- Adding spawning gravel and restoring rearing habitat for wild salmon the Sacramento River basin.
- Changing reservoir operations that currently dewater wild salmon eggs leaving them high and dry when the flows are cut
- Improving trucking and barging practices to safely move hatchery smolts around the Delta and river hazards while also minimizing straying.
- Modifying predator hotspots by eliminating predator hiding places or giving the baby salmon places to hide in predator locations.
- Using pulse flows in the rivers and tributaries to move smolts and fry past predator hot spots.
- Improving flows through the Delta in the critical springtime when the smolts are migrating.
- Improving the archaic pump salvage system by placing the salvaged fish into recovery net pens instead of dumping them in a highly stressed condition into open predator locations.
Solutions – Our Strategy By and large, the ocean is doing its part to produce healthy salmon runs. The problem for Central Valley salmon is almost entirely in the sad condition of the inland freshwater habitat salmon need to spawn and rear in. Competition for freshwater in Central Valley rivers and streams is far and away the biggest single problem. In wet winters and springs, river conditions begin to mimic natural conditions like those that existed before dams stopped runoff. Two years later, we see resurgent salmon runs. This is because baby salmon survive at much higher rates during big runoff years. Reservoirs can be operated (as they are on the Columbia and Snake Rivers in Idaho, Oregon and Washington) to release large volumes of water in the spring to aid the downstream migration of the baby salmon. Not only do we fail to do this in California, but when these spring releases are most needed (in drought years), water managers are least inclined to share water for salmon. Hatchery salmon can be put in tanker trucks and driven down stream but no such aid exists for wild salmon. In the slow moving, gin clear, warm rivers draining the Central Valley during drought, baby salmon are massively lost to predators. Making matters worse, even in relatively normal wet years, Central Valley salmon suffer from manmade drought due to competition for water with agriculture and urban residents. By and large, reservoir releases are timed to meet the needs of these groups, not those of salmon. In 2009 the federal government mandated restrictions on some water diversion practices harmful to listed winter and spring run salmon. The restrictions were contained in what’s called a biological opinion, or biop, which required certain mitigation steps to restrict the damage caused by federal and state water projects. The 2009 biop greatly helped restore the runs until drought hit in 2012 and gains were lost. Delta pumping restrictions meant water users with junior water rights saw cuts. The junior water rights contractors sued and lost in federal court. Undeterred, they next turned to politicians in Congress to change the laws protecting threatened and endangered wildlife. Since 2013 we’ve seen legislative efforts, one after another, to overturn or weaken established law protecting species. A fair amount of GGSA time and energy has been spent fighting off these efforts because requirements to protect threatened and endangered salmon runs also protect other salmon runs that supply the salmon fishery. They also protect many other species in the Central Valley and Delta and major parts of California’s unique natural heritage. In December of 2016 a federal bill weakening Central Valley salmon protections became law. Massive pumps divert water from the Sacramento and San Joaquin Delta for export south GGSA’s Salmon Rebuilding Plan To identify and prioritize the problems facing Central Valley salmon, GGSA worked with fisheries biologists and state and federal fish agency experts to develop a salmon rebuilding plan. The plan currently has 27 projects that will go a long ways towards strengthening Central Valley salmon runs when implemented. The 27 projects were selected because they rebuild both wild and hatchery salmon runs and can be implemented at early dates, mostly affected by funding availability and permit approvals. The projects call for fixes both in the Sacramento River, its tributaries and in the Delta. Some of the projects in the GGSA plan include: