News & Stories

  • Steelhead Win Landmark Victory/Water Flow Must Increase Below Cachuma Lake

    September 19, 2019

    Santa Barbara Independent By Nick Welsh

    By any reckoning, the steelhead trout won a significant legal victory this week, along with CalTrout and the Environmental Defense Center, which have been arguing the case for two decades. But it remains uncertain exactly how much more water will have to be released downstream from Lake Cachuma to create a habitat wet enough along the main stem of the Santa Ynez River for the federally endangered fish to wage a meaningful comeback.

    The State Water Resources Control Board voted decisively on September 17 that current release schedules, which have been in place for 16 years, have made little difference. The state water board ruled that more water needed to be released and timed more strategically. In addition, the water board ruled the Bureau of Reclamation, the federal agency that built the dam, needed to conduct studies within two years examining the feasibility of getting the remnant steelhead population upstream past the barrier posed by Lake Cachuma. Once upstream, the water board concluded, the fish would find 48 miles of river in which to roost and spawn.

    The Bureau has opposed such studies, arguing that Congress understood the dam’s impact on fish populations when it authorized construction in 1948 and that no provisions were made for fish ladders or trapping and trucking — two ways of getting the steelhead upstream. The state water board, the Bureau contends, lacks legal authority to tell a federal agency what to do.

    The water agencies that rely on Lake Cachuma are less than thrilled; some have suggested the ruling could reduce water deliveries to customers by as much as 40 percent. Environmental documents indicate the loss between 1,600 and 3,600 acre feet a year.

    Attorneys with the Environmental Defense Center noted that water releases will mimic the feast or famine fluctuations of nature and that conservation initiatives could free up to 7,000 acre feet as well. Losses in deliveries can be mitigated by conservation and the deployment of desalinated water from the City of Santa Barbara’s desalination plant. The City of Santa Barbara argued unsuccessfully that it owns and operates the desalination plant and can’t be expected to make that water available to offset water losses incurred by other water agencies.

    Among other things, the water board’s ruling mandates the Bureau of Reclamation conduct studies on mitigating the impact of invasive, nonnative fish that eat steelhead fry — like the bass planted in Lake Cachuma every year by County Parks officials. Before Lake Cachuma was built, the Santa Ynez River was home to as many as 30,000 steelhead a year. Today, the number hovers around 200.

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  • Fishing the North Coast: Klamath River full of kings

    September 18, 2019

    Eureka Times Standard By Kenny Priest

    If you want action, the Klamath River has plenty to offer at the moment. The fishing has been pretty spectacular for almost two weeks now, and it doesn’t look to be slowing down any time soon. In fact, it could be quite the opposite. Currently, the river is plugged with jacks (two-year-old male salmon) as well as adult steelhead. And there’s a good mix of small adult kings around now too. But with over an inch of rain this week, this could really entice the bulk of the run to make their way in from the salt. Historically, the adult salmon have followed the jacks into the system. If history repeats itself, the best fishing could still be yet to come.

    Klamath River quota update

    According to Dan Troxel, an Environmental Scientist on the Klamath River Project, we are roughly 41 percent of the way through the sub-area quota for closure at the mouth, and 35 percent through the entire lower river quota. Through Sept. 16, 1,329 adult salmon have been harvested from the Hwy. 96 bridge at Weitchpec to the mouth towards the lower river quota of 3,819. Of those, 468 adults were caught below the Hwy. 101 bridge, leaving 677 adult salmon left to catch below the 101 bridge prior to the spit fishery closing.

    Only the spit area will close to fishing once this quota is met, fishing will remain open upriver of the spit until the 3,818 quota is met. The lower river, from the Hwy. 96 bridge at Weitchpec to the mouth has roughly 2,490 adults remaining for sport harvest. Once the quota has been met, anglers may still retain a limit of Chinook salmon under 22 inches in length. Anglers may keep track of the Klamath and Trinity river quotas by calling 800-564-6479.

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  • Steelhead trout trapping underway to help the endangered species

    September 17, 2019

    KEYT By Tracy Lehr

    GOLETA, Calif. - A Steelhead trout rescue effort is underway in Santa Barbara County.

    Environmental scientists say the trout are indicators of watershed health.

    Trout trapping is taking place in an undisclosed portion of Gaviota Creek in Goleta where the water is drying up.

    There are more than a dozen barriers that restrict the movement of the fish when they get trapped below them.

    Scientists said they are endangered due to human interference in their habitats.

    Kyle Evans is a California Department of Fish and Wildlife environmental scientists who hopes people will help the trout.

    He said the information will be passed to wardens.

    "They will be able to investigate poaching activity, or if it is a situation of a stranded fish or wildlife not being where it is supposed to be, then they are able to contact local biologists, and we are able to relocate those animals," Evans said.

    Evans says the fish are a litmus test for healthy creeks.

    "If you happen to see any illegal fishing or any suspected poaching, please contact the California Department of Fish and Wildlife at 888-334-Cal Tip."

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  • Feather River Fish Hatchery prepares for return of fish

    September 16, 2019

    ABC Sacramento by Trevor Fay

    Dozens of people visited the Feather River Fish Hatchery on Sunday before the return of their Steelhead fish and fish ladder on Monday.

    Visitors say they're especially excited about the return of the fish from the Thermalito Annex Complex in Oroville.

    The hatchery is where fish are tagged and studied while being raised by the staff.

    It's also a popular spot for getting an up close look at local wildlife.

    Chuck Olsgard is an Oroville local who came to visit with his grandchildren.

    "I came out just to see the fish and bring the grandkids out. I have other grandkids, they're off doing things and one didn't get to go with us," said Olsgard.

    The hatchery is divided into two sections including the fish barrier dam, observation platform, and underwater viewing are on the east side. The spawning room, hatchery, and rearing ponds are on the west side.

    The hatchery's important to people not just because of their work with marine animals, but because of local traditions like the Oroville salmon festival on September 28th.

    "We enjoy it every year, you know we come every year. And we live here in town, we're local, so we do get to enjoy it quite often," said Olsgard.

    The hatchery's fish ladder and ladder viewing window are set to open Monday at 7:00 a.m. after routine maintenance and inspections to the facility.

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  • San Geronimo homeowners open land to salmon restoration

    September 6, 2019

    Marin Independent Journal By Will Houston

    As homes along San Geronimo Creek face the threat of erosion and coho salmon face the threat of extinction, a series of projects nearly a decade in the making is working to find a win-win solution.

    On Friday, crews completed the first of these projects along the creek near the home of 24-year Lagunitas residents Michael Snyder and Carol Stanger. Where tangles of blackberry bushes once hung over a heavily eroded stream bank now sits the smoothed slopes of a new alcove where young fish can take refuge from heavy winter flows.

    Nearby, large logs, gnarled clusters of roots and boulders have been bolted down along the creek bed. Young steelhead trout, endangered coho salmon, California roach and three-spined stickleback swam lazily among the new additions. These structures will provide everything from shelter to food to the deep water pools that young fish need to survive to adulthood.

    “We never did anything with this. This was just overgrown on the other side and this was the other end of the property,” Snyder said, looking down at his new backyard. “You could never build anything here anyways so what does it matter? From the time I bought it you couldn’t build anything.”

    “And now it ends up as coho bliss land,” said project lead Sarah Phillips, the urban streams program manager for Marin Resource Conservation District.

    This is but one of several properties in the valley that have opened their lands to restore vital fish habitat as part of the county’s San Geronimo Valley salmon enhancement plan. About 10 projects have been designed under the plan’s landowner assistance program, which started planning a decade ago and works to pair erosion control with salmon habitat restoration.

    “A lot of people have done projects on their own property,” said Kallie Kull, senior fish passage planner for Marin County Public Works Department. “…These big projects have taken that long to get designed and funded.”

    Getting to this point hasn’t been easy. Phillips had been working for the past five years to secure the nearly $500,000 in state grant funds from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the state Coastal Conservancy as well as matching county funds just for two projects. The projects also required a variety of permits, contracts and donations including logs from the Russian River, excavation work by the Loomis-based Glissman Excavating, state and federal agencies, property owners and local businesses, among others.

    The next project set to begin next week will be much more extensive and involves two properties near San Geronimo Valley Community Center. One of these properties has a house just a few feet away from the eroding creek bank.

    “So every time we get a big storm the homeowner definitely loses sleep and is worried about how much more the bank is going to retreat,” Phillips said.

    San Geronimo Creek is the largest, undammed tributary of Lagunitas Creek. The creeks support about 20% of the wild coho runs between Monterey Bay and Fort Bragg. Decades of habitat degradation, development and dams have depleted the population to the point where they are now listed as endangered.

    As human developments were built, the nature of Lagunitas and San Geronimo creeks were altered, giving the water less room to spread out during heavy storms and resulting in swifter, powerful flows during the winter. Through time these high flows have eroded away the banks and scoured the creek bottom, endangering both properties and exacerbating the loss of salmon spawning and rearing habitats.

    Marin Resource Conservation District isn’t the only group working on restoring these lost habitats. Next year, the Salmon Protection and Watershed Network, known as SPAWN, plans to begin a $150,000 state-funded project to restore a section of San Geronimo Creek that has eroded down to the bedrock.

    “There is so much work to be done and one group can’t do all of it so it’s nice to be able to have multiple organizations work collaboratively for the same effort,” SPAWN watershed conservation director Preston Brown said.

    By placing large pieces of wood in the creek, which mimics when trees naturally fall into the water, as well as gravel, SPAWN is seeking to rebuild the creek beds and salmon habitat more quickly than would naturally occur.

    “Once that happens, that’s three contiguous property owners installing large wood for fisheries, which is a first for San Geronimo Valley,” Phillips said.

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