This week's News & Notes gives a different perspective on hatchery-raised salmon plus updates on two rehab projects that should greatly aid California salmon.
New study: Hatchery-raised salmon are productive
From the Associated Press
BOISE, Idaho -- A new study shows that salmon raised in a Nez Perce Tribe hatchery are spawning as successfully in the wild as wild salmon.
Nez Perce Tribe Fisheries Program Manager Dave Johnson told The Idaho Statesman (http://bit.ly/T3MdRZ) that the study demonstrates how supplementation programs can boost salmon numbers and minimize impact to wild fish populations.
The study, published last week in the journal Molecular Ecology, found that the hatchery salmon from the Johnson Creek Artificial Propagation Enhancement program had the same reproductive success when spawning with wild salmon as wild salmon that spawned together.
The findings run counter to some other research and genetic experiments, which have indicated that hatchery-raised fish are less successful than wild salmon.
Officials tour Battle Creek salmon project
From the Corning Observer
Federal authorities toured the $130.4 million Battle Creek Habitat Restoration project in Tehama County on Tuesday.
Michael L. Connor, commissioner of the US Bureau of Reclamation, said the project is an example of reclamation's and Pacific Gas and Electric's commitment to river restoration.
"The work at Battle Creek underscores the significance of how a broad partnership among numerous interests can make possible these dramatic improvements to one of the most important anadromous fish spawning streams in the Sacramento Valley," Connor said in a statement.
The Battle Creek project is a process of restoring 48 miles of streams and tributaries for salmon and steelhead habitat. Battle Creek, located near Manton in the northeast section of the county, is a major tributary of the Sacramento River.
The habitat restoration project is a three-phase process, which includes modifying the Battle Creek Hydroelectric Project, owned and operated by Pacific Gas and Electric.
The restoration project is funded from federal, state and private sources.
Restoration is being accomplished primarily through the removal of five diversion dams, placement of screens and ladders on three other diversion dams, and increasing instream flows.
Despite the loss of nearly one-third of the hydroelectric output at its Battle Creek hydro facility, PG&E was an early supporter of the project as the company recognized the tremendous environmental benefit the project would have for the anadramous fish - fish that begin life in freshwater creeks and live part of their lives in the ocean.
In 1999, a project agreement with Pacific Gas and Electric, the Bureau of Reclamation, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, National Marine Fisheries Service and the state Department of Fish and Game was signed.
In addition, many other stakeholders, including the Greater Battle Creek Watershed Working Group and Battle Creek Watershed Conservancy, as well as landowners and funding
The project is already realizing benefits of improved numbers of spawning salmon in an area that had previously been very difficult for salmon to access.
Battle Creek is being restored through the Battle Creek Salmon and Steelhead Restoration Project.
Dry Creek Project to aid Russian River Salmon
From The Press Democrat
An ambitious effort to save fish in the Russian River watershed took another step forward this week with ground-breaking of a habitat restoration project along Dry Creek.
The work just below Warm Springs Dam on the Russian Rivet tributary is intended to provide refuge for endangered Coho salmon and threatened Steelhead, native fish that require pockets of slow-moving water to survive.
“We hope to keep the species from extinction,” said Michael Dillabough, U.S. Army Corps acting park manager at Lake Sonoma.
Army Corps Lt. Colonel John Baker described the $1.8 million project along 1,600 feet of Dry Creek as a milestone in the ongoing collaborative effort to restore the fish population.
He said it will be a pilot for the eventual habitat enhancement of six miles of Dry Creek, a project that is estimated to cost from $36 million to $48 million by the time it is completed in 2020.
“It should get us well on the way to recovering this species,” said Dick Butler, a supervisor in the National Marine Fisheries Service.
The environmental work is intended to offset the loss of fish habitat created by the construction of Warm Springs Dam three decades ago. The dam helps with flood control and also provides the bulk of water for 600,000 Sonoma County Water Agency customers in Sonoma and parts of Marin counties.
A significant portion of the habitat restoration funding will come from an ongoing tax assessment levied on property owners in Sonoma County that paid for the dam.
The Army Corps portion involves building a secondary side channel for fish spawning and rearing to mitigate the wide range of flow releases from the dam.
More than 70 logs, 250 large boulders and 320 cubic yards of spawning gravel and cobble will be installed in the side channel to help create the desirable fish refuge.
A similar amount of spawning gravel will be strategically placed in the main Dry Creek channel.
Coho and steelhead thrive in cooler, slow moving water where they can spend a year or two before migrating to the ocean. The project helps create shade, as well as places for fish to hide from birds of prey.
The environmental restoration is within Dry Creek Pomo ancestral lands, and close to a cultural and ceremonial center the tribe is planning near the base of the dam.
It is also the site of the some of the sedge used in native basket-making. Officials are working in tandem with the tribe to preserve the unique vegetation.
“What’s accomplished here today, you can’t put a price tag on. The loss of a species is a tragedy,” said Gus Pina, Dry Creek tribal administrator. “The fact this community has learned the value of a species of fish speaks volumes.”
Biologists say there are thousands of threatened Chinook salmon and even tens of thousands of Steelhead in a good year in the Russian River watershed. But only about 380 adult Cohos returned last year.
Meanwhile, several miles downstream from the dam, the Sonoma County Water Agency is putting finishing touches on a similar restoration project it launched last month.
It includes a fish-friendly passage constructed under a West Dry Creek Road bridge, near Quivira Winery.
Instead of having to negotiate a cement slab with shallow water during low flows, fish will have a series of pools and weirs with deeper water.