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California | Central Valley | Environment & Forest Defense

Record of Decision for Nimbus Hatchery Fish Passage Project Released
by Dan Bacher
Wednesday Apr 10th, 2013 4:31 PM
"The existing fish weir, which guides adult salmon to enter the fish ladder, is aging, susceptible to damage from high flows and requires annual flow reductions for operation and maintenance activities," according to the agencies.

Photo of the fish rack on the American River, a major salmon spawning tributary of the Sacramento, by Dan Bacher.
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Record of Decision for Nimbus Hatchery Fish Passage Project Released

by Dan Bacher

Sacramento - The Bureau of Reclamation and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) on April 10 announced the release of the Record of Decision for the Nimbus Hatchery Fish Passage Project.

Under the selected alternative, the CDFW will recommend to the California Fish and Game Commission a year-round closure of fishing from Nimbus Dam to the UGSS gaging station cable just downstream of the Hatchery. This closure includes Nimbus Basin, a popular spot where anglers have for decades pursued Chinook salmon, steelhead, shad and other fish species on the American River, a major tributary of the Sacramento River that flows through the heart of the Sacramento metropolitan area.

"Reclamation and CDFW have selected Alternative 1C, which will extend the fish ladder from the hatchery to the Nimbus Dam stilling basin and use the basin itself to hold and divert fish into the ladder and will permanently remove the diversion weir," according to a joint news release from the two agencies. "The selected action was identified as the proposed alternative in the Final Environmental Impact Statement/Environmental Impact Report, which was released on Aug. 11, 2011."

Reclamation is the lead federal agency for the Project under the National Environmental Policy Act, and CDFW is the lead state agency under the California Environmental Quality Act. The CDFW filed the Notice of Determination with the Office of Planning and Research and prepared the “Findings of Fact and Statement of Overriding Considerations for the Nimbus Hatchery Fish Passage Project,” which may be viewed at http://www.usbr.gov/mp/ccao/hatchery/index.html.

"Per the Findings, CDFW intends to recommend to the California Fish and Game Commission year-round closure of fishing in the area that extends from Nimbus Dam to the Fair Oaks United State Geological Survey’s gaging station cable just downstream of the Hatchery," the release stated. The CDFW issued a Notice of Determination on Oct. 31, 2012, which may be viewed at http://www.ceqanet.ca.gov/NODdescription.asp?DocPK=656776.

The Nimbus Fish Hatchery is located along the lower American River, one-quarter mile downstream from Nimbus Dam in Rancho Cordova. Reclamation built the hatchery in 1955 to mitigate for the loss of spawning habitat for Chinook salmon and steelhead trout by the construction of Nimbus Dam; the CDFW operates and maintains the hatchery.

"The existing fish weir, which guides adult salmon to enter the fish ladder, is aging, susceptible to damage from high flows and requires annual flow reductions for operation and maintenance activities," according to the agencies.

The ROD may be viewed at http://www.usbr.gov/mp/nepa/nepa_projdetails.cfm?Project_ID=5216. If you encounter problems accessing the document online, please e-mail mppublicaffairs [at] usbr.gov or call 916-978-5100 (TTY 916-978-5608).

The ROD may be also viewed at Reclamation’s Central California Area Office, 7794 Folsom Dam Road, Folsom, CA 95630; Reclamation’s Regional Office, 2800 Cottage Way, Sacramento, CA 95825; or at CDFW’s Regional Office, 1701 Nimbus Road, Rancho Cordova, CA 95670.

For additional information or for a CD or paper copy of the ROD, please contact Patti Clinton, Reclamation, Central California Area Office, at 916-989-7173 (TTY 916-989-7285) or pclinton [at] usbr.gov, or Joe Johnson, CDFW, at 916-358-2943 or joseph.johnson [at] wildlife.ca.gov, or visit the Project website at http://www.usbr.gov/mp/ccao/hatchery.

The Record of Decision was released as the Brown and Obama administrations are fast-tracking the construction of the peripheral tunnels through the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP). Delta advocates fear the construction of the tunnels to divert water to corporate agribusiness, oil companies and Southern California water agencies will lead to the extinction of Central Valley Chinook salmon and steelhead, including the salmon and steelhead runs on the American River.

The salmon fishery on Central Valley rivers including the American collapsed to record low levels in 2008 and 2009, due to a combination of record water exports out of the California Delta, declining water quality and poor ocean conditions. Although the fall Chinook salmon runs have increased over the past couple of years, the number of fish still falls far short of the nearly 1 million fish mandated under the doubling goals of the Central Valley Project Improvement Act of 1992. (http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/11/23/salmon-on-the-brink)