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Restore habitat for salmon runs before it’s too late

Final summer time and fall the overwhelming majority of juvenile endangered Sacramento River winter run Chinook salmon had been killed by lethally sizzling river temperatures whereas a handful of agriculture operators acquired the lion’s share of accessible water. This was made potential by water guidelines established within the nineteenth century earlier than salmon frequently confronted threats from drought and overheated rivers.

Many Sacramento River fall run salmon – the spine of California’s billion-dollar salmon fishing trade – had been additionally misplaced to sizzling water. So too had been a big variety of threatened spring run salmon. A current announcement from the federal Bureau of Reclamation suggests a repeat of the fish kills is probably going once more this yr except we do one thing totally different.

One fast motion is to maneuver the salmon to colder water.

Central Valley salmon are at present restricted to the ten% of their historic habitat remaining under dams down on the Valley flooring. However that is the place the water is heating up. To take care of local weather change, regulatory companies should do every little thing they’ll to make the rivers downstream of the dams chilly sufficient for salmon to outlive. Additionally they want to offer all 4 Central Valley salmon runs entry to greater elevation habitat, above the dams in dependable cold-water reaches of river.

That ought to begin with returning winter run salmon to their native McCloud River – and to the Winnemem Wintu tribe. This reintroduction has been stalled for years.

On the Feather River, it means transferring past a deal agreed to fifteen years in the past however by no means applied. In 2007, the Feather River Habitat Enlargement Settlement was negotiated round a easy concept.

Reasonably than return spring run Chinook salmon – listed as a threatened species beneath the Endangered Species Act – to the higher Feather River, the Division of Water Assets and Pacific Gasoline and Electrical Co., which personal the dams on the Feather River, agreed to revive enough spring run habitat under the dams. Since DWR and PG&E failed at this, the Nationwide Marine Fisheries Service ought to use its authority to make the events transfer grownup salmon above the dams and lure and transfer their offspring again downstream.

This will’t occur quickly sufficient, on condition that the Nationwide Marine Fisheries Service is contemplating reclassifying spring run as endangered, as an alternative of threatened, as a result of mounting threats they face.

There are comparable profitable reintroduction fashions in Oregon and Washington for California to construct on. This strategy has been embraced by leaders of state and federal fish companies. After 15 years of stalling on the Feather River, it’s time to behave.

Different alternatives to permit salmon to develop their spawning habitat embrace the Eel River, the place PG&E’s undesirable salmon-blocking Scott Dam ought to come out.  The small, out of date dams on Battle Creek that PG&E owns, however not needs, ought to come out as properly, permitting pure spawning for a number of salmon runs on this cold-water creek.

On Putah Creek, a bypass channel is required to permit fish to swim round a small, salmon-killing dam. On the Yuba River, the U.S. Military Corps of Engineers ought to permit spring and fall run salmon to go Englebright Dam to achieve upstream habitat.

These efficient concepts to develop salmon habitat should not new, however they’ve been stalled or have been ignored for years. The well being of our salmon runs, our rivers and California’s salmon fishing trade requires us to get these gridlocked alternatives transferring to enhance salmon local weather resilience.

John McManus is president of the Golden State Salmon Affiliation.

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