News & Stories

  • Mendocino part of a worthy coastal protection

    March 16, 2014

    SF Gate

    A stretch of Mendocino coastline filled with wildflower meadows, steep bluffs and river estuary will join a national preserve running the length of California's 1,100-mile Pacific edge. The result caps a drive that will safeguard the land, rejuvenate tourism and overcome Washington's snarled conservation policies.

    The land near Point Arena was once planned for a nuclear power plant 40 years ago, a notion that went nowhere when locals put up a fight. Now, after tireless work by environmental groups, lawmakers, residents and business people, the nearly universally popular plan will buy out property owners and put the acres in federal hands.

    Instead of no-trespass signs and barbed wire, visitors will have a chance to hike and enjoy new vistas near an historic lighthouse dating back over a century. Tourism, the only game in town after logging faded, will get a boost. Wildlife habitat in the trees, dunes and watery mix of the Garcia River and the Pacific will be protected.

    By using the power of his office, President Obama added the land to the offshore California Coastal National Monument. It will be the first onshore part of this federal network along the state's coastline launched in 2000.

    One of the last pieces to fall in place is a cattle ranch run by the Stornetta family of local dairy fame. After three generations of ownership, the descendants agreed to sell, as did other property owners in a string of deals facilitated by the Trust for Public Land and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

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  • Salmon outlook takes sharp turn for the better

    March 15, 2014

     By Tom Stienstra, SFGate

    In just a few days last week, the outlook for salmon off the Bay Area coast upgraded from a doomsday scenario to a new dawn.

    The reversal of fortune is in time for this year's California opener April 5, and the impact will be felt for years.

    The biggest news is that 12 million juvenile salmon scheduled to be set free in the next month from Coleman National Fish Hatchery in Shasta County will instead be trucked to the bay and released in pulses from submerged net pens, according to a plan announced by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

    The fish, about 6 inches long, faced an almost certain death if released from the hatchery into Battle Creek up north. In trying to swim 300 miles to the ocean, they would have had to pass a maze of pumps, water diversions, reverse flows in Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta channels, low flows, high water temperatures, poor water quality and high predation.

    This is a great victory for the new Golden Gate Salmon Association and its executive director, John McManus, who led the crusade to get the fish trucked to the bay and had the support of the Fish and Wildlife Service and other agencies.

    "This could add several hundred thousand adult fish to the ocean in three years, said Craig Stone, owner of Emeryville Sportfishing Center and a member of the Golden Gate Fishermen's Association. "Everybody feels good about this. We are swinging in the up direction now, absolutely."

    To review salmon stocks and set preliminary seasons and policies, the Pacific Fisheries Management Council and its associates met for four days last week in Sacramento. It faced the realities of poor reservoir levels, low freshwater outflows through the bay this summer, news that rock barriers could be placed in the path of fish migrations to prevent saltwater intrusion at the delta pumps, and questions about ocean conditions and the endangered winter-run salmon.

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  • Salmon Salmon run above average/Falls short of high forecast, but still meets standards

    March 7, 2014

    By Lacy Jarrell, Herald and News

    Klamath River salmon runs fell short of predictions but still met requirements for commercial and sport fishing in 2013. Predictions for the 2014 Klamath River salmon run aren’t available yet, but scientists estimate surplus numbers will be considerably less than last year.

    According to Sara Borok, a scientist for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), 179,541 salmon entered the Klamath River and its tributaries in 2013. Of those, 165,125 were adults and 14,416 were 2-year-old males, known as “jacks.”

    “It’s still an above-average run,” she said. “We did good; it just wasn’t as big as projected.”

    Scientists predicted the 2013 run would be 272,000. The average Klamath River salmon run is 122,000. The 2013 Klamath Basin fall chinook run estimate ranks 11th out of 36 years, according to a report released at a CDFW public information meeting.

    Borok said 2013 was the second year in a row fish numbers hit the minimum floor escapement, which was set at 40,700. It exceeded the estimate, with 69,986 (10,367 jacks and 59,619 adults).

    The escapement regulations allow scientists to ensure enough adults return to their natal stream to produce fish that will return in later years.

    According to Morgan Knechtle, a CDFW environmental scientist, the Shasta River was the only mid-Klamath tributary that had a run above the 37-year average. The Shasta averages about 6,000 per season, Knechtle said.

    “This year we got back 8,021,” he said.

    For 2014, scientists estimate ocean abundance for salmon from the Klamath River is 219,800 3-year-old fish, 67,400 4-year-old fish, and 2,100 5-year-old fish, according to Knechtle.

    “It’s telling us there will be enough fish to allow for minimum natural escapement. There will be a surplus available in 2014, but it will be considerably less than what was available in 2013,” Knechtle said.

    An estimate of the 2014 Klamath River salmon run will be announced this spring.

    Borok said more than 11,000 fish — 95 percent of the Klamath sport harvest — were taken at the mouth of the Klamath River last year because it turned south and created about a quartermile of standing room for sport fishermen on either side.

    California Fish and Game officials are reviewing three options for regulating fishing at the mouth of the river this year:

    ■ Option 1: Close fishing at the mouth of the Klamath River after 15 percent of the total Klamath River Basin quota has been taken downstream of the Highway 101 bridge.

    ■ Option 2: Close fishing at the mouth of the Klamath River after 15 percent of the Lower Klamath River sub-quota has been taken downstream of the Highway 101 bridge.

    ■ Option 3: Close fishing at the mouth of the Klamath River year-round to provide protection for Klamath River spring and fall Chinook salmon and coho salmon migrating through the estuary.

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  • Court says Marin development plan neglects threatened salmon

    March 6, 2014

     A state appeals court says Marin County's latest land-use plan failed to assess the effects of proposed development on the habitat of threatened species of coho salmon and steelhead trout.

    The general plan adopted by county supervisors for unincorporated areas in 2007 also lacked measures to reduce the impact of construction on the fish and their habitat, the First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco said Wednesday. The court ordered the county to conduct a new environmental study and invite more public comment.

    The ruling protects the last remaining wild population of California coho coastal salmon, said the Turtle Island Restoration Network, which challenged the plan in court.

    "We hope that after this decision, county supervisors are ready to work together so we can save these species from extinction," said Todd Steiner, executive director of the organization's salmon-protection program.

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  • Mattole River

    March 4, 2014

    The mouth opened twice, once after the Sept rain and again after the Thanksgiving rain and numerous chinook and a few coho and steelhead came in. They have not gotten above Honeydew due to low flows and are now spawning in the mainstem. Very few tribs are accessible at low flows.We are now praying for light rains to allow the eggs to hatch. The heliwood placed this fall is already providing these fish cover in the pools."

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