Salmon counted at Central Valley hatcheries are below last year's numbers
Preliminary figures from Central Valley fish hatcheries reveal that the numbers of salmon that have returned to Sacramento River tributaries to date are below the large numbers projected by the federal government earlier this year.
The Brown and Obama administrations are not the only ones pushing for the construction of the Delta Tunnels under the California Water Fix, as evidenced by the inclusion by Congress of a provision to fund the widely-contested project at taxpayer expense revealed today by Restore the Delta (RTD).
An appeal in a lawsuit by the Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment exposes Governor Jerry Brown's hypocrisy in grandstanding about climate change and green energy in Paris while his administration has failed to protect Latino public school children from the dangerous health impacts of fracking in Kern County.
National Marine Fisheries Service abundance forecasts released in February, developed in modeling based on the 2014 returns of salmon to the rivers, indicated there would be approximately 652,000 adult Sacramento River fall Chinook salmon and 423,800 adults from the Klamath River fall run in the ocean this year. That would be a total of 1,075,800 salmon.
However, the numbers of salmon that have been counted this fall dovetail with the mediocre commercial and recreational fishing reported on the California coast this year.
In the coming two months, state and federal government fishery managers will be tallying up the data on spawning escapement in the Central Valley rivers and hatcheries to be used in crafting the 2016 ocean and river seasons. Note that the numbers of jacks and jills (two year old fish), which the fishery managers largely base their abundance on, are larger than those counted last year on the Feather River and Nimbus facilities.
The numbers of fish counted at Coleman National Fish Hatchery on Battle Creek weren't available at this time, but the numbers of fish trapped at the Feather River, Nimbus and Mokelumne River hatcheries were. I will report additional data on hatchery counts and fish carcass surveys as soon as I receive it.
The Feather River Fish Hatchery staff has finished spawning fall-run Chinook salmon for this season and hasn't started spawning steelhead yet.
The facility has trapped approximately 16,349 adult salmon and 7,763 jacks and jills, a total of 24,112 fish this season. That compares to 24,893 adults and 6,620 jacks, a total of 31,513 fish, in 2014. That puts the run 7401 fish below last season.
The hatchery has taken enough eyed eggs, 11-1/2 million, to produce their goal of 8 million smolts, according to Anna Kastener, hatchery manager.
"The fish were really healthy, although they appeared to be smaller than normal. We saw a lot of jacks and jills this season," she observed.
She said the hatchery planted 110,000 chinook salmon in Lake Oroville on November 13 to sustain the landlocked king fishery. The fish were 4 to the pound – about 8 to 10 inches apiece.
"We've seen hardly any steelhead – 4 in the trap today–at the hatchery to date," she noted.
Fall-run Chinook salmon continue to move into the Nimbus Fishery on the American River, along with a few winter steelhead. The hatchery is currently spawning fall-run Chinooks.
The hatchery has trapped a total of 7831 salmon, including 2023 jacks and jills, this year to date. That compares to 8343 salmon, including 1,295 jacks and jills, last season to date.
The hatchery should have no problem meeting its goal of spawning enough eggs to produce 4 million smolts next year, according to Gary Novak at Nimbus Fish Hatchery.
He noted that they have already sent 2 million eggs to the Mokelumne River Fish Hatchery, in addition to the eggs they have on hand at Nimbus, as insurance against any unforeseen disaster.
Novak estimated that 10 steelhead have followed the salmon into the hatchery. "Last year we had seen only 3 steelhead to date," he noted
The hatchery plans to release about 291,000 steelhead yearlings into the river system next year, according to Novak.
Water temperatures continue to be very cold at the facility, 51 degrees at press time. The Bureau of Reclamation continues to release only 500 cfs into the American River.
The Mokelumne River Fish Hatchery in Clements has trapped a total of 6,199 fall-run Chinook salmon, including 3,822 adults and 2377 jacks and jills, according to the latest available data. The numbers for last year to date weren't available at press time. The Mokelumne is a tributary of the San Joaquin River.
"We got all of the eggs we need for our production goal this year," said Eric Barrow, office technician at the hatchery. "We've taken a total of 6 million eggs so far — and fresh fish keep coming into the hatchery. It's a late run this year."
The numbers of salmon counted in the river over Woodbridge Dam in Lodi, as of December 8, are 10,857 fish. That compares to around 12,000 fish last year at the same time.
The hatchery has trapped 37 steelhead total to date, including 24 adults and 13 half pounders.
Again, I will update you on reports from Coleman and other fish hatcheries, as well as the carcass counts on the Sacramento River and tributaries, as the data comes in.
Fishing groups, Indian Tribes, environmentalists and public trust advocates have criticized the Bureau of Reclamation and Department of Water Resources for mismanaging Trinity, Shasta, Oroville and Folsom reservoirs during the drought. Over the past three years, the federal and state water agencies have drained the reservoirs to record low levels to divert water to corporate agribusiness, Southern California water agencies and oil companies conducting fracking and other extreme oil extraction methods.
The result is that over 95 percent of the winter-run Chinook salmon juveniles have perished over the past two years in lethally warm water conditions. Fish advocates point out that the spring and fall runs of salmon have also suffered greatly due to mismanagement by the state and federal water agencies.
For more information, go to: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2015/2/27/1367403/-Fish-agencies-anglers-are-optimistic-about-2015-ocean-salmon-season
Troy Nimmo holds up a bright Sacramento River salmon caught during a trip with James Netzel of Tight Lines Guide Service. Photo by Dan Bacher.
Omnibus Spending Bill Includes Funds For Jerry Brown's Delta Tunnels
by Dan Bacher
"Deep within the 2009 page Omnibus Spending Bill, up for a vote in Congress on Friday, is a provision called the CALIFORNIA BAY-DELTA RESTORATION starting on page 401 and referenced again on page 409. This would once again allow some $37 million in federal tax dollars to help plan and build massive export tunnels that would take essential freshwater and export it to irrigators south of the Delta," reported Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Executive Director of Restore the Delta. (http://docs.house.gov/billsthisweek/20151214/CPRT-114-HPRT-RU00-SAHR2029-AMNT1final.pdf)
"Funding for the tunnels export project was to be paid for by water users, (i.e. the water districts that support industrial-scale crops for foreign export and the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California," she said.
She noted that over $257 million has been spent so far on the delta water export tunnels. "More than $73 million has been funded by the federal taxpayers, with the most recent federal grant of $17 million received under false presences—for a habitat conservation plan that was dropped months before and now is a tunnels only project," she explained. "Archaic, outdated projects that will not serve ratepayers and taxpayers shrouded in 'restoration' language is meant to deceive, not to fund real solutions," said Barrigan-Parrilla. "The President and Congress need to invest in sustainable, strategic and cost effective water strategies to effectively deal with the drought instead of continuing to invest in outdated projects that produce little water and lubricate water exports to a few rich industrial irrigators on the Westside of the San Joaquin Valley."
She said riders that will have the U.S. taxpayers foot the bill to fund the water export tunnels, contained deep within federal omnibus spending bills, flaunt California state law Water Code Section 85089, which requires beneficiaries to pay for the project, not taxpayers.
Among the beneficiaries of this taxpayer-funded boondoggle are Beverly Hills agribusiness billionaires Stewart and Lynda Resnick, the owners of The Wonderful Company. (http://www.eastbayexpress.com/SevenDays/archives/2015/06/03/influential-ag-firm-changes-name-corporation-to-the-wonderful-company-gov-brown-wants-to-change-tunnels-to-pipes)
Resnick and his wife, Lynda, have been instrumental in promoting campaigns to eviscerate Endangered Species Act protections for Central Valley Chinook salmon and Delta smelt populations and to build the fish-killing peripheral tunnels. They have become known as the "Koch Brothers of California Water" for the many thousands of dollars they contribute to candidates and propositions in California every year.
For example, Stewart Resnick contributed $150,000 to Jerry Brown's Proposition 1 water grab in the 2014 election (www.dailykos.com/...)
"The Resnicks are already looking to secure additional water sources," she said. "The couple could score big if a $15 billion water tunnels export project championed by Governor Jerry Brown is officially approved in the next few years."
Tunnels opponents, including family farmers, Tribal leaders, recreational anglers, commercial fishermen, Delta residents and Southern California ratepayers, say the project would grab more than half of the flow of the Sacramento River watershed, one of the last remaining sources of freshwater essential to the health of SF Bay-Delta Estuary.
The tunnels, a boondoggle that would cost Californians up to $67 billion to build a "monument" to Jerry Brown's "legacy," would hasten the extinction of Sacramento River Chinook salmon, Central Valley steelhead, Delta and longfin smelt, green sturgeon and other fish species. The project would also imperil struggling populations of salmon and steelhead on the Trinity and Klamath rivers, fish populations that are an integral part of the culture of the Yurok, Hoopa Valley and Karuk tribes.
"Much of the freshwater is taken for export by industrial irrigators and delivered south to the west side of the San Joaquin Valley. About 70 percent of Delta estuary water is exported to these irrigating giants, some of the largest in the Nation where the water is, used to grow water intensive almonds and pistachios on unsustainable desert soils for lucrative overseas exports," she concluded.
In addition to delivering subsidized water to corporate agribusiness interests on the San Joaquin Valley's west side, the tunnels would also provide water for fracking and other extreme oil extraction techniques in Kern County.
The exposing of the ominous provision in the Omnibus Spending Bill takes place the day after the California State Water Resources Control Board failed to protect the flows and management of the Sacramento River and Bay-Delta Estuary.
"They have the legal authority to do so, but they are Governor Brown appointees and lack courage to do the right thing," commented Barrigan-Parrilla. "They continue to give the Bureau of Reclamation and DWR leeway on how to manage the system during this extreme drought for the benefit of water takers like Stewart Resnick of Paramount Farms."
Meanwhile, negotiations continue in Congress to pass a dangerous drought bill, HR 2898, that could result in the pumping of more water from the Delta. For more information, go to: restorethedelta.org/...
Photo of fracking wastewater in Kern County courtesy of CRPE.
Jerry Brown grandstands in Paris as he fails to protect Latino children from fracking
by Dan Bacher
A Kern County family is appealing a court decision to dismiss their lawsuit claiming that the Brown administration's fracking regulations disproportionately affect the health of Latino public school children, a news release from the Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment (CRPE) announced on December 15. A CRPE lawsuit in July challenges state regulations on the grounds they illegally allow fracking wells to be located close to schools with large percentages of Latino students.
"The appeal highlights Governor Jerry Brown's hypocrisy in allowing fracking pollution to harm some of the most vulnerable Californians," CRPE stated. "As Governor Brown travels the globe touting his efforts to stop climate change and protect disadvantaged communities from the impacts of greenhouse gasses, local residents are wondering why he continues to ignore the daily struggles of their communities."
"Governor Brown's efforts to flight climate change are leaving communities of color behind and putting the health of my daughters and her classmates at risk," said Rodrigo Romo, the plaintiff in the suit. "We're not going to give up the fight to protect our children. We're going to push this lawsuit until we can send our children to school knowing they'll be safe."
California's Government Code section 11135 prohibits the state from intentional or unintentional discrimination on the basis of race. The suit, naming Governor Jerry Brown and California Oil and Gas Supervisor Steve Bohlen (who resigned recently) as defendants, claims that the state is discriminating against Latino students by permitting wells in close proximity to schools they attend.
The appeal to the Sacramento Superior Court focuses on "whether the lower court that refused to take the case ruled in error and whether the policy concerns and cases the judge cited in his decision were an abuse of his discretion," the group said.
"In California, fracking overwhelmingly occurs close to schools that serve predominately Latino populations," according to CRPE. "More than sixty percent of the 61,612 California children who attend school within one mile of a stimulated well are Latino. Statewide, Latino students are over thirty-four percent more likely to attend a school within a mile and a half of a stimulated well than non-Latino students."
CRPE said the regulations fail to address the inherent danger of allowing such practices to occur within close range of sensitive receptors, such as homes and schools, even though they were intended to protect the public from the negative health impacts of fracking.
"Fracking and other types of unconventional well stimulation threaten every child's right to a quality education," said Madeline Stano, attorney for the Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment. "Governor Brown and our state regulatory agencies have failed to protect public school students and our state as a whole by adopting regulations that do not address the existing racially disparate impact of well stimulations on Latino students."
"When fracking occurs close to schools, students are exposed to air toxins such as BTEX compounds, VOCs, and Hydrogen Sulfide that have serious impacts on their physical, social and emotional health," said Stano.
Stano noted that Romo's two daughters have been exposed to dangerous levels of toxic pollution and psychological stress from extreme well stimulation while attending public schools in Shafter and Wasco, California.
"Sequoia Elementary School, the school both of Romo's daughters attended, is located within a half mile of three separate fracked wells, with one well less than 1,200 feet from the school," she stated. "Students are often forced to stay inside for long periods of time because of the noxious fumes associated with fracking and many students suffer from serious, unexplainable illnesses that many families believe were caused by the wells."