News & Stories

  • Rep. Huffman files bill to protect, bolster salmon rivers

    October 18, 2019

    Saving Seafood Steve Bittenbender, Seafood Source

    A California congressman on Thursday, 17 October filed a bill in Congress that he claims would restore and protect the country’s salmon rivers and watersheds.

    By drafting H.R. 4723, dubbed the Salmon Focused Investments in Sustainable Habitats (Salmon FISH) Act, U.S. Representative Jared Huffman in a statement said he wants to make the rivers that support salmon populations more resilient. The Democrat’s bill would call on NOAA Fisheries and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to designate core abundance areas as “Salmon Conservation Areas” and the purest ones as “Salmon Strongholds.”

    Those areas would be protected to ensure future government actions do not threaten their salmon populations. Huffman’s bill would also allow state governments, tribal nations, non-governmental organizations and the general public to nominate areas for designation.

    The bill also includes a grant program that would run for the next five years to improve on conservation and restoration efforts.

    “Salmon have great ecological, cultural, and economic importance, and are a symbol of the American West,” Huffman said. “This is certainly the case for the fisheries and communities in my district, including many tribes that have relied on salmon since time immemorial. The Salmon FISH Act will protect and restore the outstanding salmon habitats that still remain so that they can not only support thriving wild salmon, but also the communities and economies that depend on them.”

    Some rivers, through the building of dams and other developments, have seen their salmon runs taper off significantly over the years. A report by the Seattle Times indicated that 40 percent of the Chinook salmon runs are already extinct.

    As a result, the population of Chinook salmon in Salish Sea rivers has gone from a population of more than 1.2 million 35 years ago to less than 500,000 in 2010, according to an Environmental Protection Agency report.

    “There is definitely a need for restoration within these core salmon producing watersheds,” said Grant Werschkull, co-executive director of the Smith River Alliance in northern California. “Investing in salmon habitat restoration brings diverse partners together and truly is investing in the health and future of our communities.”

    The Smith River, California’s longest undammed river, is considered one of the nation’s strongest for salmon runs. Werschkull said Huffman’s bill would help keep it that way.

    The reduction in salmon doesn’t just affect fisheries, it can also have wide-ranging effects on the ecosystem in the watershed areas feeding the rivers.

    “Salmon stronghold rivers and other important salmon conservation areas contain the most important wild salmon populations left on the planet,” said Guido Rahr, president and CEO of the Wild Salmon Center. “By protecting them, we will ensure strong runs of wild salmon into the future. Salmon are foundational for resilient coastal communities: a sign of ecosystem health and clean water, a source of jobs and food, and an inspiration to us all.”

    Huffman serves as the co-chair of the Congressional Wild Salmon Caucus. He also serves as the House Water, Oceans and Wildlife Subcommittee chairman and is drafting a bill that would reauthorize the Magnuson-Stevens Act. He’s in the middle of a roundtable tour where he’s eliciting public comments to shape the bill’s language.

     

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  • Work begins on salmon habitat projects

    October 10, 2019

    Action News Redding by Linda Watkins-Bennett

    SHASTA COUNTY, Calif. - A major fish restoration project is underway on private property near Cottonwood.

    River Partners shared a video of new side channels that are being built to help the recovery of struggling wild salmon populations in the Sacramento River.

    The side channel fish nurseries will provide high-quality rearing habitat and refuge for young salmon before they migrate out to the ocean, steelhead and trout will also benefit.

    The Reading Island Side Channel Project will take 4 to 6 weeks to complete.

    This work involves crews from the Yurok Tribe Watershed Restoration Department. All of the equipment operators are Yurok Indians and all of the projects they do are for the benefit of healthy rivers and the species that depend upon them, in this case, Chinook salmon.

    Another side channel project launches next month on public land, at Anderson River Park. That project will be built in phases and will take two to three years to complete.

    In all, there will be six side channels built on the Upper Sacramento River, paid for by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

    The work helps to meet the requirements of the Central Valley Project Improvement Act and involves a network of partnerships.
    for an overview map of completed and proposed program sites.

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  • Chinook salmon flocking to revitalized San Joaquin River

    October 8, 2019

    Courthouse News Service by Nick Cahill

    FRESNO, Calif. (CN) – A staggering number of Chinook salmon are returning to a California river that hasn’t sustained salmon for decades due to agricultural and urban demands, giving biologists hope that threatened fish are finally spawning in their native grounds without human help.

    Officials working on a restoration program announced Tuesday that they have counted a record number of spring-run Chinook salmon fish nests (redds) so far this fall on a stretch of the San Joaquin River near Fresno. Program staff has discovered over 160 redds with several weeks to go, toppling the total of 40 recorded in 2018.

    Not only have the number of redds increased, biologists say many of them appear to have been fashioned by fish that weren’t hatchery raised or part of the billion-dollar program – meaning salmon were able to swim from the Pacific Ocean and through dams on their own.

    “The volume of returns is a complete surprise,” said Pat Ferguson in a statement, a program fish biologist with the California Department of Fish & Wildlife.

    Biologists say the quadrupled number of redds is exciting considering they have only released 37 adult female salmon this year to breed in the river below Friant Dam. There are other signs that natural or “volitionally passed” salmon have returned to the river: Biologists have found untagged spring-run carcasses in recent weeks.

    “The majority of the fish that we’re seeing in the river spawning right now don’t appear to have tags,” said Lori Smith, a program fish biologist with the US Fish & Wildlife Service.

    Smith said it is possible that the salmon lost their tags during their 370-mile journey back to the river, but genetic testing will ultimately confirm if they were hatchery bred or not.

    Tuesday’s announcement is the second major milestone for the restoration program this year, as in April spring-run Chinook adults returned to the river for the first time in 65 years. The hatchery salmon returned from the ocean on their own in the spring but had to be transported by researchers to bypass a series of dams and diversion canals.

    Biologists believe an abnormally wet rainy season may have helped some of the fish return to their ancient spawning grounds on their own.

    “We appear to be seeing spring-run Chinook able to make it up into the restoration area on their own to spawn,” said Donald Portz, program manager. “It’s likely springtime high flows provided an opportunity for fish to get over obstacles that would normally limit their ability to migrate,” he said.

    Salmon and other species disappeared from California’s second largest river in the 1940s following the opening of Friant Dam. Today, parts of the river often go dry during certain times of the year and other sections have manmade barriers that prevent salmon from reaching their spawning beds.

    Because of a nearly two-decade-long lawsuit fought by the Natural Resources Defense Council, things are changing on the heavily altered San Joaquin. A settlement with the federal government reached in 2006 set goals of restoring native fish populations to “good condition” without overtly damaging water suppliers’ take of the river. The state and federal government plan to spend over $1 billion to restore flows, wetlands and fish to the river.

    Doug Obegi, lawyer with the council, said the increased redds are encouraging and a “sign that the river is ready for fish” in high-water years like 2018-19.

    “It’s great to see salmon returning after so many decades, and it’s a reminder that when we add water to our rivers, they will return,” Obegi said in a phone interview. “It’s a little bit like the ‘Field of Dreams;’ if you build it, they will come.”

    Obegi added the next major steps for the program are finishing a bypass that will allow salmon to swim upstream in low water years and improved fish screens near smaller dams and water intakes.

    “We were starting from probably one of the most degraded states and yet it’s showing that in just a few years of work, we are seeing the river come back to life,” Obegi said.

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  • Work to start Monday on salmon habitat project

    October 7, 2019

    Red Bluff Daily News

    RED BLUFF — A salmon habitat project will get underway Monday just outside the city of Red Bluff.

    One of several such projects in the North State, the Rio Vista Side Channel Habitat Project will offer protection for juvenile salmonids, including endangered winter-run Chinook, according to a press release issued Tuesday by the Sacramento River Forum. A seasonal side channel will be excavated down an average of 5 feet to allow Sacramento River waters to flow year-round.

    The project is southwest of Rio Vista Estates and northeast of Agua Verdi Drive in Red Bluff.

    The side channel fish nursery is intended as refuge for juvenile salmonids before they migrate out to the ocean: providing protective cover, slower flows and sources of food. The project includes native riparian planting and other habitat features.

    Construction starts Monday, Oct. 7 and will take 4-6 weeks to complete, the release said.

    This is the second side channel project in Tehama County and fourth side channel project overall in four years to be completed as part of the Upper Sacramento River Anadromous Fish Habitat Restoration Program, funded by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

    Monitoring of constructed side channels to date indicates increased habitat complexity, as well as fish use that is comparable or better than naturally occurring control sites.

    An overview map of completed and proposed program sites is available at https://www.sacramentoriver.org/forum/index.php?id=gis.

    This project continues the work of improving spawning and rearing habitat for salmonids in the Sacramento River below Keswick Dam; and helps to meet the requirements of the Central Valley Project Improvement Act.

    To implement such projects, the Upper Sacramento River Anadromous Fish Habitat Restoration Program is comprised of a network of partnerships. It brings together the expertise, community connections, and implementation capacity of local, state and federal agency staff, nonprofit organizations, water districts, university faculty and graduate students, and support of willing private landowners.

    For more information about the project or the Upper Sacramento River Anadromous Fish Habitat Restoration Program and its partners, call Harmony Gugino at 529-7383 or write to harmony@sacriverforum.org

    For more information about the Sacramento Valley Salmon Recovery Program, call Cynde Davis at 934-8881 or write to cdavis@gcid.net.

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  • Fall salmon return to Coleman Hatchery; tribal concerns over Chinook population continue

    October 1, 2019

    ABC Sacramento by Courtney Kreider

    REDDING, Calif. — Thousands of fall-run salmon have returned to Battle Creek in Shasta County. The Coleman National Fish Hatchery opened the fish ladder Tuesday morning so the salmon will begin to flow into their holding ponds. However, local native American tribes are not exactly praising the return to the hatchery, saying the population is still at risk.

    The Coleman National Fish Hatchery will be spawning the salmon for the next four to six weeks and expect to produce 15 to 16 million fall Chinook salmon eggs.

    "We're expecting to make our production goals this year. We expect to get in enough adult salmon to produce 12 million small to release salmon in April of 2020. It's still early but there's a lot of fish out in Battle Creak so I'm encouraged," Project Leader Brett Galyean with Coleman said.

    Local Native American tribes are not exactly praising the return to the hatchery as they say the Chinook salmon population is diminishing and hatcheries are not the solution. Winnemem Wintu Tribal Chief, Caleen Sisk, said though thousands of salmon will return, the numbers of fall-run salmon do not compare to what they used to be.

    "They're like the farm fish. They are man-made. They are man-made fish. Our fish are in New Zealand that we want to bring back to the McCloud," Sisk added.

    The Winnemem Wintu Tribe finished their "Run4Salmon" over the weekend. This comes as Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed S.B. 1 on Friday, which would have allowed the state to preserve endangered species such as the winter and spring-run salmon and water-pumping restrictions for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. The tribe's fear is how the Trump administration will now move forward.

    Klamath-Trinity salmon runners join "Run4Salmon" after a 50 mile Trinity Connection Run, courtesy of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe.

    The tribe said projects that threaten the Sacramento River and San Francisco Bay Delta, including the Sites Reservoir, raising of Shasta Dam raise, President Trump's new Water Plan and others also pose a threat to other Northstate rivers such as the Trinity.

    Runners from across the state joined the tribe in a rally against the Shasta Dam raise at Shasta Dam after their run.

    “We are a salmon state and we should be a salmon state again. It is time for us to come together," Sisk said, who also organized the run. Despite Gov. Newsom's veto, Sisk said her tribe is not giving up on saving the Chinook population.

    According to Galyean, Coleman is in good relations with the local tribes as they work with the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Redding Rancheria to distribute salmon once spawning is finished as part of their subsistence and treaty rights.

    "We have very passionate stakeholders. Salmon are very important to a variety of stakeholders whether it is a spiritual connection or recreational," Galyean added.

    Coleman is the largest federal hatchery in California. The journey the salmon make to the Pacific and back to the hatchery is approximately 300 river miles.

    Read the article at the source »

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