Trials underway for pilot project to return endangered salmon to historic habitat
Collection system would help restore salmon populations in the McCloud River above Shasta Reservoir
**News Release Jointly Released by California Department of Water Resources, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, NOAA Fisheries, US Fish and Wildlife Service, USDA Forest Service, and Bureau of Reclamation**
State and federal biologists and engineers, in partnership with the Winnemem Wintu Tribe, have begun testing an experimental system in Shasta Reservoir that could help collect young salmon from the McCloud River in years to come.
The juvenile salmonid collection system, a three-year pilot project, is part of a long-term effort to help fish better survive California’s hotter, drier future and more extreme droughts. The collection system will float in the McCloud River arm of the reservoir and guide cold water to a collection point, with this cold water flowing from the Shasta Trinity National Forest. The initial trials, which will take place from September to mid-November, will not involve salmon but will use temperature and hydraulic measurements to assess the operation and performance of the collection system.
If successful, the system will be tested in future years with salmon to determine its effectiveness and whether it can be an essential part of the reintroduction of winter run salmon. Biologists expect juvenile salmon to follow cooler water to this collection point, where they can be picked up and transported downstream around the dam to continue their migration to the ocean.
Recovery plans call for endangered chinook salmon to return to their original spawning grounds in the cold McCloud River above Shasta Reservoir, where the fish can better survive drought and climate change. Juvenile salmon hatched in the river should be collected as they migrate downstream, but before they enter the reservoir which is home to warmer waters and potential predators.
“This is an innovative and important project that comes at a critical time for endangered chinook salmon,” said Scott Rumsey, acting regional administrator for NOAA’s West Coast Fisheries Region. “Although we will need a few years to get things done, we have no time to waste preparing this California native species for the growing challenges of climate change.”
Reintroduction efforts are working to restore endangered winter run salmon to cooler, high-altitude rivers where they once spawned before reservoirs blocked their migration. This would improve their resilience to climate change and could allow for greater flexibility in water management of the Sacramento River.
An important element of the project has been the commitment of state, federal and regional authorities to tribal engagement. Strategic efforts and planning have been enhanced through support and commitment to developing a partnership with the Winnemem Wintu Tribe. The involvement of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe brings unique perspectives and brings tribal knowledge to the project.
“DWR is excited about the strong state, federal and tribal partnerships that are beginning to test the juvenile salmon collection system,” said Karla Nemeth, DWR Director. “This team effort is critical to supporting salmon and their adaptation to our climatic environment for a warmer, drier future.
Testing of the system will require intermittent restricted access for boats in the McCloud arm of the reservoir. DWR and contractor personnel will be on site and the system can be repositioned as reservoir levels drop in the fall. Rachel Birkey, Forestry Supervisor at Shasta-Trinity National Forest, said, “We are proud to join this collective effort and share in the National Forest’s ability to contribute to the cold water flow in efforts to help save this species at risk. »
“This is truly a monumental step in securing a future for this iconic California species at risk,” said Charlton H. Bonham, director of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). “This is the first step in creating the infrastructure needed to connect wintering Chinook salmon in the Sacramento River to this ideal cold water spawning and rearing habitat in the McCloud River. testing of this system.”
Testing the collection system is a separate effort from the transfer of approximately 40,000 winter migration eggs from the Livingston Stone National Hatchery to the McCloud River, where they incubated all summer. This effort, supported by the Winnemem Wintu Tribe, CDFW, NOAA Fisheries and the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), was an urgent response to the severe drought and will improve the salmon’s chances of survival this year.
“Returning winter chinook salmon to their original spawning grounds in the McCloud River has always been part of the species’ recovery plan, but now climate change is accelerating the urgency of this action,” said Paul Souza, Pacific Southwest Regional Director for USFWS. “We are grateful to have dedicated partners by our side to test this innovative technology and help this endangered salmon survive.”
“Winter Chinook Salmon are an important species for the Central Valley Project, and we are carefully managing water temperatures to protect the last natural spawning population below Keswick Dam on the Sacramento River,” said Ernest Conant, director. of the Bureau of Reclamation’s California. -Greater Basin region. “We have been able to support the resilience of the population and this reintroduction effort through our funding of the Livingston-Stone National Fish Hatchery Operation and the Battle Creek Restoration Program. We look forward to the day when NOAA Fisheries may add a population from the McCloud River to those from the Sacramento River.”
Photo courtesy of California Department of Water Resources.
media contact person;
Peter Tira, CDFW Communications, (916) 215-3858