Drought starting to kill salmon in Klamath Basin
July 24, 2014
The Fresno Bee/ Associated Press. ORLEANS, Calif. — Low warm water conditions from the drought are starting to kill salmon in Northern California's Klamath Basin — the site of a massive fish kill in 2002.
A recent survey of 90 miles of the Salmon River on found 55 dead adult salmon and more dead juveniles than would be expected this time of year, Sara Borok, an environmental scientist for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, said Thursday. About 700 live fish were counted in cool pools fed by springs.
Fisheries officials do not want see a repeat of 2002, when an estimated 60,000 adult salmon died in low warm water, but she said there is little to do but pray for rain.
The Salmon is a tributary of the Klamath River, and home to one of the last remnants of spring chinook salmon in the Klamath Basin, which return from the ocean in spring and stay in the river until October, when they spawn and die. A tributary of the Klamath River, it has no storage dams. Even in the Klamath, which has dams to store water, there is little available for extra releases.
"We are all nervous," Borok said. "We are all kind of going, 'We need rain because it is heating up this week.' There will be mortalities, given the low flows and high temperatures. It is just to what extent. We are all screaming to our people to make decisions to find us water. There isn't much to be had, because we are in a drought year."
Representatives of a wide range of organizations interested in the river are holding weekly meetings, she said. Posters have been distributed asking people to report when they see an unusually high number of dead fish — more than 55 in a mile of river.
Glen Spain of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations, which represents California commercial salmon fishermen, said the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation was meeting minimum flows in the Klamath River set under a biological opinion for threatened coho salmon.
Water-Guzzling Pot Plants Draining Drought-Wracked California
July 8, 2014
NBC News By Harriet Taylor
California cannabis growers may be making millions, but their thirsty plants are sucking up a priceless resource: water. Now scientists say that if no action is taken in the drought-wracked state, the consequences for fisheries and wildlife will be dire.
"If this activity continues on the trajectory it's on, we're looking at potentially streams going dry, streams that harbor endangered fish species like salmon, steelhead," said Scott Bauer of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Studying aerial photographs of four watersheds within northern California's so-called Emerald Triangle, Bauer found that the area under marijuana cultivation doubled between 2009 and 2012. It continues to grow, with increasing environmental consequences.
Bauer presented data to CNBC indicating that growers are drawing more than 156,000 gallons of water from a single tributary of the Eel River, in Mendocino County, every day.
The average marijuana plant needs about 6 gallons of water a day, depending on its size and whether it's grown inside or outside, according to a local report that cited research. Pot growers object to that number, saying that the actual water use of a pot plant is much less.
Nonprofit begins Strawberry Creek restoration project/Area will provide important habitat for coho salmon
July 3, 2014
Times-Standard Local News by Jillain Singh
The Pacific Coast Fish, Wildlife and Wetlands Restoration Association began work on Strawberry Creek this week to help improve an important environment for the coho salmon, which is on the federal and state list of threatened species, the nonprofit's project manager Mitch Farrow said.
The project, which is on Redwood National and State Parks property and near Orick, is expected to be finished by mid-September and involves restoring 1,600 feet of the Strawberry Creek channel and creating 2.2 acres of surrounding wetlands.
"It's taken us a number of years to get through the design, permitting and fundraising," Farrow said. "Strawberry Creek is probably some of the more critical habitat for coho salmon. It's connected to the Redwood Creek estuary, where there's very little of their kind of habitat left, because it was altered quite extensively in the 1960s."
Farrow said the project will include removing invasive reed canary grass, which has grown so thick over some of the creek that people can walk on top of it, and planting native tree species to shade the water and eventually provide nesting habitats for migratory songbirds.
Water trust leases record amount
June 30, 2014
Siskiyou Daily News By Amandda Hinds Doyle
ETNA – In an effort to keep sufficient flows in the mainstem Scott River, several members of the Farmers Ditch Company set aside their differences with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to collaborate on an agreement that will return surface water back to the river to augment flows for distribution of yearling coho salmon and emerging coho fry.
According to Scott River Water Trust board member Sari Sommarstrom, the trust paid the FDC to return about two thirds of their diversion amount back into the Scott River.
“The water right for FDC is 30 cubic feet per second (senior right) plus 6 cfs surplus (junior),” said Sommarstrom. Of those rights, 20 cfs are being returned.
“Twenty cfs is by far the largest water transaction we have ever done,” said SRWT Executive Director Preston Harris. “It was a difficult task negotiating this transaction in such a limited water year while trying to meet the needs of the farmers whom depend on this water for their livelihoods. Farmers Ditch Company is making a big sacrifice. This type of collaboration is good to see.”
While there may be other means of irrigation, such as switching to groundwater pumping, Harris said that the majority, if not all, of the FDC do not have an alternative source of irrigation.
“I don't think anybody can make that switch,” Harris said about alternate irrigation means. “The guys who did this are really giving up a lot.”
While negotiations were difficult due to such limited water this year, “This type of collaboration is good to see,” said Harris.
This water transaction is part of an accumulated effort in the Scott Basin to ensure salmon survival.
“We recognize the importance of having as many salmon survive this extraordinary year, not only for our system, but others throughout California,” said Gareth Plank of FDC.
Surprise: Drought may have helped Marin's young coho
June 20, 2014
Marin News by Mark Prado
A record number of Marin's young coho salmon are making their way out to sea and it may be the winter drought that helped boost the numbers, according to biologists.
The Marin Municipal Water District has been tracking the migration of the endangered species from the county's creeks out to the ocean since 2006. In that time the most coho counted by biologists was 11,000 in 2012. Given the dry conditions in the early part of the year it wasn't thought the number of young coho would approach that number.
But counts done in the spring showed almost 20,000 of the coho smolts in Lagunitas and Olema creeks, shattering the previous recorded high. It raises the hope that the carry capacity for coho in the Lagunitas watershed is greater than previously thought and could bode well for the recovery of the imperiled species.
"It was a huge surprise, we were expecting more like a third of what we saw," said Eric Ettlinger, aquatic biologist for the water district, which manages many of the creeks where the fish live. "It was the dry winter and the timing of the rain that may have made the difference."
Because there was little rain in the county until February, the fish — born last year — were in a holding pattern and did not move downstream. Typically as soon as rain begins, the young coho will begin making their way out to the ocean, gathering en masse in lower Lagunitas Creek.
But the habitat and lack of shelter in the lower creek can't support very many young salmon and they die off before they can get to sea. But because there was little rain in the winter, the young coho spent the winter spread throughout the watershed, which apparently approved survival, Ettlinger said.
While the Lagunitas fish were much more plentiful this year, they were also much smaller than usual, which could limit their chances of survival in the ocean.