dwr_leaping_salmon.jpg dwr_leaping_salmon.jpg Sacramento River Fall Salmon Run Reaches New Record Low  by Dan Bacher  The Pacific Fisheries Management Council (PFMC), a quasi-governmental body that manages West Coast fisheries, on February 11 released alarming numbers showing that California’s once most abundant salmon run collapsed to an all-time record low in 2009.  The Council reported that an estimated total of only 39,530 natural and hatchery Sacramento River Fall Chinook (SRFC) adults returned to the Sacramento River basin to spawn in 2009.  "The 2009 adult escapement estimate is the lowest on record and continues the declining trend in SRFC escapement despite the 2008 and 2009 closures of nearly all ocean Chinook fisheries south of Cape Falcon," according to the PFMC report.  Fall Chinook returns to Sacramento River hatcheries totaled 17,435 adults, while 22,095 adults spawned in natural areas.  In 2008, a record low of only 66,000 fall-run fish returned to the Sacramento, American, Feather and Yuba and other Sacramento Valley rivers. The minimum escapement for long term sustainability of these fish is 122,000.  State and federal biologists had predicted that 122,196 fish would return to the Sacramento in 2009, so the actual returns were less than one-third of the number forecasted. The Sacramento run, the driver of West Coast salmon fisheries, numbered nearly 800,000 fish in 2002. "This year's Sacramento River fall Chinook adult return is a terrible disappointment," said Neil Manji, DFG Fisheries Branch Chief. "Over the past two years, DFG has collected and analyzed data and worked diligently to figure out what steps can be taken to improve our stock management, increase future returns and help craft fishing regulation packages."  The number of returning fall run "jacks" and "jills" (2-year-old fish), 9216, were also lower than anticipated. "The initial jack returns looked favorable, but the final returns were very disappointing," said Dick Pool, administrator of water4fish.org.  Ocean salmon fishing seasons are based on the return of adult and jack salmon to the rivers - and it's very doubtful that there will be a season this year, based on the low numbers of spawning fish in fall 2009. "There's not going to be any season this year from these numbers," said Zeke Grader, executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations..  Federally protected runs of winter and spring run chinook both came in at less than 5,000 individuals each, according to the PFMC. Spawner escapement of endangered winter Chinook salmon in 2009 was estimated to be 4,483 adults and  54 jacks, while the escapement of spring Chinook 2009 totaled 4,506 fish (jacks and adults).  The San Joaquin River is in particularly bad shape, with just under 2,100 fall Chinook salmon representing perhaps the last of their race in that watershed.  “Salmon have been part of California for thousands of years and this report shows we’re losing them,” said Zeke Grader, executive director of the PCFFA. “If we wipe our salmon out, we’ll also be wiping out generations of fishing families from the central California coast to northern Oregon that have all relied on king salmon from the Sacramento River to make a living."  He asked, "Why are San Joaquin agricultural operators selling their water to southern California developers and then demanding more water from the Delta?”  The last three years of salmon returns have each set new record lows and coincide directly with three of the highest years of Delta water diversions, according to Grader. Delta pumping kills juvenile salmon migrating through the Delta to the sea. It takes three years for surviving salmon to return as adults and for scientists to record the full destruction caused by the pumps.  “We’re watching our salmon disappear in exact concert with a 16 percent increase of Delta water diversions over the last decade,” said Dick Pool, administrator of water4fish.org. “The full throttle pumping of Delta waters is wiping out valuable salmon worth over a billion dollars to the commercial and sport fishing sectors.”  Pool noted that with near-record export pumping in the spring, it is no surprised that millions of salmon smolts were pulled through the Delta Cross Channel Gates and Georgiana Slough into the Central Delta.  "There is no cover, little food and lots of predators in these rip-rapped channels and most of the fish are gone by the time the water makes it to Clifton Court Forebay," said Pool. "Between river and Delta losses, 92 percent of the smolts perish. With only 8 percent surviving, we will never recover these species until the Delta is fixed."  Pool said that salmon runs and many other fish species in the Delta collapsed in 2007 after a dramatic increase in pumping of water to points south. As a result, regulators closed all ocean fishing of chinook salmon in California and most of Oregon in 2008 and 2009, with the exception of a 10 week season for chinook off northern California and southern Oregon in 2009, to save the remaining salmon. Although the seasons were closed, the collapse had nothing to do with recreational or commercial fishing pressure.  The Central Valley fall chinook run typically provides 90 percent of all king salmon harvested off California and 60 percent of all king salmon harvested off Oregon in both sport and commercial fisheries.  Healthy Salmon Populations Create Thousands of Jobs  Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, agribusiness "Astroturf" groups including the Latino Water Coalition and Coalition for a Sustainable Delta and right wing talk show hosts such as Sean Hannity have falsely portrayed the battle to restore salmon and other fish by curbing Delta exports as a conflict over "fish versus jobs."  The truth is that massive increases in water exports to corporate agribusiness have led to massive job losses in the fishing industry and related businesses. The real conflict is one of "people versus corporate agribusiness profits," not "fish versus jobs."  "Southwick Associates have estimated that the season closures have cost an estimated 23,000 jobs and $2.8 billion in the California economy alone," said Pool. "California has over 2,000 small and medium businesses that derive most or all of their income from the recreational and commercial salmon industry."  These businesses include 1,200 commercial boats, 11 manufacturers, seven wholesalers, 904 retailers, 230 guides and charter boats, 74 marinas and hundreds of boat dealers and marine parts and service centers. Oregon has also faced similarly devastating losses.  "Behind those statistics lies enormous suffering by families along one thousand miles of Pacific Coast," said Grader. "Boats are tied up on docks, marina businesses have closed, homes have been lost to foreclosure. West Coast restaurants that once featured locally caught salmon are increasingly turning to imported fish as local harvests decline."  In contrast, agricultural employment in the seven county area impacted by new pumping restrictions intended to protect fish was actually up between 2008 and 2009, and the California almond industry had record shipments of 1.39 billion pounds in 2008-2009, up 10 percent over 2007-2008. "Over the same period, the Oregon and California salmon industries experienced near total shutdown," stated Grader.  On average, San Joaquin Valley agricultural contractors received 80 percent of their contract allocations last year, although there were some localized shortages primarily due to drought. In comparison, average Westside deliveries in the past two decades have been about 60 percent of full allocations.  The "Astroturf" campaign by corporate agribusiness to increase Delta exports, build a peripheral canal and construct more dams has promoted the myth that crops grown on toxic, drainage-impaired land on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley "feed the nation" or "feed the world."  The corporate media, right wing talk show hosts and even some "alternative" media outlets have bought into this myth in their coverage of the California water wars, portraying the conflict as one between hard-working farmers like those portrayed in the classic Grant Wood painting who only want "feed America" versus "radical environmentalists" who want to protect a "minnow" like the Delta smelt.  An examination of the actual economic data compiled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reveals that there is no basis in fact for the contention that west side farmers are the "backbone" of American agriculture. According to a USDA Chart, US gross farm income in 2008 was around $375 billion.  Westlands Water District produces $1 billion annually in gross farm income, according to articles by Mark Grossi, Fresno Bee reporter, on November 7, 2009, and Garance Burke, Associated Press writer, on July 31.  "That means Westlands' contribution to the nation's food supply (and exports) is about a quarter of a percent," said Lloyd Carter, veteran investigative journalist. When subsidies and the cost to the taxpayers of cleaning up Westlands' toxic drainage are figured in, the contribution of the district to the national agricultural economy is even lower.  Feinstein Declares War on Salmon and Jobs  As corporate agribusiness continues to promote its "Big Lies" about "fish versus jobs" and "feeding America" in order to stop Central Valley salmon and Delta fish restoration, fishing groups say the key issue in the salmon collapse has been the "reckless" 16 percent increase in delta pumping over the last decade above levels of the 1990s under the Schwarzenegger administration.  It is ironic that as the salmon return numbers were released by the federal government, Senator Dianne Feinstein, announced an "emergency" move "to provide more water to farms and avert further economic catastrophe in San Joaquin Valley" by stripping protections for salmon and Delta smelt.  "I am working to develop an Emergency Temporary Water Supply amendment that will simply allow San Joaquin Valley farmers to plant, hire and harvest for two years by giving them between 38-40 percent of their water allocation totals in a normal water year," said Feinstein. "Over the last few years, 400,000 acres of farmland have been fallowed, permanent crops uprooted, and tens of thousands of people are unemployed. The situation is untenable," concluded Feinstein.  The increased pumping from the Delta advocated by Feinstein and her faithful campaign contributor, agribusiness giant Stewart Resnick of Paramount Farms, "would indeed finish off a number of native species, help to further destroy the commercial salmon fishing industry in California, and significantly worsen water quality for Delta farmers," according to Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, campaign director of Restore the Delta  Please call Senator Feinstein's staff at the San Francisco Office and let them know that they need to defend the Endangered Species Act for the fisheries and people of the Delta, as well as the majority of Californians who support strong protection of our state's natural resources.The number is (415) 393-0707.  As Feinstein was waging her war on salmon, four groups on February 8 launched litigation challenging the back door renewal of water contracts by the Westlands Water District. The North Coast Rivers Alliance, Winnemem Wintu (McCloud River) Tribe, Friends of the River and Save the American River Association filed suit in Fresno Superior Court demanding "full public disclosure" of the impacts of Westlands' contract renewals with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation upon Central Valley salmon, Delta smelt and migratory birds. The groups charge that Westlands is trying to "lock up" over a million acre feet of water a year in exports from the Sacramento San Joaquin River Delta.  “The Winnemem Wintu, a traditional people of California, see the folly of the government’s plans relative to the Delta and pray for people of reason to wake up and help protect the estuary from over pumping and the damage these plans will wreak upon the water and resources of this state,” said Mark Franco, Headman of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe. “Water is the lifeblood of our people and we stand ready to protect it with our colleagues across California’s social justice movement. This rash plan will only serve a few people and will impact the rights of our future generations.”  The report of the Pacific Fishery Management Council report is available at http://www.pcouncil.org/salmon/salsafe09/salsafe09.html  For more information, call Zeke Grader, PCFFA, 415-606-5140, or Dick Pool, Water4Fish, 925-963-6350.
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Mendocino County Asks for More Local Representation on MLPA Panel  by Dan Bacher  The Mendocino County of Supervisors has told state officials overseeing Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's controversial Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative that more representation of the diverse interests found in the county is needed on the Regional Stakeholder Group (RSG).  "We are concerned that the slate of RSG appointees for Mendocino County does not adequately represent the diverse interests of our county," said Carre Brown, chair of the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors, in a February 9 letter to California Department of Fish and Game Director John McCamman and MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force Chair Cindy Gustafson.  "The appointment of additional stakeholders, representing critical interests which currently appear underrepresented or completely omitted, will ensure that a more comprehensive cross-section of our community is able to participate in this process. This enhanced diversity will ultimately lead to a better final product," Brown stated.  Brown pointed out that the RSG appointments for Mendocino County now include 3 educators, 3 tribal representatives, 1 ornithologist, 1 commercial fisherman, and 3 individuals with experience in seaweed harvesting, sea urchin diving and processing, and recreational fishing.  The stakeholder group will work with a blue ribbon task force, science advisory team, and MLPA staff "to help California improve the design and management of the north coast portion of a statewide network of marine protected areas," according to Annie Reisewitz from the MLPA Initiative.  Brown charged that the southern portion of the County "has no representation." She urged McCamman and Gustafson to appoint RSG nominees, Mike Carpenter and Bruce Campbell, both of Albion, since they "have met or exceeded the RSG selection criteria."  She also criticized the lack of commercial fishing representatives from Mendocino County. After receiving many letters from local residents, the MLPA staff finally appointed Jim Bassler, a commercial fisherman from Fort Bragg, to the panel on February 6.  "Even with the MLPAI's recent nomination of Jim Bassler, there is limited Mendocino County representation for commercial crab, salmon, and nearshore permit holders," said Brown. "Stakeholders with this unique background have invaluable knowledge regarding seasonal trends in fish and invertebrate populations (abundance and distribution), and rare oceanic events typically experienced only by individuals actively working in the commercial sector."  She urged the two officials to appoint RSG nominee Tom Estes, a commercial groundfish and large boat crab fisherman, to fill this gap in representation.  Finally, Brown noted that Del Norte and Humboldt County Harbor District are represented on the RSG, while Mendocino County's Noyo Harbor District is inexplicably not.  "This representation on the RSG could be attained through the appointment of Jim Burns, Noyo Harbor Commissioner, or a similar delegate," she said.  The Fort Bragg City Council on February 10 also sent a letter to Gustafson and McCamman requesting them to appoint a member of the RSG from the Albion area. "Four persons from that port followed the nomination process set out by the MLPAI, and all were passed over," wrote Doug Hammerstrom, Mayor, Dave Turner, Vice Mayor, Meg Courtney, Council Member, Dan Gjerde, Council Member, and Jere Melo, Council Member.  The Council disputed the MLPA staff's claims that the process is "open and transparent," when they believe the process is in fact plagued with a lack of transparency and bias.  "The MLPAI staff has repeatedly praised the process as being public and open," the letter stated. "Yet there are many deviations from the announced process. For the North Coast RSG, a specific process with deadlines was established for nominatinos, interviews and appointments."  The Council emphasized that this process was not used in the appointment of some RSG members, pointing to "a lack of transparency and bias that undermines the integrity of the entire MLPA."  "This is a very serious problem," they concluded, "and the MLPAI will continue to suffer from a lack of public trust until a truly open and public process that considers local communities is imposed."  The stakeholder group currently includes total of 32 residents of Del Norte, Humboldt and Mendocino counties within the MLPA North Coast Study Region, which encompasses state waters from the California-Oregon border to Alder Creek near Point Arena in Mendocino County. The first meeting of the stakeholder group was held in Eureka on February 7 and 8.  North Coast environmentalists, fishermen, Indian Tribes and seaweed harvesters have strongly criticized the MLPA process for being rife with conflicts of interests, mission creep and corruption of the democratic process. Many believe that Schwarzenegger and his collaborators are using the MLPA Initiative to remove tribal seaweed gatherers, recreational anglers, commercial seaweed harvesters and commercial fishermen, the greatest advocates for the preservation and restoration of ocean fisheries, to clear a path for offshore oil rigs, wave energy projects and corporate aquaculture.  The MPLA, a state law passed in 1999 with support from a broad coalition of environmentalists and fishermen, has under Schwarzeneggger become a surrealistic parody of marine "protection," with oil industry, real estate, marina development and other corporate interests overseeing the process, critics of the initiative charge.
A federal judge in Fresno on February 10 turned down a request by water contractors  for a temporary restraining order on Delta pumping restrictions necessary to protect Delta smelt.  Photo of Delta smelt courtesy of Department of Water Resources.
Judge Upholds Pumping Limits to Protect Delta Smelt  Wanger Denies TRO Request by Westlands  by Dan Bacher  Federal Judge Oliver Wanger on Wednesday denied the request by Westlands Water District and other water agencies for a temporary restraining order (TRO) on Delta pumping restrictions necessary to protect Delta smelt.  Attorneys from Earthjustice and NRDC successfully argued that a temporary restraining order (TRO) of Old and Middle River (OMR) flow restrictions would imperil the endangered Delta smelt, found only in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. OMR flows are a measure of whether the San Joaquin River is flowing towards the sea or towards the Delta pumps, where thousands and thousands of Delta smelt, longfin smelt, chinook salmon, steelhead, striped bass, threadfin shad and other fish species are killed every year.  “This is a reasonable compromise that balances the demands of growers with operations in the desert-like western San Joaquin Valley that depend on water from other parts of the state, with the needs of fishing communities all up and down the California and Oregon coasts that depend on our native salmon,” said Mike Sherwood, an attorney for Earthjustice.  Giving new definition to "ironic," the Delta smelt flow restrictions were triggered by recent high entrainment of Delta smelt in the Delta pumps that followed Wanger's suspension of OMR flow restrictions, said Jonathan Rosenfield, Ph.D. Conservation Biologist with the Bay Institute and president of the Salmon Aid Festival (http://www.salmonaid.org).  "When the salmon biological opinion was temporarily suspended, water export pumping rates went up, more smelt were entrained and thus, more restrictive export restrictions went into effect," Rosenfield explained. "So, the net-net of the water user suits is that they have produced greater flow restrictions than they would have had had they 'restrained' themselves."  San Joaquin Valley water agency representatives claimed the pumping restrictions will result in the loss of 90,000 acre feet of water. They said they go back to Wanger next week to lift the pumping restrictions.  "State and federal public water agencies are bracing to lose more than 29 billion gallons of water during the next seven days because of these additional restrictions," said Laura King Moon, assistant general manager for the State Water Contractors. "That is enough water to serve more than 700,000 people for one year."  "We will be back in court next week. This is not the way to run a water project," Tom Birmingham, general manager of the giant Westlands Water District, told the LA Times (http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-smelt11-2010feb11,0,5607215.story).  Last week the Westlands Water District and other water interests filed a petition with the Federal Court in Fresno for a TRO cancelling part of the Delta salmon biological opinion and allowing the Delta pumps to increase to full capacity. Last Friday Judge Wanger approved their petition and the pumping operations went to maximum export levels, according to Dick Pool, administrator for water4fish.org.  On Monday, February 8, the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations (PCFFA) asked Judge Wanger to reverse the opinion to protect the West Coast fishing industry from irreparable harm by reinstating limitations on freshwater pumping from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta that are essential to the recovery of the Central Valley salmon runs.  “There must be adequate freshwater inflow through the Delta and to the Bay at critical times of the year, including winter and spring, to get the juvenile fish past the pumps and on a westward migration to the Bay and Delta," said Zeke Grader, PCFFA executive director.  The following day, Westlands petitioned for a similar Temporary Restraining Order to also waive the Delta smelt biological opinion.This opinion requires lower pumping rates than the salmon opinion.  Then on February 10, Wanger ruled both on the PCFFA request and the Delta smelt petition. He denied the Westlands Delta smelt petition and declared the PCFFA request "moot" since the smelt opinion requires lower pumping rates than the salmon opinion.  "We owe a great deal of thanks to the Earthjustice and NRDC attorneys who quickly filed the motions and presented excellent arguments on behalf of the fishing interests," noted Pool.  Central Valley salmon, Delta smelt and other fish populations have collapsed due to increasing water exports from the California Delta and declining water quality in recent years. As a result, the federal and state governments closed nearly all ocean fishing for Chinook salmon in California and most of Oregon in 2008 and 2009 to save the salmon. They also closed Central Valley rivers to all fishing for chinook salmon, with the exception of a two month season for late fall Chinook in 2008 and a six week season in 2009 in the Sacramento River from Red Bluff to Knights Landing.  The Central Valley stocks are the driver of West Coast fisheries, typically providing 90 percent of all Chinook salmon harvest off California and 60 percent of all Chinook salmon harvested off Oregon in both recreational and commercial fisheries.  "Southwick Associates has estimated that the closure has cost an estimated 23,000 jobs and $1.4 billion annually in income for the California economy," said Pool. "California has over 2,000 small and medium businesses that derive most or all of their income from the recreational and commercial salmon industry."  These businesses include 1,200 commercial boats, 11 manufacturers, seven wholesalers, 904 retailers, 230 guides and charter boats, 74 marinas and hundreds of boat dealers and marine parts and service centers.  Groups Sue to Block Westlands Backroom Water Deal  In related news, the North Coast Rivers Alliance, Friends of the River, Save the American River Association and the Winnemem Wintu Tribe filed suit in Fresno Superior Court Monday morning demanding full public disclosure of the impacts of Westlands Water District’s water export contract renewals with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.  The groups want full disclosure under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) of the pollution and potential environmental harm from locking in such massive water exports from the California Delta, the largest estuary of the North Coast of the Americas, which provides migration corridors for two-thirds of the state’s salmon and nearly half of the waterfowl and shorebirds along the Pacific Flyway  "Three months after the State Senator Steinberg’s so-called 'historic' Delta protection legislation was approved, the state’s agribusiness industry is quietly securing secret state and federal sign offs to authorize water exporters to damage the Delta for decades to come," according to a joint news release from the groups. "A couple days before Christmas when Westlands Water District thought no one would notice, the giant district issued a three paragraph notice that quietly declared the renewal of six water export contracts valid and harmless to the Delta and environment."  Westlands Water District is trying to lock up over a million acre feet of water a year in exports from the Sacramento San Joaquin Delta, the groups contend. The federal agricultural contracts represent almost three times the Delta water that goes to southern California urban areas receive under state contracts.  “The Winnemem Wintu, a traditional people of California, see the folly of the government’s plans relative to the Delta and pray for people of reason to wake up and help protect the estuary from over pumping and the damage these plans will wreak upon the water and resources of this state,” emphasized Mark Franco, Headman of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe. “Water is the lifeblood of our people and we stand ready to protect it with our colleagues across California’s social justice movement. This rash plan will only serve a few people and will impact the rights of our future generations.”  “With little or no review Westlands Water District wants the federal government to sign off on these destructive water exports,” said Steve Evans, Conservation Director for Friends of the River. “They are slipping this by trying to avoid responsibility for reducing damage to the Delta.”  This week's court victory for Delta smelt occurs as corporate agribusiness, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and San Joaquin Valley Representatives have launched a series of administrative, legal and legislative attacks against the biological opinions protecting Delta smelt and Central Valley salmon. The same forces are advocating the construction of a peripheral canal and more dams to facilitate water exports to the west side of the San Joaquin Valley and southern California.

For Immediate Release. February 8, 2010

Contacts: Friends of the Gualala River, John Holland, 707-886-5355

Center for Biological Diversity, Justin Augustine, 415-436-9682 x302

Coast Action Group, Alan Levine, 707-542-4408

 

Lawsuit Filed to Protect Old Growth Redwoods on the Gualala River

 

San Francisco – Three conservation groups, the Center for Biological 

Diversity, Friends of the Gualala River and Coast Action Group, filed 

suit against the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection 

and the California Department of Fish and Game on February 5, 2010, over 

the agencies’ failure to protect the last remaining stand of old-growth 

redwoods in the Doty Creek Planning Watershed. The suit was filed in 

Mendocino County Superior Court and seeks to overturn approval of the 

Bower non-industrial timber management plan (NTMP). The suit describes, 

among other things, how the NTMP fails to adequately address the 

project’s environmental impacts, fails to consider less destructive 

alternatives, and fails to include necessary information for proper 

decision-making.

 

The Bower NTMP proposes to harvest 615 acres near the Gualala River, 

which straddles Mendocino and Sonoma Counties on the northern California 

coast. Primarily at issue is the plan’s proposed logging of 18 acres of 

old-growth forest. These ancient trees, which are up to 9 feet in 

diameter, represent the last nesting habitat in the area for a rare and 

threatened species of coastal bird, the marbled murrelet. Loss of 

old-growth forest is the main cause of decline in the murrelet’s 

populations, and the vast majority of old-growth redwood forest stands 

are now gone from California.

 

“There is no good reason to log these redwoods, some of which are 

centuries old,” said Justin Augustine with the Center for Biological 

Diversity. “California, and especially Mendocino County, are in a huge 

deficit when it comes to old-growth redwood, and every California agency 

should be working to save these trees, not authorizing their destruction.”

 

Over two hundred letters of protest were submitted by concerned citizens 

during the public comment period on the plan. Comment letters, plan 

documents, photographs and the text of the lawsuit petition are 

available at www.gualalariver.org.

 

"This old growth stand is irreplaceable because, although centuries old 

redwood trees could regenerate, by the time they do, the many species 

dependent on old growth will likely become locally extinct,” said John 

Holland with Friends of the Gualala River.

 

The Center for Biological Diversity is a non-profit, national public 

interest organization with over 40,000 members and offices in San 

Francisco, California and elsewhere in the United States.

 

Friends of the Gualala River is a non-profit grassroots watershed 

protection organization formed to share common environmental concerns 

and research regarding the Gualala River. FOGR’s goal is to protect the 

Gualala River watershed and the species that rely on it.

 

Coast Action Group is an organization dedicated to the protection of 

fishery and water quality resources on the north coast of California 

with a history of actions dating back to 1990. Coast Action Group exists 

in order to protect fish and wildlife through application of state and 

federal laws and comments on issues of concern statewide.

CALIFORNIA TROUT

PRESS RELEASE

CALIFORNIA TROUT SUPPORTS KLAMATH BASIN AGREEMENTS

Immediate Release: February 2, 2010 Contact:  Curtis Knight, Deputy Conservation Director, California Trout (530)859-1872   California Trout announced today support for both the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement and the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement.  The agreements are the result of a collaborative stakeholder process involving over two dozen parties to address a broad range of basin-wide issues including the removal of four dams on the Klamath River, fisheries restoration and community sustainability.  “The Klamath River was once the third most productive salmon and steelhead river along the west coast of the United States,” said George Shillinger, Executive Director of California Trout.  “The Settlement Agreements are a historic accomplishment and represent the best chance to restore fish populations and empower healthy communities.” The Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreements spells out terms for the removal of four dams along the Klamath River that currently block access for salmon, steelhead, and lamprey to hundreds of miles of spawning and rearing habitat in the upper basin.  PacifiCorp, the owner of the dams, has been an actively involved in crafting the KHSA and supports the removal of the dams.  The Klamath River flows across two states and supports a variety of activities on federal, state, county, tribal and private lands. This has led to many conflicts over the allocation of the Klamath’s limited resources. The Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement breaks through these conflicts and provides improved stream flows during fish migration, spawning, and rearing seasons; solutions for reliable and predictable irrigation water to sustain agricultural communities; protection of tribal trust resources; and hundreds of millions of dollars for restoration and mitigation to improve habitat and support jobs for local communities.  A signing ceremony is expected later this month and then the work continues.  Federal legislation must be passed to implement the agreements and environmental reviews must be completed before the dams can be removed.

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Are MPAs  ”Marine Poaching Areas?” 

by Dan Bacher 

In a superb opinion piece in the Sacramento Bee on January 31, Jerry Karnow, Legislative Liason for the California Fish and Game Wardens Association, exposes the insanity behind Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s fast-track Marine Life Protection (MLPA) process. 

Karnow emphasizes that the MLPA process is proceeding forward at a time when California has the “lowest ratio of wardens to population of any state or province in North America (http://www.sacbee.com/opinion/story/2500939.html). 

The lack of wardens has made California into a virtual paradise for poachers of fish and wildlife, as revealed in James Swan’s ground breaking documentary, Endangered Species: California Fish and Game Wardens (2009). The movie is an expose of the extreme shortage of game wardens in California and its impact on fish, wildlife and wild lands. 

“It is impossible for the warden force to effectively enforce existing regulations, much less new regulations that the Fish and Game Commission approves over our objections,” says Karnow. “Many of the regulations approved by the commission will not protect the natural resources of California. They will serve only one purpose; they will stretch the warden force ever thinner, which will eventually result in another warden’s on-duty injury or death.” 

Karnow says the association has taken “no policy position on the Marine Life Protection Act.” 

However, Karnow says the act is “a hollow regulation and unenforceable. The Department of Fish and Game has reported to the commission that enforcement cost for the Marine Life Protection Act for the first year of implementation will be $27 million and annually thereafter, the cost for enforcement will be a minimum of $17 million.” 

“While it seeks to design Marine Protected Areas, my warden colleagues have a different meaning for ‘MPA’ – we call them Marine Poaching Areas,” says Karnow. “Since the protection act closes productive fishing areas, poachers will know where to rape our resources, and they will know that there is unlikely to be any law enforcement presence or legal anglers present to turn in poachers.” 

Karnow has harsh words for the Governor, who has relentessly pushed the MLPA process on the fast track against the strong objections of a broad coalition of grassroots environmentalists, fishing groups, Indian Tribes, environmental justice advocates and North Coast cities and counties. 

“The governor does not support wardens; his actions speak louder than words,” explains Karnow. “He says he supports wardens but his Department of Personnel Administration opposes the warden request for severance from their current bargaining unit. He keeps wardens on furlough yet eliminates furloughs from non-sworn peace officers in our own bargaining unit.” 

“Commissioner Richard Rogers of Fish and Game has approved new regulations knowing they cannot be enforced…Hopefully, Rogers will change his position and oppose regulations placing additional duties upon wardens,” says Karnow. 

In testimony before the Fish and Game Commission on August 5, 2009, Karnow warned the Commission that the DFG couldn’t enforce new “Marine Poaching Areas” on the North Central Coast when it didn’t have enough staff to patrol existing marine reserves. 

“We request you delay or suspend any new mandates until there is some relief from furlough officer to enforce these significant new provisions,” said Karnow. 

At the same meeting, Lester Pinola, the past chairman of the Kashia Rancheria in Sonoma County, appealed to the Commission to adopt a MPA alternative that wouldn’t kick the Pomo and other tribes off their traditional seaweed, mussel and abalone harvesting areas. 

“We as tribal members abide by the state fishing regulations, even though are we a federally recognized sovereign nation,” Pinola said. “We observe the bag limit of 3 abalone and 45 pounds of seaweed when we pick the rocks. We feed our elders who longer can go down to the ocean to harvest abalone and seaweed. The state shouldn’t be able to take our traditional harvesting rights away from us.” 

Rather than doing the right thing, the Governor’s hand picked commission chose to adopt the Integrated Preferred Alternative (IPA) against the wishes of Indian Tribes, environmentalists, fishermen and social justice activists on the North Central Coast. The regulations will go until effect on April 1, 2010 – unless stopped by a lawsuit. 

Meanwhile, the MLPA process for the North Coast, from Point Arena to the California/Oregon border, is in full swing. A 32 member MLPA stakeholders groups met in Eureka yesterday and today to begin crafting alternatives for marine reserves (http://www.times-standard.com/localnews/ci_14364203). 

MLPA Initiative Appointment Exemplifies California’s Love Affair with Big Oil 

Joanna Schroeder, a columnist for http://domesticfuel.com, a website promoting biofuels, in her column on February 8 used the Schwarzenegger’s appointment of Cathy Reheis-Boyd as the chair of the MLPA’s Blue Ribbon Task Force for the South Coast as one of several examples of California’s “love affair with Big Oil.” Reheis Boyd became the president of the Western States Petroleum, the oil industry trade association, on January 1. 

“The MLPA is a debacle in and of itself (23 percent of all off shore oil reserves are believed to be off the coast of California) and it is important to note that Reheis-Boyd has been tasked with monitoring marine protection at the same time oil companies are in a lobbying frenzy to expand drilling operations off the California coast,” said Schroeder (http://domesticfuel.com/2010/02/08/californias-love-affair-with-oil/). 

Reheis-Boyd also served on the MLPA panel for the North Central Coast and now serves on the North Coast task force. Of course, she isn’t the only corporate interest overseeing the privately-funded MLPA process – the panels also include representatives of the real estate and marina development industries. 

The same Governor who has so relentlessly pushed the MLPA ocean privatization process has presided over the unprecedented collapse of Central Valley salmon, Delta smelt, longfin smelt, striped bass, threadfin shad, green sturgeon and other fish populations. Schwarzenegger is constantly campaigning for a peripheral canal and new dams, as well as advocating for the stripping of protections for salmon and Delta smelt under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) 

His environmental record is one of unparalleled ecosystem destruction – and Schwarzenegger is using the MLPA fiasco and “green” energy scams in a cynical attempt to greenwash his regime’s environmental crimes.

Fishing groups are outraged about the court's ruling in favor of Westlands at a time that Central Valley salmon populations are in an unprecedented state of collapse. “Fishing families along one thousand miles of U.S. coastline rely on healthy runs of Sacramento River salmon to make a living; they depend on keeping the current salmon protection plan in place,” said Zeke Grader, executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations. “Too much water is being taken from the San Francisco Bay/Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta estuary – salmon, fishing families, coastal communities and seafood consumers have paid a heavy price as a result.”   Photo of winter run Chinook salmon in tank by DFG.
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Fresno Judge Halts Protection Plan For Winter Run Chinook      by Dan Bacher  (Fresno) Federal Judge Oliver Wanger on Friday afternoon put a temporary hold on a federal plan (biological opinion) protecting salmon from the fish-killing California Delta pumps that deliver water to corporate agribusiness and southern California.  The ruling, in place for 14 days, allows for unlimited pumping, at least unless the projects hit "take" limits for salmon killed at the pumps or until Delta smelt protections are triggered in the Delta. The ruling can be extended by the judge for 14 more days.  Westlands Water District, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD) and other water districts requested the Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) so that water exports from the Delta could be increased. The pumping restrictions are designed to protect migrating juvenile winter-run Chinook salmon from being killed in the massive federal and state project pumps.  Endangered winter run Chinook salmon are unique to the Sacramento River system. After migrating for thousands of years to spawn in the McCloud River every year, the run was blocked from migrating to its spawning grounds after the construction of Shasta Dam. Since then, the fish has been forced to spawn in the Sacramento below Keswick Dam and has declined dramatically due to increased Delta water exports, declining water quality, unscreened or poorly screened diversions and other factors.  The positive news is that Wanger ruled for the federal fishery agencies, Earthjustice and NRDC on the Endangered Species Act (ESA) claim. "He ruled that plaintiffs have NOT shown they are likely to succeed on the merits of their claim that the Biological Opinion violates the Endangered Species Act (ESA)," said Barry Nelson, senior water policy analyst from NRDC.  Unfortunately, the judge also ruled that Westlands and the other plaintiffs are likely to succeed on their claim that the NEPA (National Environmental Protection Act) applies to implementation of the federal biological opinon as he ruled in the delta smelt case.  "The judge made an erroneous finding of fact that the agencies didn't consider any alternatives or the impacts on the environment," said Nelson. "The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) actually went through the factors, including estimated water supply costs and phased in parts of the RPA (Reasonable and Prudent Alternative).  "The judge also found that blocking ESA protections won't cause jeopardy because there aren't 'too many' fish being killed at the pumps - wholly ignoring critical habitat, indirect effects, and the fact that the BO requires all of the components of the RPA to be implemented to avoid jeopardy," said Nelson.  Following the above "reasoning," Wanger issued the TRO blocking the salmon biological opinion limitation on Old and Middle River reverse flows below -2,500 to -5,000 cfs. So there are currently no Old and Middle River flow restrictions in place, according to Nelson.  NMFS can come back in to show "more harm" to get the TRO dissolved. Meanwhile, NRDC and EarthJustice are considering their legal options.  "This ruling has enormous implications for the Delta and the fishing industry," said Nelson. "It also has dramatic implications for the SWP, as my colleague Kate explains here: http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/kpoole/is_the_department_of_water_res.html"  The state's position is in conflict with other state laws, including regarding salmon protection, as Nelson explains here:http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/bnelson/state_legal_strategy_in_the_de.html.  The ruling also has major implications for The Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP), a plan that many fishing and environmental groups criticize as leading to the construction of a peripheral canal and more dams. "By the way, the judge specifically was comforted by the state's 'non-opposition' to the TRO request," Nelson observed.  Fishing groups are outraged about the court's ruling in favor of Westlands at a time that Central Valley salmon populations are in an unprecedented state of collapse. “Fishing families along one thousand miles of U.S. coastline rely on healthy runs of Sacramento River salmon to make a living; they depend on keeping the current salmon protection plan in place,” said Zeke Grader, executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations. “Too much water is being taken from the San Francisco Bay/Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta estuary – salmon, fishing families, coastal communities and seafood consumers have paid a heavy price as a result.”  “The shutdown of the California recreational and commercial salmon fishing industry for the last two years has already erased $2.8 billion dollars and 23,000 jobs from our state’s economy,” said Dick Pool, program manager of Water4Fish. “The 2009 adult salmon returns to the Sacramento are almost assured to reach another all-time record low. The past water export practices have been the root cause of this decline. This federal fish restoration plan is the absolute minimum we need to begin a turn around of this decline.”  The Pacific Legal Foundation, a law firm that advocates on behalf of agribusiness and other corporate interests, praised the ruling. "Water is desperately needed in these parts of California, but even though the Golden State has received a substantial amount of precipitation over the past month, the salmon biological opinion has prevented water from getting to where it’s needed most," the group said on its "Liberty" blog.  "Under today’s decision, however, federal agencies will not be able to implement a significant component of the biological opinion for at least the next 14 days, meaning that much more water will be able to be pumped to California water projects," the group stated. "Although the harm from the federal government’s 'fish before people' policy has been clear to many, some have contended that environmental restrictions aren’t that big of a deal. Today’s decision, however, should put to rest the notion that the man-made, regulatory drought is anything but real."  The TRO was issued as Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and corporate agribusiness are pushing for the construction of the peripheral canal and a $11.1 billion water bond.  Delta and fish advocates believe that the water bond, combined with the water policy package passed by the California Legislature in November, creates a clear path to the construction of the peripheral canal and Temperance Flats and Sites reservoirs. The canal will cost $23 billion to $53.8 billion to build at a time when California is in its worst economic crisis since the Great Depression - and the budgets for teachers, game wardens, health care for children and state parks have been slashed.  
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Cultural Genocide Disguised As Marine 'Protection' - from the Colorado Delta to the North Coast  by Dan Bacher I wrote the following article for Counterpunch in April 2007 when I covered La Otra Campana (the Other Campaign) of the Zapatistas in Mexico. Subcomandante Marcos and the Zapatistas organized a "peace camp" from February to May of 2007 to defend Cucapa Tribe members on the Colorado River Delta against a Marine Protected Area (MPA) like the ones Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, California's head oil industry lobbyist and corporate "environmentalists" are installing on California's North Coast through the corrupt Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) process. In the nearly 3 years since the article was published, an alliance of Schwarzenegger, corporate environmentalists and the Resource Legacy Foundation have pressured the California Fish and Game Commission to ban the Kashia Pomo and other Indian Tribes in Sonoma and Mendocino counties from sustainably harvesting seaweed, abalone and mussels from inter-tidal zones as they have done for centuries. The advocates of "no take" marine zones under the MLPA never showed any respect or consideration for the fishing rights of federally recognized tribes including the Kashia Pomo. The process has now moved to the section of the North Coast from Point Arena to the Oregon border. Fortunately, a broad coalition of grassroots environmentalists, Indian Tribes, recreational anglers, commercial fishermen, divers and cities and counties has formed to resist the fast-track MLPA process of Schwarzenegger, the worst Governor for fish and the environment in California history. We must resist the gross injustice already imposed upon the Kashia Tribe, as well as upon all of the seaweed harvesters, fishermen and abalone divers that were removed from their traditional harvesting areas in Sonoma and Mendocino counties by the politically stacked August vote of the Fish and Game Commission. At the same time, we must prevent the MLPA initiative's plans for cultural genocide - "green" genocide as veteran environmental leader John Lewallen calls it - from succeeding on the North Coast north of Point Arena. Like the indigenous and non-indigenous activists from all over the U.S., Mexico, Latin America and around the world that successfully defended the Cucapa Tribe against attacks by the Mexican government in 2007 and helped assert their right to fish for corvina on the Colorado Delta, we must resist plans by Schwarzenegger and corporate interests to impose no fishing zones without any respect for the people and cultures of the North Coast. As Lester Pinola, past chairman of the Kashia Rancheria, said in a public hearing prior to the Commission August 5 vote, “What you are doing to us is taking the food out of our mouths. When the first settlers came to the coast, they didn’t how to feed themselves. Our people showed them how to eat out of the ocean. In my opinion, this was a big mistake.” Ironically, the same Governor that is riding the out-of-control bulldozer of the MLPA process over the fishermen, tribes and communities of the North Coast has presided over the unprecedented collapse of Central Valley salmon, Delta smelt, longfin smelt, green sturgeon and other fish species on the California Delta. While claiming he is "protecting" the marine ecosystem while removing seaweed harvesters and fishermen from the water in traditional areas, he is constantly campaigning for a peripheral canal and more dams that will push salmon and other imperiled fish species over the abyss of extinction. Even more ironically, Schwarzenegger has installed Kathy Reheis-Boyd, the executive director of the Western States Petroleum Association, as the chairman of the MLPA Ribbon Task Force that is now developing the no take zones for Southern California. She has also been named to the panel that is developing marine protected areas (MPAs) for the North Coast. What the heck is an oil industry lobbyist doing on the head of the state body that aims to remove fishermen and seaweed harvesters, the strongest opponents of oil drilling, from our coastal waters? There is nothing "green" or "environmental" about Schwarzenegger's fast-track MLPA process, since its proponents have gone out of their way to take water pollution, oil drilling, proposed wave energy projects and water diversions, the primary threats to fishery restoration, off the table when developing so-called "marine protected areas." However, this conscious decision by the Governor to allow other human activities in "marine protected areas" and to prohibit only fishing may change soon, due to "informal legal advice" regarding the MLPA provided by State Attorney General Jerry Brown (http://www.dfg.ca.gov/mlpa/pdfs/memo_100109.pdf). The Governor's MLPA process is nothing other than classic corporate greenwashing, a bad substitute for desperately needed fish restoration measures imposed at the expense of Indian Tribes, seaweed harvesters, fishermen and divers. 
 
Weekend Edition: April 21 / 22, 2007 Defending the Fishing Rights of the Cucapa Tribe Zapatistas in the Colorado Delta By DAN BACHER Since February 26, the Cucapa Tribe in El Mayor, Baja California has organized an historic Zapatista peace camp to defend their fishing rights against harassment and intimidation by the Mexican government on the Colorado River Delta. The idea for the camp originated during a visit by Subcomandante Marcos, spokesman for the EZLN (Zapatista Army of National Liberation), to El Mayor during the Zapatista "Otra Campana" (Other Campaign) in October 2006. "We have decided to send an urgent message to the Mexicans and Chicanos north of the Rio Grande to come in order to maximize the number of people here, create a safe space, and protect the Cucapa and Kiliwa community during the fishing season," said Marcos, also known as "delegado zero," in announcing the initiation of the camp after a meeting with the Cucapa and Kiliwa community leaders. In February, the Cucapa community issued its call to action. "You are no longer being asked to stand in solidarity with the indigenous people of Mexico. Now you are being asked to stand to play an integral role in a bi-national effort that will no longer consist of only resisting but also helping these communities exist and live as they have for thousands of years," said the tribe. The 304 member Cucapa Tribe said the camp aimed to "help reestablish the networks and relations that existed before borders separated families and communities, and to help expose these atrocities to a world that has avoided looking at the price of its excess, comfort and luxury." Although the peace camp got off to a slow start, the momentum built in March as the Cucapa and supporters constructed a fishing camp, secured buyers for the fish (corvina), purchased a refrigerated trailer and netted fish in defiance of federal fishing regulations that require permits in a "marine protected area." By the end of April, the camp had achieved its goals. "The camp is almost over, but it has been extremely successful," explained Cesar Soriano from the Banda Martes in Los Angeles. "The main goal of the Cucapa to fish without government harassment - was achieved." "The camp also achieved its second goal, to organize direct support from people from both sides of the border," said Soriano. At different points during the camp, activists from Mexico City, Australia, El Salvador, and American Indian nations, as well as from San Diego and Los Angeles, showed their solidarity with the Cucapa. Many Zapatista solidarity groups from throughout California and the Southwest organized fundraisers for the Cucapa struggle. Subcomandante Marcos and 10 Comandantes from Chiapas, en route to the Cucapa Camp in April, were also welcomed by the O'odham Tribe and friends in the state of Sonora. "The Cucapa are doing the same thing they have been doing for 9,000 years," said Marcos, as quoted by Brenda Norrell in Narco News on April 10. "The Cucapa and other Indian people called for this camp in defense of nature so they can fish without detentions or being put in jail." Caravans from Los Angeles, San Diego, Oakland and other California cities have gone to the camp to support the Cucapa when they fish during the high tides. While some accompanied the fishermen and fisherwomen on their boats, the others stayed on shore to watch out for federal soliders coming to cite or harass the Cucapa. The last high tide that the Cucapa will fish during will be from May 10-May 16, 2007. For over thousands of years, the Cucapa people lived on land surrounding the Colorado River and its Delta where it empties into the Sea of Cortez. The tribe, in what is now the southwestern United States and north end of Baja California, lived off harvesting the native fish and plants of the river and Delta. However, fish catches by the Cucapa and other tribes plummeted in recent decades as agribusiness in California and Arizona and thirsty Southern California cities diverted the entire flow of the Colorado without regard for the indigenous people below the U.S.-Mexico border. With only a trickle of the river ever reaching the once fertile Delta, catches of corvina, totuava (a giant seabass like fish that is now protected) and other species of fish declined dramatically. Rather than addressing the problems of massive water diversions and fishing by corporate commercial fishing fleets that caused the fishery and ecosystem to decline, the Mexican government, under urging by corporate-funded U.S. conservation groups like Conservation International and the World Wildlife Fund, declared the traditional area of the Cucapa and Kiliwa people "an ecological reserve." They transformed the waters that for thousands of years sustained indigenous people into the "Biosphere Reserve of the Upper Gulf of California" on June, 10, 1993, because it was "in the public interest," according to the government's National Commission of Protected Natural Areas website. "The website also noted that 77 percent of the people who live and around the reserve rely on fishing for their livelihoods, so it is unclear which public interest the fishing ban in the protected area serves," said Kristin Brucker, in the Narco News Bulletin, October 22. According to Brucker, "The problem isn't that the Cucapa and Killiwa don't want to preserve endangered fish and dolphins. They point out that it is in their very best interest to protect the species they rely upon for their livelihood and they want very much to be custodians of the river and its fish as they have for generations." Hilda Hurtado Valenzuela, the secretary of the Cucapa fishing cooperative, stressed that the Cucapa was not responsible for the overfishing, even though they bear the brunt of its consequences. Armed federal soldiers (federales) have patrolled the reserve and accosted the fishermen since the marine protected area was established. In October, the community had approximately thirty outstanding warrants for "illegal" fishing in their attempt to survive, practicing the same traditions as their ancestors. Hopefully, the success of this camp will send a strong message to the Mexican government and U.S. "conservation" groups that so called "bio-reserves" and "marine protected areas" cannot be imposed upon indigenous people and other family fishermen without resistance. The problems that the Cucapa Tribe faces in Mexico parallel the situation in California where well funded "conservation" groups, in collusion with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, are attempting to kick recreational anglers and family commercial fishermen off the water through the institution of "marine protected areas," even though massive de-facto reserves and some of the strictest fishing regulations in the world are already in place. The "marine protected areas" constitute a major case of "green washing" where the main problems responsible for fishery declines in California - habitat destruction, water quality decline and global warming are avoided because to address these problems would require dealing with major corporate interests responsible for fishery declines. Just like the ecosystem of the Colorado River Delta has been destroyed by water diversions and pollution, the California Delta, a nursery sustaining a wide variety of species along the California Coast, is threatened by a food chain collapse caused by massive increases in water diversions by the state and federal governments. For more information about the Cucapa Camp go to http://detodos-paratodos.blogspot.com/ Dan Bacher can be reached at: danielbacher@fishsniffer.com
Mokelumne River The Mokelumne River below Camanche Dam. Photo by Dan Bacher. Female Steelhead Will Smith, manager of the Mokelumne River Fish Hatchery, gets ready to put this large female steelhead back into the hatchery pond, since it is not ready to be spawned. Photo by Dan Bacher. Mokelumne River Steelhead Run Increases In Recent Years by Dan Bacher The numbers of steelhead returning to the Mokelumne River Fish Hatchery in recent years don’t compare to those at Nimbus, Feather and Coleman fish hatcheries, but they are a vast improvement over many years when no adult steelhead returned to the facility. No steelhead came back to the hatchery, located on the river right below Camanche Dam, for 10 years from 1976 through 1986. Again in 1998-1999, no adult steelhead returned to the facility. That doesn’t mean that there weren’t any rainbows in the river during these years. The river hosted a popular resident trout fishery for fly, bait and lure anglers, but relatively few of the 100,000 steelhead yearlings released every year went to saltwater and returned. The river, before the listing of the Central Valley steelhead under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), was managed as a catchable trout fishery, rather than as a wild steelhead or trout river. The DFG regularly stocked the river with catchable size steelhead in the 10 to 15 inch range, hatched from steelhead eggs obtained from the Mokelumne and Nimbus Fish hatcheries. In contrast, the river is now managed as a steelhead fishery. The steelhead runs in recent years have ranged from 189 fish in 2005-2006 to 412, a record number, in 2006-2007. The hatchery received 344 fish in 2007-2008 and 309 in 2008-2009, according to Will Smith, hatchery manager. “This year we’ve taken 59 fish so far and we expect to see about 200 total by the end of the run,” said Smith. “They’re beautiful fish averaging 4 pounds and going up to 11 pounds.” Smith attributes the increase in steelhead numbers in recent years to a number of changes in hatchery management that were made possible by the $12.5 million hatchery renovation that was completed in 2002. First, the hatchery has increased its output of fish from 100,000 yearlings to 250,000 yearlings annually. If you put more fish in system, more fish are likely to return. Second, the hatchery has changed the timing of its releases from November and December to February and March, which appears to improve the amount of fish returning. Third, the hatchery has been releasing the fish at different times and locations based on the water conditions in the river. Release locations have included the river below the hatchery, Lake Lodi, New Hope Landing and San Pablo Bay. “If there is a lot of water from storms, we release the fish higher in the system,” said Smith. “The high, turbid flows protect the fish from being eaten by predators and there is less chance of them being entrained in the Delta pumps.” Fourth, the hatchery has experimented with releasing steelhead at different sizes, ranging from 4.3 per pound up to 3.5 pounds each, to see which ensure the best survival. The hatchery in September 2008 released 17,600 pounds of steelhead averaging l.85 pounds each, a total of 9,522 fish, in San Pablo Bay. Then in January of 2009, they planted 378 pounds of steelhead averaging 3.5 pounds each, a total of 108 fish, in the river below the hatchery. The hatchery followed this plant on in February 2009 with 1600 pounds of steelhead averaging 4.30 per pound, a total of 6,880 fish, in the lower Mokelumne at New Hope Landing. That month they also planted 21,450 pounds averaging 4.33 per pound, a total of 92,400 fish, in the same area. Finally, the facility released at Lake Lodi 300 pounds of steelhead averaging 1 pound each in May 2009. Other factors in the upswing in the steelhead run include the longer time the hatchery staff spends sorting the eggs and the leaving of the ladder open for a longer period of time than before. Besides hatchery improvements, the construction of new fish passage facilities on the new Woodbridge Dam in the summer of 2006 and the completion of the FERC relicensing process for Camanche Dam in 1999 that provides for increased river flows are responsible for the upswing in the steelhead run. The California Sportfishing Protection Alliance and Save the Mokelumne River Association played a key role in securing more water for the river from the East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD), increasing the allotment from only 13,000 acre feet in wet years to 85,000 acre feet. Finally, the “Speece Cone” operated by EBUD at Lake Camanche, a device that distributes oxygen to the lower lake waters at the dam, has also boosted the river’s steelhead and resident rainbow fishery. The device, constructed to improve the quality of water released into the fish hatchery and river in order to stop the fish kills that periodically plagued the river, usually operates from August until mid-to-late October. While steelhead numbers have increased, the lower Mokelumne continues to offer a quality fishery for resident rainbows. “These trout are just happy living in the river,” quipped Smith, noting that the tail water fishery below Camanche Dam offers good habitat, abundant food and cold water temperatures that keep the fish in the river rather than going to sea. In addition, trout from heavily-planted Lake Camanche spill over into the river to take up residence, adding to the wild rainbows and steelhead found in the river. Fly fishermen, bait fishermen and lure tossers find top-notch trout action during the open season from January 1 through March 31 and the Fourth Saturday in May through October 15. As on other Central Valley steelhead rivers, anglers can only keep one hatchery steelhead and must purchase a steelhead card to fish the river. The majority of fish caught on the Mokelumne are beautifully colored wild trout that anglers must release while shore angling or fishing from a drift boat or canoe. However, the presence of increasing numbers of wild and hatchery steelhead improves the angler's chance of hooking a trophy fish. The Mokelumne salmon run, as it has on most Central Valley rivers, has ranged from great to very poor over the past decade. A record number of salmon, 16,128, returned to the Mokelumne in 2005. The total run declined to only 235 fish in 2008/2009, the result of increased water exports from the California Delta to subsidized agribusiness and southern California, low flows below Woodbridge Dam, poor ocean conditions and other factors. Fortunately the run rebounded considerably this fall. The hatchery received 334 males, 391 females and 823 jacks and jills, for a total of 1548 salmon. The hatchery has taken a total of 2,447,102 eggs to date, well below the goal of their goal of 5.8 million eggs, but a contrast with the 262,000 eggs taken last year. Because of the pressure from Water 4 Fish, the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance and EBMUD, the hatchery this year was allowed to take 366,435 eggs from stray Mokelumne River fish that showed up at Nimbus Fishery in the fall of 2009. Last year the hatchery, under state and federal constraints not to take eggs from “out of basin facilities,” was unable to take any eggs from Nimbus and other hatcheries. For more information, call the Mokelumne River Fish Hatchery, (209) 759-3383. Groups Sue EBMUD Over Proposed Expansion of Pardee Reservoir The Foothill Conservancy, California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, and Friends of the River filed suit on November 19, 2009 in Amador County Superior Court to protect the Mokelumne River from the proposed expansion of Pardee Reservoir. The expansion is included in the East Bay Municipal Utility District's 2040 water plan, which was approved by the EBMUD Board of Directors October 13. The lawsuit seeks to overturn the environmental impact report on which the water plan and reservoir expansion are based. The EIR included review of one expansion option that would flood the entire Middle Bar reach of the Mokelumne River and up to a mile of the Electra Run above Highway 49. The EBMUD board retained four alternatives for a new Pardee Dam, three of which would destroy the Middle Bar reach and historic 1912 Middle Bar Bridge. The threatened area is valued for its whitewater boating, fishing, scenery, wildlife and cultural and historic resources. The new dam also threatens crashing fisheries downstream in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. "The Mokelumne River is not the property of East Bay MUD, and they are not above the law," Foothill Conservancy Executive Director Chris Wright said in announcing the litigation. "Their program EIR doesn't comply with the California Environmental Quality Act, but EBMUD approved it anyway-just like they kept the reservoir expansion in their plan over the objections of so many people, organizations, agencies, elected officials and local governments. "We won't let this big, powerful utility destroy more of the Mokelumne. We will do what it takes to protect this special river for communities, people, fish, and wildlife," Wright said. The lawsuit notes that foothill residents "rely on the Mokelumne River and its watershed as a place of residence, business, recreation and spiritual renewal." The suit alleges that East Bay MUD violated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) by failing to adequately analyze and mitigate the impacts on Amador and Calaveras counties from the new Pardee Dam. The case also alleges that EBMUD inadequately responded to concerns raised by foothill communities, public interest groups, and government agencies dedicated to protecting foothill resources. EBMUD ignored the moving testimony of foothill citizens and public officials who spoke at EBMUD's public hearings in Sutter Creek, San Andreas and Oakland. The case concludes that, "EBMUD's approval is uninformed and not supported by the type of analysis and findings necessary under CEQA before EBMUD may shift the harm of its future water supply program onto a crashing Delta ecosystem and onto Sierra foothill counties that have neither electoral nor legislative remedies at their disposal to ensure that the resources enjoyed by their local communities are protected." The suit asks the court to set aside EBMUD's approval of the 2040 water plan. "EBMUD is a municipal vampire that has drained the Mokelumne to the point it's on life support," said CSPA Executive Director Bill Jennings, adding, "Having spurned reasonable alternatives that would have assured its customers of a reliable water supply, it now demands more from a river that has no 'more' to give, if its going to survive. Enough is enough!" "We're grateful to the Conservancy, FOR and CSPA for pursuing this litigation," said John Tinkl Co-Chair of the Community Action Project (CAP), Calaveras County. "The proposed option for a new Pardee Dam on the Mokelumne River would be a disaster for the region's recreation, economy and scenic beauty. The building of a new dam flies in the face of other options that could meet potential water needs but not harm this beautiful Sierra region." "This is only the second lawsuit Foothill Conservancy has filed in its 20-year history," Wright said. "But this is such an important issue, and people care so much about this river, we knew we had to do it. We hope that people who care about the Mokelumne will donate to help cover our legal expenses" To contribute to the Foothill Conservancy's Mokelumne River Legal Defense Fund, go online to http://www.foothillconservancy.org or send a check to Foothill Conservancy, P.O. Box 1255, Pine Grove, CA 95665. For more information, contact Chris Wright of the Foothill Conservancy at 209-295-4900 or chris [at] foothillconservancy.org.
Karuk Tribe  P R E S S R E L E A S E  For Immediate Release: January 28, 2010  For more information: Craig Tucker, Klamath Coordinator, Karuk Tribe, cell 916-207-8294  KARUK TRIBE FORMALLY APPROVES KLAMATH RESTORATION AGREEMENTS  Tribal Council Votes Unanimously to Sign Agreements, Restore Klamath River  Orleans, CA – Tonight the Karuk Council voted unanimously in favor of signing the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement and Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement. Together, the two agreements would effect the largest dam removal effort in US History, balance water use in the Klamath Basin, and resolve many longstanding conflicts between tribal and agricultural communities within the basin.  According to Tribal Chairman Arch Super, “it has been a long time coming. We believe these agreements are the key to restoring our river, our fisheries, and our culture. We greatly appreciate the efforts of neighboring Tribes, PacifiCorp, conservation groups, federal and state agencies, and the agricultural community. It took us all a long time to learn that in order to fix our collective problems, we have to work together. ”  The Karuk are the fourth party to the negotiation to formally approve the Agreements. Over the last several days, other parties to the negotiation also agreed to sign including the Klamath Tribes of Oregon, the Yurok Tribe, Humboldt County, Klamath Irrigation District and the Klamath Drainage District. Additional parties will vote in coming days.  Groups expect that a formal signing ceremony will be held next month; however details have not yet been released.  After the Agreements are signed, groups still must pass federal legislation to implement the terms of the Agreements and environmental reviews are required by federal law before dams can be removed. “Although we are proud of what we have accomplished thus far, a lot of hard work lies ahead,” added Super.  # # #  Editor’s note: for more information including previous press releases, copies of the agreements, summaries and fact sheets, go to http://www.klamathrestoration.org