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Central Valley | Environment & Forest Defense

Some Action at the Bee Hive
by Beartruth
Sunday Apr 28th, 2013 3:23 PM
The Sacramento Bee finally reports on some of the potential impacts of the Delta tunnel project.
Check out the Sac Bee article http://www.sacbee.com/2013/04/28/5377328/delta-tunnel-project-to-radically.html.... . The article is entitled "Delta tunnel project to radically change Sacramento County landscape".

Many of us of course know that the impacts of such a huge project would not be confined to Sacramento county but the Bee's article is a start. The Sacramento river is to my knowledge the only river in the United States that has four runs of salmon (well, just barely). The winter and spring runs of chinook salmon are almost extinct. The winter and spring run fish historically went high into the mountains in the Little Sacramento, McCloud, and the Pit rivers. The habitat was so good on the McCloud that the Calif Fish Commission in 1890 called it the "best salmon breeding river in the world". The commission estimated that one million salmon used the McCloud in 1888. 200 miles of the excellent spawning habitat on these rivers was later blocked by the construction of Shasta and Keswick dams.

This meant that the 25 miles of river below Keswick dam (which constitutes 12.5% of the original habitat) would have to supply habitat for all four runs which of course it could not. When Critical Habitat was designated for the "Endangered" winter-run Sacramento chinook the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS, NOAA) did not designate any of the original spawning habitat above Shasta Dam as "Critical". They stated that "the geographic extent of spawning on these rivers (Little Sac, McCloud and Pit) before construction of Shasta and Keswick dams is largely speculative or unknown" (from Federal Register/Vol 58, No 114). This statement is plain wrong. Either they were under political pressure or were lazy and did not do their homework.

There is no excuse for not designating Critical Habitat above Shasta dam, as there have been experiments in lifting fish passed dams since the 1920's and that much was written and recorded about the salmon spawning on the three rivers mentioned in the late 1800's. Keep in mind that the habitat upstream from the effects of Shasta lake remains useable by the salmon- we just have to get the salmon to the habitat.

In a nutshell if you care about the recovery of the salmon fishery on the Sacramento river then I suggest that you write to both the National Marine Fisheries Service and to senator Barbara Boxer and ask them what they are really doing to re-establish the winter and spring run chinook salmon in the upper Sacramento system.