Due to low flows, Feather River fish are released into the Sacramento River

By Risa Johnson, Chico Enterprise-Record
POSTED: 05/02/18, 6:00 PM PDT
Sacramento >> One million baby fall-run salmon raised in the Feather River Hatchery were released on Wednesday morning into the Sacramento River.

This comes as the Northern California Guides and Sportsmen’s Association says it negotiated a deal with the state Department of Water Resources paying the state Department of Fish and Wildlife to raise two million hatchery salmon.

The association sees this as the first step to compensate for salmon killed when the Oroville Dam spillway partially collapsed in February 2017, sending tons of debris into the Feather River.

This discharge destroyed salmon spawning habitat along the river. More importantly, according to the association, were irregular releases from the dam which led to high turbidity in the water, killing young salmon and steelhead trout. Sharply reduced releases left baby salmon stranded in small pools.

DWR did bring about 5,000 cubic yards of spawning gravel back into the Feather River last August, placing the gravel in key spawning locations identified by fishery biologists.

James Stone, president of the association, said that commercial and sport fishing for salmon was recently restricted by government officials because of declining populations.

The independent forensic report released earlier this year found that insufficient maintenance and operations and problems in the original construction of the Oroville Dam led to the spillway failure, the association noted in a press release.

The association’s mission is to assist government entities to “better manage, save and ensure the sustainability of the publicly-owned water, fish and wildlife resources.”

The other one million salmon raised in the Feather River Hatchery were released last month into the San Pablo Bay.

The low-flow condition of the Feather River, full of predators like striped bass, made it an undesirable choice for placing the baby salmon this year.

Starting in the Sacramento River where flows are higher, the chance of survival is better; however, the Golden Gate Salmon Association is concerned about the return of the fish in about two years.

That is because releasing these hatchery-raised salmon into the Sacramento River, as opposed to the Feather River, may cause the fish to struggle to find the place they were born, where they will then lay their eggs and die, continuing their life cycle.

“This will hurt the economies of Oroville, Yuba City and Marysville which all benefit from strong salmon returns to the Feather River,” said John McManus, president of the Golden Gate Salmon Association.

“DWR could have chosen a different response that would have helped those communities and the survival of this group of salmon but is choosing not to.”

To learn more about the Golden Gate Salmon Association and its work, go to goldengatesalmon.org.

For more information about the Northern California Guides and Sportsmen’s Association, see ncgasa.org.