News & Stories

  • Diseased fish found in Klamath River

    August 5, 2014

     By Lacey Jarrell, Herald and News

    More than three-quarters of juvenile chinook salmon recently surveyed in the Klamath River are diseased, according to a report by the California-Nevada Fish Health Center.

    The center has examined juvenile salmon from four reaches of the Klamath River since March. According to the report, the parasite Ceratomyxa shasta has been detected in 76.5 percent of the fish tested. Parvicapsula minibicornis has been detected in 87 percent of the fish.

    According to report data, in 2013 C. shasta was found in fish during six out of the 12 weeks the river was surveyed. In 2014, the parasite was found in all 12 weeks. The parasite spiked in late June, increasing from a less than 20 percent presence one week to a roughly 95 percent presence the next. Last year during that time, surveys indicated the parasite was present in only 5 percent of the fish.

    Nick Hetrick, a supervisory fish biologist for the Arcata Fish and Wildlife, said P. minibicornis infections make salmon more vulnerable to C. shasta infections, which can be lethal.
    Hetrick said C. shasta infections attack fish intestinal tracts and cause the abdomen to bloat.

    “It almost turns the fish into a sponge. It’s fairly obvious when a fish is infected,” Hetrick said.

    Hetrick pointed out that C. shasta is completely dependent on temperature — fish can be infected and not exhibit symptoms. Once water temperatures crest 57 degrees, the disease advances quickly, he said.

    “The warmer the water, the faster they multiply,” said Sara Borok, an environmental scientist for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. “The lower the water, the more crowded the fish are and the faster the disease spreads.”

    Topics: drought

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  • Napa officials tour fish-friendly farming sites

    August 5, 2014

     By Peter Jensen, Napa Valley Register

    Vineyard owners along the Napa River showed off the environmental benefits Monday of working cooperatively with government agencies to improve the lives of fish and other wildlife.

    For the last decade, landowners in Napa County have enrolled in a fish-friendly farming program that allows them to produce a plan of environmentally friendly farming practices specific to their property, and have regulatory agencies sign off.

    To grapegrower Ted Hall, the program was a means of ensuring compliance with the dozen or so regulatory agencies he deals with while also improving vital habitat along the Napa River and its tributaries for salmon and steelhead populations.

    The practices are then checked regularly through a certification and re-certification process, enabling Hall to remain in good standing with regulators without burdensome or unannounced compliance checks, he said.

    “We try to do the right thing,” Hall said. “It’s really hard to be compliant. The beauty of fish-friendly farming allows us to prepare that plan, have all 12 agencies sign off, and then we’re free, essentially.”

    The program, also called Napa Green, started with 11,000 acres in 2004 but has expanded to cover 61,000 acres throughout Napa County currently, said Laurel Marcus, executive director of the California Land Stewardship Institute.

    Marcus led a tour Monday morning of two sites along the Napa River — one near Oakville Cross Road, the second east of the town of Yountville — that highlighted the kind of large-scale restoration work agencies have done in concert with the adjacent property owners.

    U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, Napa County Supervisor Diane Dillon, county Agricultural Commissioner Greg Clark, and other members of the wine industry, trade groups and environmental organizations joined in the tour.

    Thompson praised the program, which is also exists in Sonoma, Solano, Mendocino, and El Dorado counties, as contributing valuable habitat restoration to salmon fisheries — a $1.4 billion industry in California — while also taking a proactive approach to regulatory compliance.

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  • Marijuana's thirst depleting North Coast watersheds

    August 4, 2014

    The Press Democrat by Glenda Anderson

    Streams in Northern California's prime marijuana-growing watersheds likely will be sucked dry this year if pot cultivation isn't curtailed, experts say.

    "Essentially, marijuana can consume all the water. Every bit of it," said state Fish and Wildlife Senior Environmental Scientist Scott Bauer, who specializes in salmon recovery and is working on a study of the issue.

    The findings, expected to be released soon, shed new light on a massive, largely unregulated industry in California that has been blamed for polluting streams and forests with pesticides and trash and for bulldozing trees and earth to make clearings for gardens.

    A sharp increase in water-intensive pot cultivation, exacerbated by drought conditions, adds to the habitat degradation and threatens to undo decades of costly fish restoration efforts, Bauer said.

    "The destruction of habitat is actually quite staggering," said Patrick Foy, a spokesman with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.


    Last year, 24 North Coast salmon-bearing tributaries were reported to have gone dry, Bauer said, though not all were verified by the agency.

    Even without drought, there isn't going to be enough water to meet the pot industry's growing demand, Bauer said.

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  • North Coast growers take fight over frost rules to state high court

    August 4, 2014

    The Press Democrat By Bill Swindell

    Local grape growers and farmers are taking their fight over controversial rules governing frost protection to the state’s highest court, escalating a legal battle over regulations meant to protect endangered fish in the Russian River and its tributaries.

    In the first of two planned appeals, Redwood Valley grape grower Rudy Light on Friday asked the California Supreme Court to review an appellate court decision in June that upheld the state regulations, dealing a blow to opponents, who have described the rules as government overreach.

    They were imposed in 2011 by the state Water Resources Control Board, which along with other agencies, said the new measures were needed to safeguard beleaguered salmon and steelhead trout populations in the Russian River. For the first time, the state required growers to track and report the water they draw out of the river system in spring to spray over their crops and protect them from frost.

    The requirements were set to affect hundreds of growers across tens of thousands of acres in Sonoma and Mendocino counties. Opponents in both counties were quick to sue the state, winning a first round in court in 2012, when Mendocino County Judge Ann Moorman struck down the rules, calling them “constitutionally void” and “invalid.”

    Light and another group of plaintiffs, the Russian River Water Users for the Environment, who plan to file their appeal Monday, want that lower court ruling to stand. They have assailed the June 16 decision by the state’s 1st District Court of Appeal reversing Moorman’s ruling.

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  • Feds say no to fish-kill preventive water releases/Tribal, government officials concerned for future fish kills.

    July 30, 2014

    Eureka Times Standard by Will Houston

    Federal officials today told local tribes and North Coast officials that extra water releases from Trinity Lake used to cool the Klamath and Trinity rivers for fish may only occur in an emergency — when enough fish begin to sicken.

    Public Affairs Officer Mat Maucieri of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation said that due to the ongoing statewide drought, the bureau will instead send the limited water to the Central Valley, where it will be used to cool the Sacramento River to protect endangered fish like chinook salmon.

    "We're trying to retain that cold water supply in order to comply to those listings for other runs of salmon," Maucieri said. "We basically don't want to deplete our cold water pool if we may potentially need it for these other runs."

    The decision was made to protect endangered winter-run and spring-run salmon listed under the federal Endangered Species Act in the Sacramento River and its tributary, Clear Creek. The spring-run and fall-run chinook salmon in the lower Klamath and Trinity rivers are not listed as endangered under the federal act.

    The bureau, which controls releases from Trinity Lake, will not make its periodic preventative releases in September or late August, which cool down the water temperatures before creating a health hazard to the anadromous steelhead and salmon. The releases began after a massive fish kill in the Klamath River in 2002, with four pre-emptive releases being made since the incident.

    "The drought is very much a factor in this," Maucieri said. "It's necessitating these kinds of decisions. This is a decision that we do not take lightly."

    While the bureau will not be making its preventive releases, Maucieri said it will make an emergency release to double the flow the of the river for seven days if its monitoring programs at the mouth of the lower Klamath River finds signs of decaying fish health — such as dead fish.

    Topics: drought

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