHSA and Klamath Power and Facilities Agreement.
From Steve Rothert, California Director, American Rivers
“We have a lot of work to do before celebrating reopening the Klamath River in 2020, but this is a major step toward what will be the most significant dam removal and restoration project in the US. We also recommit ourselves to the comprehensive solutions forged in 2010 with tribal governments, agricultural communities.”
From Curtis Knight, Executive Director, California Trout
“Salmon and steelhead will finally have the chance to go home after decades of blocked passage caused by these aging dams. But what’s still unclear is what they will find when they get there. California Trout remains committed to working with all of the settlement parties to support both local economic activity and essential habitat restoration along streams and creeks throughout the Klamath Basin.”
From Glen Spain, NW Regional Director, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations (PCFFA)
“The four Klamath Dams slated for removal (which have no fish passage) have been disastrous for west coast salmon fisheries — and salmon-related jobs — over more than 700 miles of Northern California and Oregon coastline. Plus, the dams, some more than 100 years old, would cost far more than they would be worth to fix them up to modern standards, and so are functionally and economically obsolete. Although there are many other problems still to address in the Klamath Basin, this landmark Agreement moves the region much further along toward a major river restoration effort that will recapture thousands of lost jobs, bring greater economic stability to the region, and end nearly 100 years of bitter conflict.”
From Lowell Ashbaugh, Conservation Chair, Northern California Council of the International Federation of Fly Fishers
“Restoring the Klamath River and its legendary runs of steelhead and salmon is one of the best things we can do for future generations of anglers. We strongly support the amended KHSA, and will continue to work to bring about a comprehensive water solution for the Klamath Basin that leaves no one behind and brings the Klamath River back to life.”
From Brian J. Johnson, California and Klamath Director, Trout Unlimited
“Today we reached a milestone on the long road to redemption for the Klamath River. Tomorrow we’ll get back to work to find equally effective ways to move forward on water, power, and habitat restoration with our partners in tribal governments and irrigated agriculture.”
Our 2016 Nigiri Project, raising salmon over rice, is winding down after great success. As Jacob Katz, CalTrout Central California Director, and other researchers caught, measured, documented and released Chinook fingerlings that were grown for a few weeks in the project, it was clear that the innovative approach is effective. Ideally, the project’s research findings will help shape California’s water management and policy in the future.
For salmon it’s all about return rates. Every year, federal and state hatcheries release thirty million young salmon. About one percent come back to spawn. The rest fuel the food web.
Katz and other researchers on the project are optimistic that by recreating natural cycles with seasonal flooding, that ratio could significantly increase. That’s because bigger fish have a better shot at survival.
“Really, what we want to do is make them as fat as we can in the shortest amount of time possible so that when they hit the ocean they have their lunch packed,” said Carson Jeffres, field and lab director of the UC Davis Center for Watershed Science.
To read or listen to the full story on North State Public Radio, click here.
To learn more about the history and goals of the project visit our Central Valley Fish and Floodplains web page.
This just completed project on the Carmel River in Monterey County gives a good overview of the process and the benefits of dam removal, among them, the resurgence of steelhead trout. It also gives us a glimpse of what can be realized on the Klamath.
The hosts of this year’s Humboldt Steelhead Days event, CalTrout, Mad River Alliance, and Mountain Community and Culture, issued the following letter to sponsors and participants.
To our Humboldt Steelhead Days sponsors,
It’s been several weeks since the close of the 2016 Humboldt Steelhead Days. The Mad, the Trinity, and the Eel Rivers have all rounded into fishing shape, and in many instances, have provided unique, exciting, and soul-satisfying angling experiences. Unfortunately, little of this happened during our steelhead celebration. Nevertheless, we are grateful that the rivers are running full and cold, providing for the perpetuation of a species — and the recreational, emotional and spiritual rewards they provide.
With the above in mind, we want to thank all of you for getting behind the concept of Humboldt Steelhead Days in such a big way. While the actual fishing was almost non-existent, our on-shore activities in Willow Creek, Scotia, Fortuna, Eureka, and Blue Lake were all well-attended and received with great enthusiasm.
With your help, we confirmed the greater community of Humboldt really likes and appreciates this event in all its forms. And just as the resilient steelhead will sometimes stray into rivers far away from their home, our events also captured some out-of-area interest. This vote of confidence inspires us to deliver more events and more special river access in 2017.
“Fish the Peak of the Run” will remain our call-to-action for those anglers living outside the area. Promoting winter tourism remains an essential ingredient of Humboldt Steelhead Day’s mission. But in addition to tourism, we want to educate people of all ages and interests, locals and out-of-towners, as to the unique nature of Humboldt and its steelhead and salmon legacy. We want to continue promoting respect for the resource and honoring the fish, an embodiment of the miracle of life and the beauty of nature. Hence, an even greater emphasis on our “Keep Em’ Wet” campaign and the dedicated work on the part of individuals, agencies and private companies, to protect, restore, and enhance our steelhead and salmon populations.
We are in the early planning stages for 2017 as this is being written. An event encompassing the entirety of Humboldt and running for several weeks requires a year-long planning process to assure a professional result and good value for sponsors supporting the effort such as yourselves.
As such, we will soon be in touch with a broad outline of what Humboldt Steelhead Days might look like in 2017. With your continued support, we hope to build the event regionally to promote and showcase our rivers and fish, as well as many of Humboldt’s other amenities. In doing so, we hope to spread the wealth, a wealth of knowledge, awareness, and appreciation for our special corner of the world and its mysterious visitors in from the broad Pacific, coming home.
Again, thanks so much! We will be in touch.
Dave Feral, director of Mad River Alliance, joins David Lippman of Mountain Community & Culture, and Darren Mierau and Mary Burke of California Trout, North Coast in co-signing this “My Word.”
To see the letter as it appeared in the Eureka Times-Standard click here.