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!
With recent rains filling reservoirs, the fate of California’s Chinook population is looking up. Shasta Lake reservoir has plenty of water waiting to be released to provide cold, clean water for spawning salmon below the dam.
Chinook will also be helped by improvements to the Central Valley’s water management. Yesterday, CalTrout, Northern California Water Association and rice farmers announced plans to improve the region’s water management system to help winter-run Chinook from running astray on their journey up the Sacramento River.
Among the improvements, state water contractors are planning to spend $8.5 million to build a bladder dam, new road, fish barrier and fish trapping facility at the Wallace Weir so that winter-run Chinook won’t get lost in the Colusa Canal. Instead, the fish will be ushered back to the Sacramento River to reach spawning areas just below Shasta Lake reservoir.
To read the full article in the Sacramento Bee click here.
The Wallace Weir project is part of CalTrout’s Central Valley Fish and Floodplains Keystone Initiative which demonstrates that water infrastructure improvements provide multiple benefits for farms and fish. By allowing fish to access and benefit from functioning floodplains, robust fisheries and self-sustaining populations of wild salmonids can once again be realized in the Central Valley.
Experiment Points to Water Policy Solutions to Support Both Salmon Recovery and Agriculture
From the Daily Democrat
An annual experiment to “plant” salmon in the rice fields of Knaggs Ranch fields aims to better explain how floodplains support strong salmon populations.
Dubbed the “Nigiri Project” for its sushi-like marriage of fish and rice, the research is a collaborative project among the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences, the California Department of Water Resources and nonprofit organization California Trout.
This year, for the first time, the agricultural floodplain habitat experiment will compare food web productivity and fish growth in three different kinds of river habitat.
For the course of the experiment, a group of juvenile Chinook salmon will be held in underwater pens on flooded rice fields, as in years past; a second group will be held in pens floating in an agricultural canal; and a third group will be held in floating pens nearby in the Sacramento River. The experiment began on Feb. 19, and the fish will be released after about four weeks.
A tour of the facility and update on the effort is taking place Friday.
To read the full article in the Daily Democrat, click here.
California’s Central Valley floodplains have been largely disconnected from the Sacramento River by levees, which have dramatically reduced the amount of “spillover” space available to the river.
Unfortunately, these little-understood floodplains served as ideal nurseries for juvenile salmon, who grow more quickly and face fewer predators than they do in the faster-moving, less-nutrient-rich, predator-friendly main river channel.
Though we’re not mentioned in this New York Times story, CalTrout is funding part of this UC Davis study on the effects of reconnect rivers with floodplains:
Jacob Katz stood shin-deep in a flooded rice paddy that is often dried out at this time of year. He thrust his hand into a writhing mass of baby salmon in his net and plucked three of the silver fry from the wind-whipped water’s surface.
The flood plain was stocked with baby Chinook salmon.
In late January, five acres of this farmland in Yolo County was flooded and stocked with thousands of weeks-old Chinook salmon. It was the beginning of a three-year experiment that conservationists and government officials hope will provide scientific data to help guide a sweeping transformation of riverfront lands throughout the Central Valley, California’s prolific farming region.
“They were about two-thirds this size when we put them in,” said Mr. Katz, a doctoral candidate at the University of California, Davis, as the plump fry flapped off his palm and into the water. “They’re growing very, very rapidly. They’re looking great. It’s exactly what we want to see.”
It seems clear that floodplains are one of the missing pieces of the anadromous fish puzzle, and equally clearly, it’s not only fish that stand to suffer.
Channelization of large rivers takes away the safety valve of floodplains, increasing the potential for highly destructive levee failures and flooding (both for people and property).
Restoring some of this balance is tricky, and CalTrout supports such efforts when they’re based on the best available science.
To read the entire New York Times article, click here.