Trout go into Bass Lake; Central Valley king salmon run still not meeting legal requirements and a deadline looms on the Klamath River. These are this week’s California fishing notes:
Bass Lake gets big trout plant to mark end of dam retrofit
The Department of Fish of Game (DFG) will plant 5,000 pounds of rainbow trout at Bass Lake. The fish stocking caps PG&E’s two–year dam retrofit project completed in cooperation with DFG.
“Working together with outside organizations to reach a common goal where natural resources can be preserved while ensuring public safety needs are met is a win-win to me. I could not be happier with this cooperative effort and outcome,” said Dr. Andy Gordus, DFG Staff Toxicologist.
This is first of several trout stockings planned to enhance fishing opportunities at the lake. DFG will plant another 4,000 pounds of trout in December. Additionally, PG&E will be stocking trophy fish near the Christmas holiday.
Throughout the retrofit, DFG worked closely with PG&E to monitor water quality and ensure fisheries were not impacted. DFG also helped the company develop its own trout stocking plan to help with lost fishing opportunities over the last two years.
Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s (PG&E) seismic retrofit project at Bass Lake started in 2010. The upgrade of the 1,880-foot long, 145-foot high dam improved its ability to withstand earthquakes, brought it up to state and federal dam safety standards and will allow PG&E to maintain reliable power generation.
California salmon fall short despite comeback
An environmental organization that was part of the lawsuit that spurred the permanent raising of the Red Bluff Diversion Dam gates is saying federal agencies are still failing to meet salmon repopulation goals.
The Natural Resources Defense Council released a new salmon index Tuesday showing the Sacramento- San Joaquin Basin Chinook salmon natural population is only at 13 percent of a required federal goal.
The index comes out as California's ocean fishing season closed Sunday and in conjunction with the 20th anniversary of the Central Valley Project Improvement Act, which set a goal of doubling salmon runs from 495,000 to 999,000 wild adult fish by 2002.
Ten years ago the index reported 64.33 percent of the goal had been reached, but salmon numbers have plummeted since then.
In a press release the Natural Resources Defense Council blames the decline on ineffective enforcement by federal and state agencies and continued excessive pumping of water from Bay-Delta waterways.
The study shows the salmon goal reached a record low of 7 percent in 2010.
It blames increased water diversions, citing a 20 percent increase in pumping between 2000- 2006 as compared to 1975-2000.
Despite indefensible foot-dragging and countless lawsuits, salmon restoration has remained the linchpin of federal water policy in California for 20 years, U.S. Rep. George Miller is quoted as saying in the press release.
California salmon support businesses and communities up and down the West Coast and it's long past time for the federal agencies to take their responsibility to our state's wild fisheries seriously, he said.
The federal government must restore California's iconic salmon runs to health: that's the law.
Miller was the U.S. House of Representatives author of the Improvement Act.
In 2008 a lawsuit brought on by NRDC and other organizations led to stronger federal court-ordered protections for salmon, including what would eventually lead to the permanent closing of the Red Bluff Diversion Dam.
With a 3-year life cycle, environmentalists believed they would see the affects in the 2011 numbers.
Although only at 13 percent of the goal, the 2011 salmon numbers were higher than the previous two years.
Deadline looming for Klamath Dam removal
MEDFORD, Ore. — One of the nation’s most ambitious river restoration and dam removal proposals is set to expire at the end of the year, unless the tribes, farmers, and fishers that brokered the deal can agree on an extension.
When the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement was inked more than two years ago, then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California declared: “I can see already that the salmon fish is screaming, ‘I’ll be back.’”
That declaration may have been premature. The restoration deal requires federal funding — to the tune of $800 million over a period of 15 years — and congressional authorization allowing the feds to take over ownership of four PacifiCorp dams in preparation for removing them.
Two years later, Congress has yet to authorize the deal.
The agreement settled decades of lawsuits over water rights in the basin on the Oregon-California border. It won support from tribes, commercial fishers, and some conservation groups because it set the stage for dam removal. A large group of farmers who are part of a federal irrigation project in the Klamath Basin signed on, too, because it provided them with a predictable water supply.
Other farmers and ranchers have criticized the deal for lack of transparency. They say it fails to guarantee a water supply for farmers in the eastern reaches of the basin, and the dam removal plan. Several environmental groups have criticized it for leaving too little water in the Klamath River for salmon during dry years.
Now the landmark restoration deal faces a new hurdle. It includes a deadline — the agreement dissolves unless Congress authorizes it by Dec. 31. That’s about as likely as a logger kissing a spotted owl.
In a recent meeting, the farmers, tribes, and other signatories proposed a two year extension of the deal. The Yurok Tribe, which lives and fishes along the Klamath River in the mountains of Northern California, was one of the first to approve the extension. Craig Tucker, a spokesman for the tribe, said the agreement never really had a chance.
“I think everybody in America who had some legislative priority for the past two years would say they’re very frustrated with the lack of leadership in Congress,” Tucker said. “We’ve basically been stuck with the least productive congress in a generation.”
Greg Addington, who directs the Klamath Basin Water Users Association, says about half the irigators who are party to the deal have voted to let the Klamath Basin agreement live on for two more years. Don Gentry, vice-chairman of the Klamath Tribes, says tribal members will receive a ballot referendum in December and will vote on the proposed extension.
“The agreement is the best solution to the problems we have in the basin, and the best solution that we have to achieve the Tribes’ goals for restoration of the fisheries, so I suspect our members will support it,” Gentry says.
The power company that owns the four Klamath dams slated for removal says in spite of the delay in congress, it still views removing the dams as a more cost-effective option that attempting to re-license them, and remains on track to remove the dams by 2020.
“Nothing that’s happened at this point has affected that deadline. We’re continuing to do the work that needs to be done with federal agencies to hand over the dams,” says Bob Gravely, a PacifiCorp spokesman.
If the parties can agree on extending the agreement, they say winning the support of Republican Congressman Greg Walden will be key to eventually authorizing the Klamath Basin agreement in Congress. Walden represents the Klamath Basin, part of Oregon’s 2nd Congressional District, and chairs the National Republican Congressional Committee, which oversees political fund-raising and campaigns. He hasn’t taken a position on the Klamath agreement.
The Klamath Tribes’ vice-chairman Gentry said Walden is concerned about the high ticket price of the restoration agreement, and opposition to dam removal from key Republicans on the House Natural Resources Committee.
“I have the sense he wants to be helpful, but I understand the difficulties he has coming out and being wholeheartedly supportive,” Gentry said.
And the restoration agreement and dam removal face an increasingly powerful political opposition in the Klamath Basin. Tom Mallams, a rancher from Beatty, Ore., is a well-known opponent of the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement, or KBRA. He recently won a seat as county commissioner.
“I don’t know of any elected official in the Klamath Basin that’s been voted in that supports the KBRA,” Mallams said.
Proponents of the restoration agreement insist they are willing to be patient — it took decades to implement dam-removal agreements on Washington’s Elwha and Condit rivers. But Mallams suggests that the delay in implementing the deal could lead to it unraveling.
“There’s a lot of opposition down on the irrigation districts,” he said. “Some of the board members have been voted out. And some of the big supporters have said, we need to look at this again.”