Water Storage & the Salmon

We need enough water storage to keep the rivers cool for optimal salmon health during drought, and this story from the Sacramento Bee reports what happens when we don’t.

We really need more water storage in the American River Watershed and the Auburn Dam is still the best option to obtain that.

An excerpt from the Bee article.

California officials, eyeing another season of drought, outlined a plan Tuesday for holding more water back at Lake Shasta in 2016 in an effort to save the endangered winter-run Chinook salmon.

The proposal, unveiled by the State Water Resources Control Board, is certain to prove controversial, particularly with farmers. The state would keep an additional 200,000 acre-feet of water at Shasta throughout the spring planting season in an effort to manage water temperatures during salmon spawning season on the Sacramento River. The additional water represents another 14 percent kept at Shasta instead of being released into the river.

Chinook salmon smolts trucked in from Coleman National Fish Hatchery (NFH) in Anderson acclimate to their new environment inside a temporary net pen on Thursday, March 26, 2015, in Rio Vista.

Chinook salmon smolts trucked in from Coleman National Fish Hatchery (NFH) in Anderson acclimate to their new environment inside a temporary net pen on Thursday, March 26, 2015, in Rio Vista. Randy Pench – rpench@sacbee.com

The plan acknowledges that the 2015 effort to save the Chinook salmon has largely been a failure. “This year’s (plan) didn’t protect the salmon, so we need to hold more (water) back,” said Tim Moran, a spokesman for the water board.

The board is expected to vote on the proposal next Tuesday.

After an estimated 95 percent of the juvenile salmon died in 2014 because water temperatures got too warm on the Sacramento, officials pulled together a complicated plan to keep water longer in storage at Shasta. The idea was that once the waters got released into the river, it would be cool enough to preserve the juvenile fish.

But water temperatures ran hotter than expected, in large part because the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which operates Shasta, realized too late in the spring that its temperature gauges were faulty. In October, officials with the National Marine Fisheries Service announced that it appears even more of the juvenile salmon were killed off this year, although results are still preliminary.

Winter-run Chinook are listed as endangered by the federal government.

Despite forecasts of heavy precipitation this winter, state officials are still expecting another difficult year in 2016.

The temperature plan had consequences throughout California’s stressed water system. Besides depriving some downstream farmers of water during the peak planting season, the plan forced the Bureau of Reclamation to drain Folsom Lake more quickly than usual, in order to tamp down salinity levels in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

 

 

 

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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