What's the Plan to Save Winter-run Chinook in the Sacramento River?

NOAA has developed a "Priority Actions 2016-2020" document outlining their plans to try and recover this rapidly dwindling population.

The Sacramento River winter run Chinook salmon ESU was chosen as one of the eight most at

risk species because it is composed of just one small population that is currently under severe stress caused by one of California’s worst droughts on record. Over the last 10 years of available data (2003-2013), the abundance of spawning winter - run Chinook adults ranged from a low of 738 in 2011 to a high of 17,197 in 2007, with an average of 6,298. The population subsists in large part due to agency managed cold water releases from Shasta Reservoir during the summer and artificial propagation from Livingston Stone National Fish Hatchery’s winter-run Chinook salmon conservation program. Winter-run Chinook salmon are dependent on sufficient cold water storage in Shasta Reservoir, and it has long been recognized that a prolonged drought could have devastating impacts, possibly leading to the species’ extinction.

http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/species/Species%20in%20the%20Spotlight/sacramento_winter-run_chinook_salmon_spotlight_species_5-year_action_plan_final_jan_25_2016__1_.pdf

 

Salmon in the McCloud River?

Efforts to reintroduce winter-run Sacramento River Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) to the McCloud River and Battle Creek are underway.  On the McCloud River, a pilot reintroduction feasibility plan is being developed by Bureau of Reclamation in collaboration with the USFWS, NMFS, CDFW, and DWR.  This pilot plan will inform decision making for a possible long-term reintroduction upstream of Shasta Dam to the McCloud River.

California Central Velley Watersheds - NOAA Assessment for Salmon and Steelhead Recovery

This is an excellent source of detailed information published by NOAA Fisheries West Coast Region on their website documenting the historic status and potential for Salmon and Steelhead recovery in the key watersheds throughout the Central Valley.

http://www.westcoast.fisheries.noaa.gov/publications/recovery_planning/salmon_steelhead/domains/california_central_valley/appendix_a_watershed_profiles_7102014.pdf

Salmon Return to our Creeks with the Winter Rains

Fish versus Water Supply

  Wild Klamath Mountain Province steelhead.  CDFW photo by Jeff Weaver.

Wild Klamath Mountain Province steelhead. CDFW photo by Jeff Weaver.

According to a report published by PPIC, the best documented indicators of declining aquatic environments in California are fish (Moyle and Williams 1990; Moyle 2002; Howard and Revenga 2009).

Of 129 kinds of native fish in California, 5 percent are extinct, 24 percent are listed as threatened or endangered species, 13 percent are eligible for listing today, and another 40 percent are in decline (Figure B). In other words, over 80 percent of the native fishes are extinct or imperiled to a greater or lesser degree.

The number of imperiled species is increasing rapidly. Since the first state - wide assessment in 1985, fish species have been listed under state and federal Endangered Species Acts (ESAs) at a rate of about one species per year, with 31 listed by 2010. Most native fishes are endemic only to California (60 percent) or to the interstate waters of California, Nevada, and Oregon (19 percent). Thus, their decline is largely due to factors in California, mostly related to human water and land management.

Clearly, environmental management actions in recent decades have been far from sufficient to reverse these declines. An analysis by Richter et al. (1997b) indicates that the loss of freshwater biodiversity in the western United States primarily results from altered hydro - logic regimes,  pollution (especially nonpoint source pollution), and invasions of alien species.

Read more on the PPIC website at this link:

http://www.ppic.org/content/pubs/report/R_211EHChapter5R.pdf

In 2015, the Ca DFW, working with UC Davis, issued the 3rd revision of the California Fish Species of Special Concern. These are defined as those species, subspecies, Evolutionary Significant Unit, or Distinct Population Segment of native fish that currently satisfy one or more of the following (not necessarily mutually exclusive) criteria:

  • are known to spawn in California's inland waters;
  • are not already listed under either federal or state endangered species acts (or both);
  • are experiencing, or formerly experienced, population declines or range retractions that, if continued, could qualify them for listing as threatened or endangered status;
  • have naturally small populations exhibiting high susceptibility to risk from stressors that, if realized, could lead to declines that would qualify them for listing as threatened or endangered.

Species accounts were prepared for the 62 taxa determined to be of special concern to address the following: overall status, description, taxonomic relationships, life history, habitat requirements, distribution, trends in abundance, nature and degree of threats, effects of climate change, status determination (scoring) and management recommendations. Maps showing current and historic range accompany each account.

https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/Conservation/SSC/Fishes

Mercury contamination from gold mining remains a problem in California waters

In many gold-mining areas where mercury was used, it is still relatively easy to find quantities of liquid elemental mercury in sediments and stream channels. Of even greater environmental concern is the presence of methylmercury, an organic form of mercury that is a potent neurotoxin and is especially detrimental to developing fetuses and children. Methylmercury accumulates and biomagnifies in the food chain, reaching highest concentrations in predatory fish such as bass and other species which are prized by anglers. Numerous water bodies in California have fish-consumption advisories because of mercury contamination from historical mining. Several of these advisories are based on data collected by the USGS, including those in Trinity County, and in the Bear, Yuba, and American River watersheds in the Sierra Nevada. For information on these advisories, see the web site of the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment.

Mercury from hydraulic mining has been transported with sediments downstream into the San Francisco Bay/Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta estuary, where it has contributed to elevated mercury concentrations in fish, resulting in additional consumption advisories and regulatory action through the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) process. For information on the TMDL process see the web sites of the California Regional Water Quality Control Boards:

San Francisco Bay Mercury TMDL

Sacramento - San Joaquin Delta Methylmercury TMDL

The Cache Creek watershed drains eastward from the north-central part of the California Coast Range. It includes Clear Lake, the largest and oldest natural lake located entirely in California. There are several historical gold and mercury mines in the Cache Creek watershed, including the Sulphur Bank Mercury Mine, which is a USEPA Superfund site, and the Abbott and Turkey Run mines which were recently remediated by the private sector. There is a mercury TMDL in place for Cache Creek and some of its tributaries, developed by the California Regional Water Quality Control Board - Central Valley Region.

Ongoing studies by USGS are focused on characterizing and quantifying sources of mercury and methylmercury to the Bay-Delta, including continuing runoff from mercury mining areas in the Coast Ranges and from gold-mining areas in the Sierra Nevada, and from resuspension and diffusive transport from mercury-contaminated sediments already in the rivers and reservoirs in the Bay-Delta watershed. For more information, check out this USGS web page:

http://ca.water.usgs.gov/mercury/

Where does all of our water go? Ca water use data by category

According to the USGS, Californians withdrew an estimated total of 38 billion gallons of water per day in 2010 (the most recent data year of their study), compared with 46 billion gallons per day in 2005.

http://ca.water.usgs.gov/water_use/2010-california-water-use.html

  • Surface water withdrawals in California were 25 billion gallons per day (67%), compared with 35 billion gallons per day (76%) in 2005.
  • Groundwater withdrawals accounted for 13 billion gallons per day (33%), compared with 11 billion gallons per day (24%) in 2005.
  • About 82% of all California water withdrawals were from fresh-water sources, compared with 72% in 2005.
    • In both 2005 and 2010, about 74% of all fresh water withdrawals were for irrigation.
    • 95% of all saline water withdrawals were for thermoelectric power generation, compared with 98% in 2005.
    • 38 billion gallons of water withdrawals per day were distributed among 8 categories:

    • Irrigation: 60.7% (23,056 million gallons per day)
    • Thermoelectric power generation: 17.4% (6,601 million gallons per day)
    • Public supply: 16.6% (6,307 million gallons per day). Average daily gross per capita use was 181 gallons (total Public Supply withdrawals divided by population served).
    • Aquaculture: 2.6% (973 million gallons per day)
    • Industrial: 1.0% (400 million gallons per day)
    • Mining: 0.7% (272 million gallons per day)
    • Livestock: 0.5% (188 million gallons per day)
    • Self-supply domestic: 0.5% (172 million gallons per day). Average daily per capita use was 69 gallons.
    • The 58 counties in California use differing proportions of water sources in the 8 (or less) categories.

Dam Removal Database

The United States is likely to see a continuation of the recent dam removal trend. An emerging need is to provide relevant scientific information about the physical, biological, and ecological responses of rivers and reservoirs to dam removal. Retaining specific details about removed dams will provide valuable information to those researching and making decisions on future dam removals. USGS has been tracking dam removal across the country. The interactive tool at this link allows you to zoom in to a particular site and scroll over for detailed information on the dam that was removed.

 

https://www.sciencebase.gov/drip/

How's that river looking? USGS Real-time Water Flow Map of California Rivers

Here's a great site to check out on recent and current water flow conditions on your favorite river before you drive those 5 hours to go fishing. Scroll over the dot marking the location that you're interested in and the local river name and flow data (graphed and current versus historical) will display.

https://waterwatch.usgs.gov/index.php?r=ca&id=ww_current

The "Real-time streamflow" map tracks short-term changes (over several hours) in rivers and streams. Although the general appearance of the map changes very little from one hour to the next, individual sites may change rapidly in response to major rain events or to reservoir releases.

The map depicts streamflow conditions as computed at USGS streamgages. The colors represent real-time streamflow compared to percentiles of historical daily streamflow for the day of the year.

This map represents conditions relative to those that have historically occurred at this time of year. Only streamgages having at least 30 years of record are used.

WaterWatch (http://waterwatch.usgs.gov) is a U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) World Wide Web site that displays maps, graphs, and tables describing real-time, recent, and past streamflow conditions for the United States. The real-time information generally is updated on an hourly basis. WaterWatch provides streamgage-based maps that show the location of more than 3,000 long-term (30 years or more) USGS streamgages; use colors to represent streamflow conditions compared to historical streamflow; feature a point-and-click interface allowing users to retrieve graphs of stream stage (water elevation) and flow; and highlight locations where extreme hydrologic events, such as floods and droughts, are occurring.

The streamgage-based maps show streamflow conditions for real-time, average daily, and 7-day average streamflow. The real-time streamflow maps highlight flood and high flow conditions. The 7-day average streamflow maps highlight below-normal and drought conditions.

WaterWatch also provides hydrologic unit code (HUC) maps. HUC-based maps are derived from the streamgage-based maps and illustrate streamflow conditions in hydrologic regions. These maps show average streamflow conditions for 1-, 7-, 14-, and 28-day periods, and for monthly average streamflow; highlight regions of low flow or hydrologic drought; and provide historical runoff and streamflow conditions beginning in 1901.

WaterWatch summarizes streamflow conditions in a region (state or hydrologic unit) in terms of the long-term typical condition at streamgages in the region. Summary tables are provided along with time-series plots that depict variations through time. WaterWatch also includes tables of current streamflow information and locations of flooding.

What's the Delta ERP and what is CDFW's role?

The Ecosystem Restoration Program (ERP) is a multi-agency effort aimed at improving and increasing aquatic and terrestrial habitats and ecological function in the Delta and its tributaries. The ERP Focus Area (JPG) includes the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, Suisun Bay, the Sacramento River below Shasta Dam, the San Joaquin River below the confluence with the Merced River, and their major tributary watersheds directly connected to the Bay-Delta system below major dams and reservoirs. Principal participants overseeing the ERP are CDFW, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), and the NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), collectively known as the ERP Implementing Agencies. The ERP implements restoration projects through grants administered by the ERP Grants Program. The vast majority of these projects focus on fish passage issues, species assessment, ecological processes, environmental water quality, or habitat restoration. The ERP is guided by the following six strategic goals:

  1. Recover endangered and other at-risk species and native biotic communities;
  2. Rehabilitate ecological processes;
  3. Maintain or enhance harvested species populations;
  4. Protect and restore habitats;
  5. Prevent the establishment of and reduce impacts from non-native invasive species; and
  6. Improve or maintain water and sediment quality.

As the ERP’s State implementing agency, CDFW’s primary role within the program is to fund and manage grant projects within the ERP Focus Area to address the ERP goals and objectives. In addition, CDFW staff coordinates and collaborates with other local, State, and federal agencies to address the ERP goals and objectives.

 The Delta ERP area

The Delta ERP area

What are all the proposed water plans and processes for managing our Delta water and ecosystem resources?

Currently, there are three major planning processes focused exclusively on the Delta, two broader statewide plans, and multitudes of smaller plans and programs that affect the Delta in some way.  Some plans are in the implementation stage while others are still in the planning stages.

What are all these different plans and processes? This link will help sort them all out for you.  On this page, the various plans and programs are organized and summarized and links are provided for more information. Delta-focused planning processes are covered first, followed by the statewide plans, and lastly, brief summaries of the various smaller plans and programs which affect the Delta in some way.

This linked page from Maven's Notebook website is meant to be a reasonably complete listing of plans and programs underway; however, with so many agencies at work with a hand in the Delta, not every plan or program may be listed here.

https://mavensnotebook.com/the-notebook-file-cabinet/delta-and-statewide-planning-processes/

 

How is water used in California?

Water in California is shared across three main sectors.
According to PPIC's review of data provided by the State Water Board, average state-wide water use is roughly 50% environmental, 40% agricultural, and 10% urban, although the percentage of water use by sector varies dramatically across regions and between wet and dry years. Some of the water used by each of these sectors returns to rivers and groundwater basins and can be used again. (These official estimates were last updated in 2010, so they do not reflect recent drought-related changes in water use.)

http://www.ppic.org/main/publication_show.asp?i=1108

 SOURCE: Department of Water Resources (2013).  California Water Plan Update  (Bulletin 160-13).  NOTE: The figure shows applied water use. The statewide average for 1998-2010 was 79.8 MAF. Environment (40.5 MAF average) includes water for "wild and scenic” rivers, required Delta outflow, instream flows, and managed wetlands. Urban (8.3 MAF) includes residential, commercial, and industrial uses, and large landscapes. Agriculture (31 MAF) includes water for crop production. Net water use—i.e., the volume consumed by people or plants, embodied in manufactured goods, evaporated, or discharged to saline waters—is lower. The figure excludes water used to actively recharge groundwater basins (3% for urban and 1% for agriculture on average), conveyance losses (2% for urban and 7% for agriculture), and water used for energy production (less than 2% of urban use).

SOURCE: Department of Water Resources (2013). California Water Plan Update (Bulletin 160-13).

NOTE: The figure shows applied water use. The statewide average for 1998-2010 was 79.8 MAF. Environment (40.5 MAF average) includes water for "wild and scenic” rivers, required Delta outflow, instream flows, and managed wetlands. Urban (8.3 MAF) includes residential, commercial, and industrial uses, and large landscapes. Agriculture (31 MAF) includes water for crop production. Net water use—i.e., the volume consumed by people or plants, embodied in manufactured goods, evaporated, or discharged to saline waters—is lower. The figure excludes water used to actively recharge groundwater basins (3% for urban and 1% for agriculture on average), conveyance losses (2% for urban and 7% for agriculture), and water used for energy production (less than 2% of urban use).

Where does our water come from?

This summary from Maven's Notebook provides an excellent overview of the major water sourcing, storage and distribution projects throughout the Golden State.

https://mavensnotebook.com/the-notebook-file-cabinet/californias-water-systems/

California has built a water delivery infrastructure that is likely the most extensive anywhere on earth, capable of moving a drop of water that originates near the northern border all the way down south to the Mexican border.  Through the development of this infrastructure, man has rearranged California's natural assets to meet societal needs, making the state unrecognizable from its pre-settlement history in the process.

California's climate and hydrology are unlike any other in the nation, with variability and uncertainty the main characteristics.  In an average year, the total amount of precipitation is about 200 million acre-feet; however, the actual precipitation can vary anywhere from 100 million acre-feet to 300 million acre-feet, depending on whether it is a wet year, a dry year, or something in between.  About half of the precipitation will evaporate, be used by vegetation, or sink into the subsurface, salt sinks, or flow to the ocean; the remaining half, known as ‘dedicated water' is what is available for use in cities, on farms, for the environment, or to be put in storage.

 Lake Shasta in drought

Lake Shasta in drought

 

California has more than 1,400 named dams and 1,300 reservoirs that help with flood management, water storage and water transport. Hydropower from dams also provides a major source of electricity throughout the state and a source of revenue. Dams are owned, maintained and operated by federal, state and local agencies.

http://www.watereducation.org/topic-list-dams-reservoirs-and-water-projects

Groundwater is also an important part of the state's water supplies, comprising about 40% of water used in an average year, and 60% or more in a drought year.  But groundwater is very much location dependent: some communities have no groundwater and rely solely on surface water while other communities may have only groundwater; other communities rely on a mix of imported water and groundwater, and even some rely solely on imported water. California has been identified as the heaviest groundwater user in the United States, with approximately 16% of the nation's groundwater supplies being extracted from the state's aquifers.

For details on where the water for your city or county comes from, check out this website from the Water Education Foundation:

http://www.watereducation.org/where-does-my-water-come

 

 

Managing California's water under "co-equal goals" for people and the environment is a complex challenge

Managing water remains one of the great challenges for California. Population growth, a shifting climate, and declining ecosystem health are putting pressure on the state’s water supply and flood management systems. 

A briefing kit developed by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) highlights some of the most pressing issues, including:

http://www.ppic.org/content/pubs/report/R_211EHChapter1R.pdf

http://www.ppic.org/main/publication.asp?i=1130

  Source : Calculations by J. Viers using data from PRISM, CIMIS, and the U.C. Davis Soil Resource Laboratory

Source: Calculations by J. Viers using data from PRISM, CIMIS, and the U.C. Davis Soil Resource Laboratory

Central California Salmon and Steelhead runs won't recover without a healthy Bay - Delta ecosystem and more water flows

The Delta is dying and so are the historic salmon and steelhead runs in California. More than half of the historic water flows into the Delta from the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers are diverted. The State Water Board is proposing some major changes. Learn about the issues and what you can do to get involved. Here are links to several useful sites to help get you started:

https://calmatters.org/articles/to-save-sf-bay-and-its-dying-delta-state-aims-to-re-plumb-california/

http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/waterrights/water_issues/programs/bay_delta/bay_delta_plan/water_quality_control_planning/2016_sed/docs/ph1_fact.pdf

http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/waterrights/water_issues/programs/bay_delta/bay_delta_plan/water_quality_control_planning/2016_sed/docs/prp_update_sum.pdf

After studying the water flows needed for the recovery of chinook salmon and steelhead spawning runs in the central valley rivers for several years, the Water Board is recommending increasing flow on the San Joaquin River and its tributaries to a range of 30 to 50 percent, with a starting point of 40 percent of unimpaired flow from February through June.  This is less than the 60 percent of unimpaired flow recommended by their scientific advisory panel. Unimpaired flow represents the water production of a river basin, unaltered by upstream diversions, storage, or by export or import of water to or from other watersheds.  Historical median February through June flows from 1984–2009 in the Merced, Tuolumne, and Stanislaus Rivers were, respectively, 26, 21, and 40 percent of unimpaired flow.  In other words, half of the time more than 60 or 70 percent of each river’s flow is diverted out of the river during these months.
 Scientific studies show that flow is a major factor in the survival of fish like salmon and that current flows are inadequate to protect many endangered and threatened species, as well as species relied upon by the commercial fisheries.  The Draft SED recognizes that other factors, like predation and loss of habitat, affect fish populations, and those factors are also addressed in the Draft SED.
 The unimpaired flow requirement is designed to mimic the cues of nature that species have evolved to respond to, but is not intended to be a rigid and fixed percent of unimpaired flow.  It is intended to provide a quantity of water as a baseline, but the proposal provides for, and encourages, collaboration to use the flows as a block of water that can be “shaped” or shifted in time to provide more functionally useful flows that provide increased habitat, more optimal temperatures, or a migration cue.  This type of targeted effort can provide more timely and efficient use of flows than a set regime.
 The Draft SED recognizes the financial and operational challenges to local economies of reduced diversions. The flow requirement considers the needs for fish and wildlife along with the needs of agriculture and local economies.

This video developed by PPIC provides an overview of changes and challenges to the fragile Delta.

Good News for Salmon and Steelhead, Sam Davidson, TU California Communications Director

TU-California folks,
 
As you know, TU’s cold water conservation efforts are epitomized by our work at the “micro” level to protect and restore habitat and trout and salmon populations. This work often is achieved through projects developed or facilitated by our chapters. TU also works at the “macro” level, primarily through our Science and Water program staff, to drive changes in policy and resource management practices that benefit fish – especially our native salmon and steelhead.
 
On this front, I have some good news to share. Recent developments in the policy realm offer reason for optimism in the arduous effort to bring back our salmon and steelhead in the face of drought, a warming climate, and an over-committed system of water allocation.
 
First, TU and Wild Steelheaders United joined forces to encourage the California Fish and Game Commission to designate much of the south fork of the fabled Smith River as a State Wild and Heritage Trout Water. Thanks to our efforts, 220 anglers submitted comments in support of this action, which the Commission adopted on October 20. The new designation means a higher level of protection and monitoring for this stream, which provides vital habitat and summer angling in the Smith River system. As any seasoned angler knows, the Smith River is perhaps the best steelhead water in California and is renowned for its angling opportunities for wild steelhead, salmon, and coastal cutthroat trout.
 
Secondly, the State Water Resources Control Board has, over the past month, taken two actions which could profoundly affect the severely diminished salmon and steelhead runs in the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers. In short, the water board has released science-based proposals to update the water quality and flow standards for these rivers – these proposals recommend that substantially more “unimpaired flow” be left in these rivers at key times to improve fish passage, spawning and rearing. TU helped to shape these recommendations and is now working to ensure that the target boost in streamflows contemplated is fully implemented when the new regulations are adopted. We will be sure to alert you as opportunities arise in this process to advocate for these long-overdue improvements in managing our limited water supplies for both fish and people.
 
In the meantime, you can read this new blog post, which discusses this issue in more detail and includes links to TU’s previous comments on the water board’s proposal for the San Joaquin River as well as poetic remarks from Rene Henery, our California Science Director, in a recent article from the Associated Press. Here’s the link: http://www.tu.org/blog-posts/the-vascular-system-of-our-landscape.
 
Thanks for all you are doing, at every level, to help restore and sustain California’s cold water fisheries.
 
Tight lines, Sam
 
Trout Unlimited
Sam Davidson / Director of Communications, California / Klamath Basin
sdavidson@tu.org / 831-235-2542
Trout Unlimited
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Introduction to Fishing at Quarry Lakes

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Located in the East San Francisco Bay Area and comprised of members residing in Alameda and Contra Costa counties, the John Muir Chapter of Trout Unlimited recently held its first public, educational event on November 12, 2016. Partnering with Bay Nature Magazine, The East Bay Regional Parks District and members of the Oakland Casting Club, we held a half-day Introduction to Fishing Clinic. More than 40 attendees of all ages, mostly new to fishing, attended. Sessions on Stream Biology, Where to Fish Locally, Spin Casting and Fly Casting were popular among the participants who all got plenty of hands on experience in casting. A few of the attendees who had limited experience in casting were overheard to remark “now I know why it never worked for me when I tried it before!” Kids especially enjoyed handling the wiggly aquatic critters collected that morning from nearby Alameda Creek, and seeing the traveling aquarium of fish residing in our local waters that the Regional Parks District brought to this event.

The more than a dozen volunteers who served as instructors got to hang out together for an after event picnic to get to know each other and talk about future efforts. We are planning to increase the work we do together with these local organizations to further participation in our new TU chapter and in conservation and public outreach in our local region.