Marin County Sued in Fight Over Protecting Endangered Coho Salmon
September 28, 2019
KQED vy Tiffany Camhi
Two conservation nonprofits are suing Marin County for allegedly violating the California environmental law.
The lawsuit, filed by the Center for Biological Diversity and the Salmon Protection and Watershed Network, or SPAWN, concerns the protection of endangered coho salmon and threatened steelhead trout in streams in Marin's San Geronimo Valley.
SPAWN's Executive Director Todd Steiner said the county has failed to adopt a streamside conservation ordinance to preserve and protect the habitat of these fish.
"They're on the verge of extinction and meanwhile the county just continues not to take the necessary actions to give these animals a fighting chance of survival," said Steiner.
Marin's Lagunitas Creek watershed, including the San Geronimo streams, is home to one of the last remaining strongholds of coho salmon in a stretch of coastline that runs from Humboldt County to near Santa Cruz.
The National Marine Fisheries Service has identified the watershed as critical habitat for both coho and steelhead, and it's one of the areas the agency has targeted for action to prevent extinction of coho in the region.
The regional coho population has declined by more than 95% from historic levels, according to a 2012 recovery plan from the NMFS.
The coho play an important role in streamside ecosystems. Over 100 species feed on the fish, and when coho die after spawning their carcasses provide ocean-derived nutrients to both the animals and plants that live in and around creeks.
This lawsuit comes after the county's board of supervisors certified a supplemental environmental impact report in August.
The report looked into possible impacts to the San Geronimo Valley watershed from future development, like infrastructure connected to housing and roads. The report found that there would be no major impacts to fish – if several mitigation efforts were adopted. It includes a self-imposed deadline of five years to adopt a streamside conservation ordinance.
But Steiner said the report is inadequate and does not include a well thought out or timely proposal, violating the California Environmental Quality Act, a law that aims to reduce environmental impacts from development projects by requiring thorough and often time-consuming reviews.
Marin County Counsel Brian Washington said his office is reviewing the lawsuit.
"We are very disappointed that the petitioners are wasting time and resources on litigation rather than working with the county to continue to protect salmon and other natural resources in the San Geronimo Valley," Washington said.
Tom Lai, Marin County Community Development Agency assistant director, said in an emailed statement the county has spent millions on restoration projects in the valley.
"We have creek setbacks enforced on all building permits and all discretionary planning applications, as well as a native tree ordinance," said Lai. "It is not the wild, wild west as far as development regulation goes."
The county also coordinates a creek restoration and fish passage program that removes barriers along streams that run up against road crossings. The county says 14 fish passage projects have been completed, 12 of which were in the San Geronimo Valley watershed.
SPAWN brought a similar lawsuit against the county in 2014. In that case, the group challenged the adequacy of the environmental analysis of Marin's countywide plan regarding the San Geronimo Valley watershed.
A state appeals court sided with SPAWN, and ordered the county to complete a more thorough analysis of potential impacts to fish in the watershed. The redone analysis is now the subject of the new lawsuit.
SPAWN's Steiner said Marin's coho population has continued to decline in the five years it has taken the county to conduct and process this new report. Steiner said the worry now is that the coho could die out by the time the county adopts a sufficient streamside conservation ordinance.
"These fish could blink out in a minute," Steiner said. "It's critically important that we protect this last remaining population from going extinct."
Salmon fishing on the Feather picks up
September 26, 2019
The Union of Grass Valley by Denis Peirce
The salmon run on the Feather River has finally gotten up to speed. August was a disappointment. We had high water flows but the fish seemed to be more interested in feeding off the coast than swimming up the rivers.
About 10 days ago that changed. A large school of fish was located moving up river at Star Bend a few miles below Yuba City. The anglers got on them and stayed with them all the way up to the Oroville area. Since then there has been a steady run of fish moving up through the river system. The most reliable indicator of good numbers of fish in the system is the number of bank anglers at the After Bay Hole. Two weeks ago you would see only a couple, now there are dozens.
The river conditions on the Feather continue to improve. The high flows that peaked at 8,600 cubic feet per second 10 days ago have backed off a bit to 7,500 currently, still high but a little better access for shore anglers. The water temps have come down below the 60-degree mark in the high flow section below the After Bay Hole. These cool temps are a factor in getting the salmon to bite.
The quality of the fish is decent for this time of the run. In the river below the After Bay down toward Gridley, you will find traveling fish. These new arrivals will be 60% bright and 40% darkening fish. In the After Bay Hole the fish have been holding in the depths and the bright percentage will be lower. Roe continues to be the best bet in the upper river close to the spawning grounds.
Lower down river, anglers are catching salmon trolling spinners and anchoring up with plugs. The high water has the salmon on the move but they will pause in some of the deeper holes.
On the Sacramento River the salmon run is good. The average fish will be larger than on the Feather. Most of the angling pressure is up river where the water is cooler. The percentage of bright fish on the Sacramento in the upper reaches above Corning is about 50%.
A report from the Sacramento Metro area mentioned lots of salmon swimming through. The water temps have dropped down to the mid 60s which is promising. The unusual comment from Justin Leonard, Out Cast Guide Service, was that the fish were suspended, not on the bottom. In 20 feet of water, the fish were at 14 feet and moving rapidly. It is typical for salmon to swim close to the bottom. Many salmon rigs present plugs or roe just off the bottom. These presentations would be below the fish on the day Justin was fishing there.
The Yuba River is flowing at 800 cfs as it converges with the Feather. Up at the Highway 20 bridge it is 1,150 cfs. Tom Page, Reel Angler’s Fly Shop, guided the Yuba this week. He noted good numbers of salmon starting to dig redds at the Highway 20 Bridge. There has been a notable increase in salmon in the last ten days. Tom commented that this is the best showing of salmon on the Yuba in five years.
The Yuba is closed to salmon fishing but this is the time when the “egg bite” turns on for the rainbows/steelhead in the river. Tom reports the egg bite is off and on. He typically fishes an egg and a nymph. On any given day the trout will have a decided preference for one or the other. On this week’s guide trip Tom said the fish were on the nymph, a small #18 mayfly. The eggs did not get much attention. The trout will still hit hopper patterns on warm days but on cool days the hoppers will be ignored.
We have a good chance of rain this weekend in the foothills. Up in the high country there is a chance for a dusting of snow. This is exactly the conditions that will turn on the fishing in the Sierra lakes. With the shorter days, the sun lower in the sky and some rain, the water cools and the fish come to the top.
I checked in with Val Aubrey, http://www.eaglelakefishing.net. She has been catching all of her fish at Eagle Lake in the top 10 feet of the water column. The overnight lows have been in the mid 30s which has cooled off the shallows to the 58- to 60-degree range. Out over deep water it is warmer in the 61- to 63-degree range. She has found the trout in 5 to 7 feet of water early and they move out over 15 to 25 feet of water by mid morning but are still feeding close to the surface.
The water is still cloudy with only a couple of feet of visibility. The water color is slowly changing from brown toward green. The quality of the trout is good. She had five fish Wednesday that totaled 14 pounds. The best action has come on orange trolling flies.
Jon Baiocchi has been fishing Lake Davis. The surface temps have dropped to 58 degrees and the trout are hitting flies trolled near the top of the water out over the 10 to 20 foot depths. More details on Lake Davis tonight, Jon will be the guest on my radio show.
In the Eastern Sierra anglers trolling the June Lake Loop have been trolling deep, 8 colors of lead-core, doing well on browns and cutthroat trout. I expect any day to hear that the water has cooled off and the fish have moved to the top. A couple of weeks ago a cutthroat weighing 9.5 pounds was caught deep in June Lake, a possible lake record. These cutthroat are the same as the fish in Pyramid Lake, Nevada. It will be interesting to see how large these fish will get in the years to come.
For the bass anglers, Bullards Bar continues to fish well. Tom Page has customers fishing there. They have been starting out early in the morning fishing poppers on the surface. They then switch to a Balance Leech below a float for a slow presentation close to the bank. By mid-day they move to a streamer/bait fish pattern with a faster retrieve. The numbers of fish have been good throughout the day.
October starts next week. It is the peak for fall fishing on so many waters. The lakes are cooling into the prime mid 50-degree range, starting in the upper elevations. The salmon are running which will turn on the egg bite for steelhead. The stripers which are concentrated in the lower delta will move throughout the system. All species of fish are in the transition from summer to winter and the fishing will not get much better than this. I hope to see you on the water.
Fish hatchery release leads to salmon rush into Feather River
September 24, 2019
Stockton Record By Dan Bacher
OROVILLE – The fish ladder at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Feather River Hatchery opened last week, signaling the start of the Chinook salmon spawning season on the Feather River.
Anglers are catching increasing numbers of salmon while fishing roe and plugs below the Themalito Afterbay Outlet and while anchor fishing with Brad’s Killerfish, Silverton spinners and other lures in the Yuba City and Nicolas areas,
“CDFW hatchery workers took more than a half-million eggs during the first week alone in an effort to ensure the successful spawning of the returning salmon,” according to the CDFW. “The salmon run will continue until mid-November. Hatchery operations, popular with the public and numerous school groups, will take place every Monday through Friday.”
Tim Boggs of Elkhorn Outdoor Sports in Rio Linda reported that an angler fishing with him caught two salmon weighing 18 and 24 pounds on his latest trip on the Feather at Nicolas.
“We used Silverton spinners,” said Boggs. “On the next trip, one angler fishing with me bagged two salmon weighing 17 and 20 pounds while fishing Silvertron spinners also.” Information: (916) 991-5298.
However, Boggs cautioned anglers that a jet boat was needed to make the trip up the Feather from Verona because of the shallow water conditions.
“My brother-in-law Rob and my daughter Kaylie had fun catching some salmon on my latest trip on the Feather,” said Manuel Saldana of MSJ Guide Service. “We landed three salmon. We had some other opportunities as well.”
Sacramento River/American River Chinooks: The salmon fishing in the Sacramento in the metropolitan area is perking up for bank anglers and boat fishermen, though it is still spotty.
“The fishing has improved a great deal for shore fishermen tossing out Mepps Flying C spinners above Discovery Park,” said “Uncle Larry” Barnes at Sacramento Pro Tackle. “Jigging spoons from a boat has also picked up on the river near the Sacramento Club. The fish are averaging six to 18 pounds each. Information: (916) 925-0529
Trollers are working for their salmon, but the quality of the fish is impressive on the Sacramento. Captain James Netzel of Tight Lines Guide Service reported that one angler landed a bright 15-pound salmon in his boat on Tuesday morning while trolling with Silvertron spinners at Verona. Information: (888) 975-0990.
The last trolling adventure by Rob Reimers of Rustic Rob’s Guide Service in the Sacramento River in downtown Sacramento produced a 22-pound salmon on a Brad’s Killerfish. Information: (530) 632-0051.
Likewise, salmon are starting to show in the American River, though the bite is far from hot. Sheldon Bisbee landed a 20-pound king and lost another from a boat on the lower American above Discovery Park, according to Boggs. Another fisherman reported landing two salmon while tossing out Flying C spinners above the Sunrise Bridge.
West Delta Stripers: Striped bass fishing is still going strong off the West Bank of the Sacramento River near Collinsville and in Broad Slough. Clyde Wands caught and released nine striped bass to nine pounds while trolling deep-driving Yo-Zuri lures last Thursday, while Dave Houston hooked and released 10 stripers to 23 pounds the same day.
Wands also took third place in the California Striped Bass Association Isleton Chapter Salmon Derby on Saturday, September 14 with a salmon over seven pounds that he caught while trolling the Sacramento River.
River gravel project aims to replenish fish nursing areas
September 22, 2019
Associated Press/Sacramento Bee
Crews are laying tons of gravel in the American River near Sacramento to re-establish a crucial spawning area for native salmon and steelhead trout.
The Sacramento Bee reported Saturday that the project started this month will allow female salmon to use the loose stones to build redds, a kind of nest, to deposit their eggs.
Officials say because of dams upriver, sediment and debris that would otherwise settle along the river are blocked, making the area less hospitable to fish.
Also part of the project is a new side channel that will create a protected stretch for juvenile fish to grow. The shallow, slower moving water will allow insects and vegetation to flourish for feeding.
Similar restoration projects are planned for the American River over the next 15 years.
GUEST OPINION: Removing dams is key to fish recovery
September 19, 2019
Siskiyou Daily News by Robert Lusardi, PhD
A 2017 comprehensive study of salmon, steelhead and trout in California showed that half of the steelhead and salmon populations native to the Klamath River are in danger of extinction within the next 50 years. Removing the four aging hydroelectric dams from the river would significantly improve ecological and geomorphic conditions throughout the Klamath watershed and play a key role in returning these fish to stable population levels.
Iron Gate, Copco 1, Copco 2 and JC Boyle dams create conditions that make it impossible for migratory fishes like salmon and steelhead to survive. These dams completely block passage to historical spawning and rearing habitats. The dams also increase river water temperatures and create ideal conditions for invasive species, salmon disease and the proliferation of toxic algae.
In addition, the dams impede the downstream movement of sediment and large wood, which are key drivers of salmon habitat. They also truncate numerous ecological processes and can change salmon food webs, ultimately reducing habitat suitability.
Reconnecting the Klamath River by removing these dams will provide native salmon and steelhead access to over 300 miles of historical spawning and rearing habitat. These fish are also keystone species and their return to abundance will signify the restoration of critical ecological and geomorphic processes across the Klamath watershed.
Six distinct populations of salmon and steelhead call the Klamath watershed home, and all of them are suffering from degraded habitat conditions associated with dams.
Upper Klamath-Trinity Rivers spring-run Chinook salmon face the greatest risk of extinction. These fish are currently at less than three percent of historical numbers. Blocked from the vast majority of their spawning and rearing habitat, they are extremely vulnerable to stressors including climate change and drought.
Southern Oregon-Northern California Coast Coho salmon are also in critical condition, with a population decline of 95 percent since the 1960s. Perhaps not coincidentally, Iron Gate Dam, which completely blocks passage to cold-water spawning and rearing habitats, opened in 1964.
Klamath Mountains Province summer steelhead mature in fresh water and rely on access to cold stream water during the hottest months of summer, similar to spring-run Chinook. The four lower Klamath dams contribute to reduced flows and the warming of water temperatures during summer, limiting important habitat for this species. Summer steelhead are also in critical condition according to the recently released State of the Salmonids Report.
Southern Oregon-Northern California Coastal Chinook salmon, though stable, are vulnerable to disturbances like wildfires and floods because of their small population size and limited range. Upper Klamath-Trinity River fall run Chinook salmon and Klamath Mountains Province winter steelhead are also in long-term decline, due in large part to a lack of historical spawning and rearing habitat in the upper basin.
Removal of the four lower Klamath dams will begin a long-anticipated recovery for each of these species. Passage to diverse and productive habitats in the upper basin will improve population resilience, ultimately allowing these species to persist in the long-term. Sediment and woody debris will be distributed throughout the system, restoring important habitat diversity and complexity, and enabling these fishes to thrive once again. Dam removal will also encourage historical flow and thermal regimes and help rebuild depleted food webs. With cold water flowing throughout the Klamath, the risk of fish disease and the prevalence of toxic algae will decline.
Dam removal, in tandem with habitat restoration, will support a comeback for these economically and culturally important fish and is the best hope for a resurgence of healthy waters along the Klamath River. Anglers and commercial fishermen, local communities, native tribes, and the fish themselves will all benefit for years to come.