GGSA Update for December 2016

Feather River - Oroville, CA


by GGSA Staff
12-17-2016

Anti-Salmon federal bill passed, GGSA working to deflect damage
 GGSA is working to defend Central Valley salmon based on the state's right to control its own waters and protect species listed under the California Endangered Species Act. This is in response to a recently passed federal bill calling for transfer of even more water from northern California to the western San Joaquin Valley and points south. The bill basically allows former Delta pumping restrictions to be violated and increased to the point where "protected" winter and spring run salmon can now be harmed just because Congress said so. The ag forces in the western San Joaquin Valley behind this salmon attack will undoubtedly fight back at the first instance of state law being used to enforce the old pumping restrictions. The outcome isn't certain, nor is it expected to be clear soon, but there's no way GGSA will stand by and allow a return to the heavy pumping levels that caused the ocean fishery shutdown of 2008 and 2009 without fighting back for your fishery.

Feather River Biop At Long Last
 Heated water dumping from the Thermalito Afterbay into the Feather River pollutes the river for salmon. GGSA provided input on new federal rules designed to fix this.

GGSA wasn't around ten years ago when the California Dept. of Water Resources tried to renew its license to run the Oroville Dam with weak salmon protections. It's taken the National Marine Fisheries Service since then to finally release updated rules governing operation of the dam on the Feather River intended to protect salmon and sturgeon. Maybe the delay was a good thing since it allowed GGSA to jump in and get better protections, something we've been working on almost from day one. Although they're stronger, they're not as strong as we would have hoped for. The biggest single problem for salmon on the Feather is water pollution, in the form of heat, dumped into the river at the Thermalito outlet. The new federal rules require this water pollution problem and others to be fixed or the state could lose its license to operate the dam.  GGSA intends to keep on the state to fix this long lasting problem that greatly limits the number of salmon in the Feather River.

First Ever Hatchery Release Criteria Released

After persistent GGSA advocacy, the California Dept of Fish and Wildlife has developed criteria dictating when to release hatchery fish at the hatchery and when to instead truck them to bay release sites. GGSA has long advocated that hatchery fish be trucked if river conditions during drought become lethal. The US Fish and Wildlife Service developed trucking criteria in 2014 following GGSA advocacy, now the state is doing the same on a hatchery by hatchery basis. CDFW says that for Nimbus hatchery on the American River, they'll regularly truck 33 percent of the production from now on unless criteria are met warranting trucking all.  This is a change from the 25 percent trucked prior.

Influential Group Calls for Scaled Down Delta Tunnel
This tunnel is 57.5' in diameter, a little bigger than the two 40' tunnels planned to deliver the Sacramento River, but you get the idea.

GGSA says a proposal from an influential policy group calling for a drastically scaled down Delta tunnel conveyance finally opens the door to a possible alternative. The Public Policy Institute of California, a group reportedly listened to by the governor's office, has called for replacement of the huge twin tunnels water diversion project with a smaller project.  The PPIC says a single tunnel would better serve the dual needs of protecting the environment while supplying water. GGSA says there's no doubt the existing way we move water across the Delta to the pumps kills untold millions of baby salmon annually and a better way that protects salmon could be designed. GGSA has long held that the State Water Resources Control Board must first conclude its determination of how much water needs to be left in the rivers and allowed to flow through the Delta and Bay to keep the Delta, Bay, and our native fish and wildlife from dying.  Only after these calculations are complete will we really know how much water in various types of precipitation years will be surplus and available for export. GGSA had a chance to get its views on this into Governor Brown's hometown paper in early December.

Low 2016 Ocean Salmon Catch
The 2016 season was very poor for commercial salmon fishermen.

Information presented by the state of California to the Pacific Fisheries Management Council indicate that about 36,000 salmon were taken in the California recreational ocean fishery in 2016. This is about 1,000 less than those taken in the 2015 sport fishery. The big hit came to the commercial salmon fishery where a paltry 55,000 salmon were taken. By comparison, in 2015 the commercial fleet took 110,000 salmon. The year before they took 175,000. The steep drop off in commercial catch was in part due to the severe closure the fleet experienced in July north of Pigeon Point in San Mateo County. July is usually a prime fishing month. In addition, preliminary low returns of adult salmon to the Klamath River is causing concern among fishery managers, especially for commercial fishing north of Pt. Arena.

GGSA Backs New Flood Control Approach

Floodwaters can provide habitat for salmon and birds while recharging underground aquifers.

GGSA has added its name to a growing group seeking a new approach to flood control that instead uses flood waters to grow salmon while recharging groundwater basins. Until now, flood control has centered on channeling flood waters to the ocean as quickly as possible. A more enlightened approach would instead allow flood water to spread out on shallow flood plains alongside river banks. Here they create rich, short lived salmon rearing habitat while simultaneously recharging underground aquifers. Recent state law requires flood control managers to consider this approach but until recently, they appeared reluctant to do so.

More Water For Salmon

GGSA executive director John McManus tells the State Water Board GGSA supports the proposal to increase flows for salmon.

GGSA and a group of allied salmon fishermen recently told the state water board they support  increasing flows in the Merced, Tuolumne and Stanislaus rivers. At a public meeting November 29, GGSA executive director John McManus told the board that river flows are illegally being over diverted at a great cost to the state's salmon runs and downstream ecosystems. The call for more water by salmon advocates countered the loud chorus opposed to the idea which is primarily coming from local agricultural interests. McManus also authored a widely read opinion piece in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat ahead of the meeting.

The proposal to increase flows on the San Joaquin tributaries is the first of several to come. If successful, the chances to get more salmon water elsewhere in the Central Valley and Delta go up. If we fail here our chances of success elsewhere go down. GGSA encourages all salmon fishermen and advocates to show up and tell the state board it's time to re-balance our water allocation system so salmon get a fair shake. If you can, attend one of the following and speak out for salmon.

Monday, December 19 - 9:00 a.m.
Multicultural Arts Center, 645 W. Main Street, Merced

Tuesday, December 20 - 9:00 a.m.
Modesto Centre Plaza, 1000 L Street, Modesto

Tuesday, January 3 - 9:00 a.m.
CalEPA Headquarters, 1001 I Street, Sacramento



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