Starting next month, millions of young California salmon could be migrating to the ocean in tanker trucks instead of swimming downstream in the Sacramento River.

On Monday, state and federal wildlife officials announced a plan to move hatchery-raised salmon by truck in the event the state’s ongoing drought makes the Sacramento River and its tributaries inhospitable for the fish. They fear the rivers could become too shallow and warm to sustain salmon trying to migrate to sea on their own.

Shrunken habitat could deplete food supply for the young fish, and make them easier prey for predators. It also would make the water warmer, which can be lethal to salmon.



Alex Breitler, Record

More than 20,000 salmon splashed up San Joaquin Valley streams to spawn last year, a relatively robust return that you’d think would bode well for future populations.

But now biologists are worried that the offspring of those fish will not survive, because there’s simply not enough water to flush the babies back downstream toward the ocean.

And if they don’t make it out alive, that means fewer adult salmon returning to our rivers three years down the road.

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October marked 20 years since the Central Valley Project Improvement Act, a water project aimed at restoring the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, went into effect. After many years of damage caused by water diversions from the delta, Congress acted to fix some obvious problems. Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, and former U.S. Sen. Bill Bradley, a Democrat from New Jersey, deserve the credit for getting this law passed.

In California, water equals money, and agricultural operations in the San Joaquin Valley have seized it for their own purposes.

A key goal of this water project is to rebuild the state’s commercially valuable salmon fishery and the rest of the delta ecosystem. The act required water managers to double the average number of adult naturally reproducing salmon (as opposed to hatchery-raised fish) in Central Valley rivers. In spite of good intentions, the law hasn’t worked.
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The agency is projecting 729,000 salmon in coastal waters in 2011, up from a 2010 projection of 245,000 fish, Department of Fish and Game spokesman Harry Morse said.

If actual salmon numbers come anywhere close to the latest forecast, West Coast salmon fisherman could see their first good catch in years after cancelled seasons in 2008 and 2009 and a shortened season in 2010 led to hundreds of millions of dollars in losses, according to department estimates.

“Good news for a change,” said Fish and Game Deputy Director Sonke Mastrup. “Salmon numbers are projected to provide some real opportunity for sport and commercial anglers.”

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By Sudhin Thanwala, Associated Press

HALF MOON BAY, Calif. (AP) — Members of Congress and fishermen grilled federal and state officials on Saturday about efforts to restore California’s once-abundant salmon runs.

U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier, who helped organize Saturday’s wild Pacific salmon summit, said she was alarmed by dwindling salmon populations and suggested more needed to be done to prevent their demise.

“We have evidence and science suggesting we’re losing the salmon run, and we’re not doing anything about it,” Speier told Federico Barajas, a representative of the federal Bureau of Reclamation.


Earthjustice is representing the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, the Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides, and Defenders of Wildlife in challenging the federal government’s failure to protect endangered and threatened salmon and steelhead from exposure to six toxic pesticides—diazinon, malathion, chlorpyrifos, carbaryl, methomyl, and carbofuran—which are known to contaminate waterways throughout California and the Pacific Northwest and poison salmon and steelhead.

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LODI – More salmon are swimming over the weir at Woodbridge Dam to spawn in the Mokelumne River this year, part of an uptick in fall chinook runs for most of the West Coast.

Although the fall salmon run season is only about half over, the 4,070 fish counted through Tuesday at Woodbridge are already about twice as many as were counted last year and a vast improvement over the 412 fall-run chinooks who made it back to spawn on the Mokelumne in 2008.

“It is going to be a good year,” said Alex Coate, director of water and natural resources for East Bay Municipal Utility District, which operates Camanche and Pardee dams on the Mokelumne.


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