Feather River flow cranked up for young salmon

Yuba City >> A half-million baby spring-run salmon were released Monday into the Feather River, which is far less than normal, according to the Golden Gate Salmon Association.

The fish were released downstream from the confluence with the Yuba River, according to the association.

Normally 2 million of the spring-run fish would be released from the Feather River Fish Hatchery, but only 1,200 adults were captured for harvest this year.

The salmon association said that’s because the water in the river was low and clear during the drought in 2015 when this year’s fish were released from the hatchery. That made them easy targets for predators on their journey to the ocean.

This year the fish got a boost with stepped-up releases from the Oroville Dam complex. Flows into the river were increased from 1,000 cubic feet per second to 4,050 cfs at 3 p.m. Monday to mimic the natural conditions.

The increased releases are called “pulse flows” and are increasingly seen as vital to salmon survival.

“GGSA has pushed for spring pulse flows for years so it’s good to see the Department of Water Resources acknowledge the value these flows provide to baby salmon,” said association president John McManus.

The releases did not come directly from Lake Oroville but instead from the Thermalito Afterbay, according to the DWR website. Flows through the Hyatt Powerhouse are being curtailed except for three or four hours a day in an effort to store more water in lake.

Storage in the lake topped 2 million acre-feet Monday morning, which is an increase of 540,000 acre-feet since the start of March.

The lake level was 782.78 feet above sea level at 2 p.m., up more than 3 feet in 24 hours. DWR’s flood control plan for this year calls for increasing releases if the level gets to 800 feet this month.