[env-trinity] Article submission: Feds kill fall salmon eggs on Sacramento River

Dan Bacher danielbacher at fishsniffer.com
Sat Dec 14 12:05:51 PST 2013


Photo of de-watered "redds" - salmon nests - on the upper section of  
the Sacramento River, courtesy of the Golden Gate Salmon Association.


Feds kill fall salmon eggs on Sacramento River

by Dan Bacher

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is one of the biggest killers of  
salmon and salmon eggs in California every year - and this year is no  

The Obama administration has continued and expanded the Bush  
administration war on salmon and other fish, as evidenced by the  
Bureau's sharp cut in reservoir releases that has left the eggs of  
recently spawned fall-run Chinook salmon high and dry in the upper  
section of the Sacramento River from Redding to Chico.

The death of millions of salmon eggs has drawn sharp criticism from  
fishing groups, including the Golden Gate Salmon Association and  
California Sportfishing Protection Allliance.

Louis Moore, Bureau of Reclamation spokesman, responded to the news  
of the de-watering of salmon nests by claiming that "water must be  
stored in Shasta Lake to meet the needs of agriculture, industries  
and municipalities," according to the Chico News & Review.

“But no one is making an operational decision without regard” for  
salmon, he told the publication. That a great number of fish was  
lost “is really unfortunate. (http://www.newsreview.com/chico/feds- 

Representatives of fishing groups didn't buy the Bureau's claim that  
the agency didn't make a decision "without regard" for salmon,  
pointing to the Bureau's history of policies killing salmon and  
salmon eggs, including both those listed under the Endangered Species  
Act and those not listed.

According to a news release by the Golden Gate Salmon Association  
(GGSA), "As expected, an almost 35 percent reduction in water  
releases from Lake Shasta into the upper Sacramento River during the  
prime salmon spawning month of November has left many salmon nests,  
or redds, high and dry. This likely killed millions of incubating  
salmon eggs which is certain to hurt salmon returns in future years."

Reclamation reduced water releases into the upper Sacramento River  
from 6000 cubic feet per second (CFS) on November 1 to 3750 CFS on  
November 25, according to the GGSA. Many fall run salmon built redds,  
in October and early November in the shallows during higher water  
conditions. The river shrunk as reservoir releases dropped leaving  
some redds full of dead eggs.

GGSA worked with the Bureau of Reclamation and other parties  
throughout 2013 to avoid this. "In early September there was a  
general agreement to drop the higher flows on or about October 1 many  
fall run salmon begin spawning," said GGSA Executive Director John  
McManus. "This would allow the fall run to lay their eggs in a water  
level that could be easily maintained for three months when the eggs  
hatch and the baby salmon emerge from the gravel."

"However, several federally protected winter run salmon spawned later  
than normal in August," McManus said. "The US Fish and Wildlife  
Service, in conjunction with the National Marine Fisheries Service,  
concluded high water must be maintained into early November to  
protect the winter run eggs. This decision was made knowing that  
reducing reservoir releases in November would kill at least some of  
the later spawning fall run offspring. Shrinking the river in  
November may have also caused loss of juvenile salmon stranded in  
isolated pools disconnected from the river."

Big drops in November water releases are believed to have cost 15  
percent of last year’s fall run eggs and 23 percent from the year  
before, McManus said. State fishery biologists believe that up to 40  
percent of the egg's of this year's fall run fish eggs have been killed.

This carnage took place after a spring when over half of the winter- 
run chinook salmon perished in canals and drainage ditches in the  
Sacramento Valley and after a summer when the Department of Water  
Resources and Reclamation released massive quantities of water down  
Central Valley rivers to export to corporate agribusiness, developers  
and oil companies.

“Once salmon have laid their eggs in the river, it’s up to water  
managers to keep them safely under water until they hatch,” noted  
McManus. “After all, humans control the amount of water released  
from upstream reservoirs. Killing the offspring of naturally spawning  
salmon is what you don’t want to do if your goal is to reduce  
reliance on hatchery fish and rebuild wild runs. It’s hard to  
rebuild natural runs when water releases are managed this way.”

The GGSA called on the Bureau of Reclamation to expand its current  
year-ahead water planning to account for the needs of all Sacramento  
River salmon, both ESA listed and non-listed runs.

"The Bureau needs to provide adequate flows for fall run salmon  
spawning, incubation and emergence and for water released in the  
spring needed to flush juvenile salmon out of the river and delta  
system," McManus noted. "Conditions are different every year and GGSA  
will be working in 2014 to protect next year’s spawn."

The recent killing of salmon eggs takes place as the Obama  
administration continues and expands some of the worst environmental  
policies of the Bush administration, just as Governor Jerry Brown  
continues and expands some of the worst environmental policies of the  
Schwarzenegger administation.

The Obama administration's horrible environmental policies including  
exporting record amounts of water out of the Delta in 2011, killing  
record numbers of Sacramento splittail at the Delta pumping  
facilities in 2011, backing the construction of two massive fish- 
killing tunnels under the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, promoting the  
privatization of fisheries through the "catch shares" program, and  
fast-tracking the approval of genetically engineered salmon for human  
consumption. (http://www.sacbee.com/2013/01/23/5135045/obama- 

Many fish populations have collapsed to record low levels in the past  
few years, due to massive export of Delta water to corporate  
agribusiness, developers and oil companies under the Obama and Brown  

The most recent salmon egg and fish carnage occurs as part of a long  
history of water exports and poor water management by the state and  
federal water agencies. Since the State Water Project began exporting  
water in 1967, water exports have increased by more than 60%; outflow  
to the Bay has declined by more than 40%, according to Bill Jennings,  
Executive Director of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance  

"Since 1967, the flow and water quality standards protecting the  
Delta – inflow, outflow, export ratios, salinity - have been  
violated hundreds of times, without a single enforcement action  
taken. Likewise, water rights, area of origin and watershed  
protection statutes have been ignored," said Jennings at a press  
conference against the Bay Delta Conservation Plan to build the  
peripheral tunnels on Monday, December 9.

And since 1967, Delta fisheries have collapsed. "Populations of Delta  
smelt are down 98.9%, striped bass 99.6%, longfin smelt 99.7%,  
American shad 89.1%, threadfin shad 98.1% and splittail down 99.4%,"  
he disclosed.

Anadromous fisheries have experienced similar declines. For example,  
steelhead and winter-run salmon are down 91.7% and 95.5%,  
respectively, Jennings noted.

"And now, the architects that orchestrated this catastrophe propose  
to divert more water around an estuary already hemorrhaging from lack  
of flow. Moreover, they want to build the tunnels now and decide how  
to operate them later. This is a death sentence for the estuary,"  
Jennings concluded.

For more information, contact the Golden Gate Salmon Association,  
http://www.goldengatesalmonassociation.org, and California  
Sportfishing Protection Alliance, http://www.calsport.org.

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