MEDIA REPORTS SALMON NEAR RECORDS DESPITE DROUGHT
GROWING THE FISH POPULATION WITHOUT DESTROYING AGRICULTURE AND RURAL CALIFORNIA
For the past several years, the Lake Tuloch Alliance has provided citizens with real facts about California Water Board decisions that damaging our rural communities and agriculture. Now after going through the drought and a wet winter last year, some facts are coming into view.
First -- the Salmon are doing fine and one of the big contributors to their growth are hatcheries releasing millions of fish, not dozens which was the case the Governor Brown Water Board policies of pushing "native fish" into the lower waters.
Second, despite the drought the salmon are doing just fine. Assemblyman Adam Gray told LTA:
The LTA is pleased to provide you with these two interesting pieces.
"A Central Valley river is on its way to a record high salmon run and these fish migrated as smolts (young salmon) during the worst of the droughts and the lowest of flows. In fact, scientists now have studies showing that too much water flow can actually harm salmon migration. This shows that measures other than flows have a tremendous impact on increasing salmon populations. These findings contradicts the State Water Resources Revised SED and any rational reason for their plans to increase unimpaired flows.
Study: Salmon don’t want too much water
By the Modesto Bee Editorial Board
January 19, 2017 04:52 PM
Salmon don’t read memos or get emails from the state Department of Water Resources, nor do they consult U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service instruction manuals. So how can they possibly know when it’s time to spawn?
Over hundreds of thousands of years, salmon have learned to “read” signals that nature provides and only they truly understand. Those signals tell them when it’s time to swim upstream.
A group of FishBio scientists working on the Stanislaus River have crunched 11 years of meticulously kept data to better understand those signals. FishBio concluded that, using “adaptive management” techniques, government regulators often sent the wrong signals. In fact, their efforts were sometimes counterproductive in helping salmon populations recover.
Why? Because more water does not equal more fish.
In a peer-reviewed study published this week, FishBio looked at river conditions and flows from October through December, when the most salmon were moving up the Stanislaus River. The scientists caution against jumping to conclusions, but they say the state frequently releases too much water.
Optimum flows to entice salmon to spawn are around 700 cubic feet per second, says the study. That’s roughly 5,100 gallons per second; a lot of water. But it’s far, far less than what the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which operates New Melones Dam, usually releases. In 2010, the bureau released at least three times that much for 14 straight days – exceeding 10,000 cfs (15 times the optimum) for three days.
How much water is that? About 4.4 million gallons in a minute, enough in three hours to flood Oakdale 3 feet deep. Over the course of these “spike” flows, the bureau usually sent some 25,000 acre-feet of clear water to attract salmon that often never came.
“If you hold (flows) up for more than a day or two, it’s not providing any benefit,” said FishBio’s Andrea Fuller, one of the authors with FishBio partner Doug Demko and staffer Matthew Peterson. “If we didn’t have the dams in place, we’d have a very flashy system – the flows would spike up to a high degree, then recede quickly. The volume of water we’re putting down in October wouldn’t have happened in even the wettest years.”
Does this mess with the salmon’s internal signals? “Big time,” Fuller said.
“What led to the study, (the bureau) started doing these (adaptive management) releases in the 1990s and there was an agreement that there would be an assessment to see how well they worked,” Fuller said. “But that was never done. We were left asking, ‘How did you come up with the volumes of water you think is needed?’
“This finally gives us a study to see how the fish are responding.”
Those who still cling to the writ of “more water equals more fish” will dispute FishBio’s studies. But the prestigious North American Journal of Fisheries Management subjected it to review by three scientists not associated with FishBio. It’s solid.
The study doesn’t directly address the State Water Resources Control Board’s ongoing efforts to double the amount of water dedicated to environmental purposes on the Stanislaus, Merced and Tuolumne rivers. But it does argue that the state’s “adaptive management” assumptions should be subjected to close scrutiny. It should also convince the Bureau of Reclamation to reduce the water it releases each fall, meaning more would be left behind the dam in April and early May when juvenile salmon are trying to exit the river.
FishBio’s study contains some very important signals. Not for the salmon, but for state and federal scientists. They should reconsider their positions and base their demands on the facts they find on our rivers – not disputable dogma.
Fish-friendly measures steer Central Valley salmon run near record
By Denis Cuff | firstname.lastname@example.org | Bay Area News Group
PUBLISHED: November 17, 2017 at 11:35 am | UPDATED: November 18, 2017 at 8:49 am
EAST OF LODI — Salmon populations in a Central Valley river are on track for record highs after years of suffering through drought, thanks to some clever human intervention.
The new fish-friendly efforts by the state and an East Bay water district may shed light on how to increase California’s struggling salmon runs. Salmon suffered in the drought from 2011 to 2015 due to shriveled river flows, higher water temperatures and disrupted food supplies.
But salmon hatched in the drought three years ago are returning this fall to the Mokelumne River — the water supply for the East Bay Municipal Utility District — in big numbers.
“The salmon are doing great on the Mokelumne River fall run, while it’s a mixed bag at the hatcheries on other rivers” said Peter Tira, a spokesman for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. “They are doing some innovative things at the hatchery and it seems to be paying off.”
East Bay water officials said they believe a combination of new measures is producing more fish for the Mokelumne River’s fall salmon run, which supplies an estimated 10 to 15 percent of the California salmon caught in the ocean.
“The fish are jumping and doing somersaults to get into the hatchery this fall. You see hundreds churning the water,” Tracie Morales, an EBMUD spokeswoman, said of the hatchery at Camanche Reservoir
The healthier the salmon runs, the less chance environmental regulators will order EBMUD to give up more drinking water to protect fish — a common fear among California water suppliers.
More than 15,200 adult salmon have swum into the Upper Mokelumne River since early October, on pace to break an all-time record of 18,000 returning adults in 2011, the water district reported. The run may last weeks longer.
To help baby salmon, the water district and its partners have transported many hatchery fish by barge to San Francisco Bay in three of the last four years. This intervention gets the young fish past the predators, confusing flows and fish-chomping water pumps in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, the major confluence of California rivers.
“The big challenge for these young fish is getting past the Delta,” said Jose Setka, EBMUD’s manager of fisheries and wildlife. “They get a ride on a barge with circulating water. The results of the tests are very encouraging.”
Some state hatcheries shipped fish by barge past the Delta during the drought, but none are doing it this year, Tira said.
In the past few years, EBMUD has released more extra water from its dams into the Mokelumne in early fall in pulse flows to attract returning salmon to their home river rather than straying to rivers elsewhere.
Cold water from the Mokelumne signals the salmon to come home to spawn before dying as 3-year-old fish. Mokelumne River fish also have benefited from a state water operations change that helps fish from other rivers as well.
The state Department of Water Resources this fall has closed the Delta Cross Channel Gates — a barrier near Walnut Grove — more frequently to steer migrating salmon home instead of getting lost in the Delta. The gates were closed on all weekdays in early fall, opening on weekends to accommodate boaters.
EBMUD and state fishery officials also have worked together to attach coded wire tags to many young fish to track survival rates and the effectiveness of measures to help them.
Changing fish chow also may have helped them survive. In the week before young hatchery fish are released to swim to the ocean, East Bay water and the state switched them to saltier food to prepare them for life in seawater rather than freshwater.
“Making the adjustment to the ocean is very stressful for the fish,” Setka said. “Increasing the salt content in their food kick-starts this process and makes the transition easier.”
And when it trucks some hatchery fish to the Delta, EBMUD has changed up the fish release days to avoid being so predictable that predator fish know when to camp out to gobble up the tasty baby fish.
The salmon relief measures have been planned by the water district in collaboration with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, which operates the Mokelumne River hatchery, federal regulators and other groups and organizations.
The head of the Golden Gate Salmon Association praised EBMUD and the state operators of the Mokelumne River hatchery for innovation to help salmon.
“The Mokelumne hatchery is leading the way in the 21st century salmon hatchery techniques with higher survival than other salmon hatcheries in the Central Valley,” said John McManus, the association’s executive director.
While the success of the Mokelumne River hatchery is partly due to its location closer to the ocean than other hatcheries, McManus said, “some of it has to do with the progressive hatchery practices, and alertness to lessons learned.”
EBMUD, like many water agencies, was required to build a hatchery to offset the environmental damage caused by its dams flooding or cutting off access to miles of productive spawning gravels in the Sierra foothills.