Everyone is worried about salmon runs. Salmon, however, have been taking care of themselves for millennia. Bruce Herbold, Ph.D, a retired fish biologist for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, described the four different salmon runs in California as a “portfolio.” Each depends on different flows and different water temperatures, with the fall run having the lowest and warmest flows, at least by nature.
Herbold’s presentation was part of seminar presented Oct. 27 by the Mountain Counties Water Resources Association.
In contrast to these different salmon runs and their different needs, the state Water Resources Control Board is plotting to steal water from water districts along the American, Yuba and Feather rivers. At the Regional Water Authority Board of Directors meeting Nov. 9, RWA’s legal counsel told the group the state water board was aiming to take “unimpaired flows” of 35 percent to 75 percent. The state water board’s unimpaired flow plan is 427 pages.
The new executive director of the State Water Resources Control Board, Eileen Sobeck, also spoke Oct. 27 about the water board’s plan for updating the Bay Delta plan by demanding “unimpaired flows.”
Sobeck, a lawyer with a long Washington, D.C., career, essentially said water rights are subject to “water quality and flow requirements”
“The need for action can’t be doubted anymore,” Sobeck said.
First, the state water board is working on San Joaquin River flows. Sobeck referred to a “budget of water inflows that can be scalable.”
Phase 2 is the Sacramento River, where she said the state water board will seek “protection of fish and wildlife.” I didn’t know deer, raccoons, squirrels and birds were the state water board’s mandate.
“We’re working as fast as we can,” she said, indicating wrapping up their flow demands by the end of November.
The water board has a history of coming out with complex rules at the end of November and giving water districts and cities two weeks to respond.
The State Water Resources Control Board is actually getting a two-fer. In addition to its quest for seeking release of “unimpaired flows,” the water board is also going to require “permanent conservation,’ Sobeck said.
Increased flows will do little more than drain Folsom Lake. The real problem facing salmon and Delta smelt are predator fish like bass introduced for sport fishing. Not satisfied with small mouth bass, in 1980 large mouth bass, a Florida fish, were introduced into the Delta and California waters, according to Doug Demko of FISHBIO, an environmental consultant and fisheries specialist. Demko told the Oct. 27 group of water district representatives that “90 percent of the fish biomass is non-native.”
These predator fish are gobbling up salmon. Demko noted that in 2009 there was a declaration that “the predator fish population must be reduced to prevent a precipitous decline (to salmon) … that will “become irreversible.”
Since 2000 we’re lucky to get 7 percent survival” of returning salmon, Demko said. Of the fish leaving Battle Creek in Shasta and Tehama counties there is only a 4 percent survival rate, Demko said.
The real battle facing California is getting rid of the predator fish the Department of Fish and Game allowed to be imported from the Mississippi and Florida.