[env-trinity] American River fish hatcheries evacuated as water is mismanaged
danielbacher at fishsniffer.com
Thu Jul 3 09:54:53 PDT 2014
Photo of Nimbus Fish Hatchery weir on the American River by Dan Bacher.
American River fish hatcheries evacuated as water is mismanaged
by Dan Bacher
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) evacuated 1
million rainbow trout from the American River Fish Hatchery and nearly
430,000 fingerling steelhead from Nimbus Fish Hatchery in Rancho
Cordova by June 30.
This was due to concerns that the cold water pool in Folsom Lake that
keeps the water cold in the American River that supplies the water for
both hatcheries will become depleted, resulting in lethally warm water
conditions in the hatcheries.
The evacuation of the hatcheries and the depletion of the cold water
water takes place after 2013, a record drought year when the Bureau of
Reclamation drained Folsom Lake to a record low level, 17 percent of
capacity and 32 percent of average, in order to export water to
corporate agribusiness interests, oil companies conducting fracking
and steam injection operations in Kern County, and Southern California
The impact of the plants was obvious on my recent trips to Silver and
Caples Lakes. Both lakes were planted with big loads of rainbows by
the American River Fish Hatchery - and boat and bank anglers were
catching lots of rainbows on a variety of lures and baits. Anglers
fishing lakes and streams throughout the region planted by this
hatchery are seeing a similar boost in fishing success.
While these plants will produce an immediate upswing in fishing at
many lakes and streams, it means that fish won’t be planted later in
the summer as they normally are at many waters.
The impact on steelhead should also result in less adult fish
returning to Nimbus Fish Hatchery in coming years, since the survival
rate of the smaller fish is expected to less than when they are
planted at a larger size in February.
Of course, the depletion of the cold water pool in Folsom will also
result in potentially lethal warm waters in the lower American when
the fall run of Chinooks arrives this fall.
Before the steelhead and rainbow trout were released, a CDFW news
release explained, ““With extreme drought conditions reducing the cold
water supply available, California Department of Fish and Wildlife
(CDFW) are moving the last rainbow trout out of the American River
Hatchery to avoid future losses of young fish to rising water
CDFW biologists predict that by mid-summer the temperature of the
water entering the hatchery will exceed tolerable temperatures for the
growing fish, causing extensive -- if not total -- loss of all fish in
the two hatcheries. The fall run Chinook salmon were already delivered
by truck to acclimation pens and then released into San Pablo Bay this
spring, while the steelhead yearlings from adult fish spawned in the
winter of 2012-2013 were released into the Sacramento and lower
American rivers in February.
“We are taking proactive actions to avoid catastrophic fish losses,”
said Dr. William Cox, CDFW State Hatchery Program Manager. “It is an
unavoidable change, and we need to look for unique opportunities to
avert major losses. We will track all changes involved in the
evacuation and evaluate how fish react to being released early.
Ultimately we could develop new release strategies based on what we
American River Hatchery operations focus on taking rainbow trout eggs,
while Nimbus Hatchery takes both salmon and steelhead eggs. Cox noted,
“This will be the first time all stocks of fish at both hatcheries
have been evacuated.”
The nearly 430,000 fingerling steelhead from Nimbus Hatchery into the
American River were released six months ahead of the normal February
The remaining 20 state-managed hatcheries are expected to make it
through the summer months and into the winter season without having to
evacuate fish, according to Cox.
Normally CDFW would call on the Bureau of Reclamation to draft water
from what is known as the “Deep Water Pool,” in the depths of Folsom
Lake. The transfer of cold late water helps to keep hatchery waters
“However, this year, the length and intensity of the drought is so
extensive that little, if any water, in the lake is expected to be
cool enough to utilize during sizzling summer months. CDFW predicts
water temperatures will exceed 78 degrees in the hatcheries – far too
warm for the young trout and salmon to survive,” Cox stated.
Throughout the fall and winter CDFW workers mark hundreds of thousands
of steelhead trout at Nimbus Hatchery. Unique markings will enable
biologists to evaluate what happens to the fish throughout their life
cycle and how the drought conditions will ultimately affect each type
“Fall and winter rains, if received in sufficient amounts, will cool
water temperatures enough to allow both hatcheries to come back online
and resume operations,” according to the Department.
However, the Department failed to mention that the reason for the
depletion of the cold water pool in Folsom is largely due to the poor
government management of our water resources in a drought. If the
water had been better managed, there would undoubtedly have been more
carryover storage in Folsom to maintain a cold water pool this year.
Last summer, high water releases down the Sacramento, Feather and
American rivers left Shasta, Oroville and Folsom reservoirs at
dangerously low levels. By January 2014, Shasta was at 36 percent of
capacity and 53 percent of average; Oroville, 36 percent of capacity
and 54 percent of average; and Folsom, 17 percent of capacity and 32
percent of average. (http://cdec.water.ca.gov/cgi-progs/reservoirs/RES)
Yet Pyramid Lake in Los Angeles County was at the same time 96 percent
of capacity and 101 percent of average, while Castaic Reservoir was 86
percent of capacity and 102 percent of average. Both are State Water
Project reservoirs that receive their water from the Delta through the
The state and federal water agencies exported massive quantities of
water to agribusiness interests and Southern California water
agencies, endangering local water supplies and fish populations as the
ecosystem continues to collapse. (http://www.sacbee.com/2014/01/22/6090426/northern-california-reservoirs.html
Bill Jennings, Executive Director of the California Sportfishing
Protection Alliance, explained how the Department of Water Resources
and Bureau of Reclamation systematically mismanaged our water
resources, exporting 835,000 acre-feet more water than they said they
would be able to deliver.
“We entered 2013 with Shasta, Oroville and Folsom reservoirs at 115
percent, 113 percent, and 121 percent of historical average storage.
In April, they were still at 101 percent, 108 percent and 96 percent
of average," said Jennings.
"With no rainfall and little snowpack, the Department of Water
Resources and the Bureau (of Reclamation) notified their contractors
that water deliveries would be reduced. But they didn’t reduce
deliveries. Instead, they actually exported 835,000 acre-feet more
water than they said they would be able to deliver," said Jennings. (http://www.sacbee.com/2014/01/26/6097073/viewpoints-better-solutions-for.html
Ironically, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California
will have enough water in 2014, 2015 and 2016 to supply its users
while Sacramento, Folsom and other cities have been forced to cut
water use by 20 percent.
“We’ll have plenty of water in 2015,” Jeffrey Kightlinger,
Metropolitan’s general manager, told the Sacramento Bee. “And even if
it’s still a drought, we’ll still have enough water in 2016." (http://www.sacbee.com/2014/01/12/6063205/california-drought-will-test-jerry.html#storylink
Jennings said the present crisis could have been avoided, and is a
"direct result of egregious mismanagement of the state’s water supply
system by the state and federal water projects."
"Excessive water exports and the failure to prepare for inevitable
drought have created a decades-long disaster for fisheries, and placed
the people and economic prosperity of northern California at grave
risk. The State's obsession with tunneling under the Delta does
nothing to address drought, or put us on a path to correct the misuse
of limited water supplies," he added.
For more information, go to: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/02/07/1275862/-The-Emptying-of-Northern-California-Reservoirs
Folsom is now holding 482,133 acre-feet of water, 49 percent of
capacity and 59 percent of average. The current water level is 414.25
feet, 51.75 feet from full.
Yet the Bureau of Reclamation is mismanaging the water in Folsom this
year also. Reclamation is currently releasing 2500 cfs into the
American River from Nimbus Dam, rapidly resulting in the depletion of
what's left of the cold water pool. (http://cdec.water.ca.gov/cgi-progs/stages/PAGE1
When fall run Chinook salmon arrive in the American this fall, they
will be "greeted" with low, warm, potentially lethal water conditions.
We can only hope that we get early fall rains to cool down the water
and put more water in the American River watershed.
As the mismanagement of water resources by the state and federal
government proceeds, the Brown administration continues its rush to
build the peripheral tunnels under the Bay Delta Conservation Plan
(BDCP). The construction of the twin tunnels will hasten the
extinction of Central Valley steelhead, Sacramento River Chinook
salmon, Delta and longfin smelt and green sturgeon, as well as
imperiling the salmon and steelhead populations of the Trinity and
Rather than supporting the environmentally destructive peripheral
tunnels plan, the state and federal governments should embrace the
Environmental Water Caucus Responsible Exports Plan that sets an
annual cap on water exports of 3 million acre feet, preventing the
draining of Folsom and other reservoirs and imperiling struggling
salmon and steelhead populations. (http://www.restorethedelta.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/RESPONSIBLE-EXPORTS-PLAN-MAY-2013.pdf
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