Helping the Salmon

This project described in the Sacramento Bee is a very interesting one and we hope it works.

Anything that helps the Valley Salmon is a very good thing.

An excerpt.

“Decades of experience have proved that Sacramento Valley rice farmers can use their fields to grow healthy ducks. Now, research under way in the Yolo Bypass aims to find out if they can grow salmon, too.

“On Tuesday, researchers from UC Davis, the California Department of Water Resources and a nonprofit fisheries group released 50,000 juvenile salmon into a 20-acre rice field north of Woodland.

“The goal is to find out whether a rice field, flooded between harvests to degrade stubble and provide waterfowl habitat, can stand in for the wetlands that once carpeted the Central Valley and served as a massive nursery for juvenile salmon.

“At stake is not just the survival of Central Valley salmon, but also the future of rice growing in the Yolo Bypass and a water supply that serves 25 million Californians.

“This area you see here is really a lab experiment writ large,” Jacob Katz, a fishery biologist at the Cal Trout nonprofit and the project leader, said as the 2-inch salmon were removed from a trailer, weighed and sorted into tanks. “What we’re really trying to demonstrate is you can have both fishery benefits and agriculture on the same parcel. All you need to do is get out here and work out the protocols,” he said.

“The Yolo Bypass, an expanse of farmland and natural habitat that stretches from Sacramento to Davis, was created a century ago to divert floods from the city of Sacramento. When the Sacramento River swells in wet winters, it flows over Fremont Weir, diverting most of the floodwaters into the 58,000-acre bypass, which is farmed the rest of the year.

“Scientists have known for more than a decade that salmon grow faster and bigger when they are able to access the Yolo Bypass during floods. That’s because flooding triggers massive insect blooms that provide great fish food. The bypass also gives the small fish a refuge from bigger predators in the mainstem of the river, such as non-native striped bass.

“Trouble is, the bypass usually doesn’t flood often enough – or long enough – to play that role for salmon. And if the bypass floods too long – into April or May – it conflicts with the rice planting cycle.

“The experiment launched Tuesday aims to find the optimal duration of flooding that can benefit salmon while avoiding conflict with rice planting. Researchers will also try to determine an ideal flooding depth, and whether rice stubble, weedy ground or bare ground is best for flooded habitat.

About David H Lukenbill

I am a native of Sacramento, as are my wife and daughter. I am a consultant to nonprofit organizations, and have a Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Behavior and a Master of Public Administration degree, both from the University of San Francisco. We live along the American River with two cats and all the wild critters we can feed. I am the founding president of the American River Parkway Preservation Society and currently serve as the CFO and Senior Policy Director. I also volunteer as the President of The Lampstand Foundation, a nonprofit organization I founded in 2003.
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