Low Flows Endanger Russian River Coho Salmon

The abnormally dry winter weather is causing problems for more than just ski resorts in the Sierra.

Coho salmon turn red in their spawning stage.

The endangered coho salmon, which has slowly been making a comeback, faces another threat, this time from low flows in the Russian River.

Bob Norberg of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat has been reporting on the plight of the coho.

A major difficulty brought by reduced rain is the fish are still in the Russian River’s main stem rather than in the tributaries where they are usually spawning by now.

As a result, the Sonoma County Water Agency is distributing 20,000 cards with pictures and identifying characteristics at places where fishing licenses are purchased, in addition to the 20,000 printed two years ago.

“We kept hearing from people that there were coho in the river and we were hearing that the anglers would not be able to tell the difference and they would keep the coho,” said Ann DuBay, water agency spokeswoman.

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Salazar: Risky Times for Western Water

Interior Chief to California: Don’t allow significant water supply and infrastructure projects be derailed

Demonstrators rally in 2006 for the removal of dams on the Klamath RIver.

Today at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar weighed in on three major water projects in the state and called on Californians to “stand firm” and defend the “hard-gained agreements and settlements” built in past decades.

“Never before have water agreements that provide safety and certainty for Westerners been so at risk,” said Salazar, referring to debates over the future of the San Joaquin River, the California Bay Delta, and the Klamath River.

Salazar argued that the state, and the country, should not back away from the 2006 San Joaquin River Restoration Program settlement, which, he said enabled the river to run from its headwaters to the ocean this year for the first time in half a century. He lobbied for the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, calling it a “comprehensive approach that includes new habitat for endangered fish species, coordinated measures to attack toxics that are fouling delta waters, and improvements to the state’s water infrastructure.” Continue reading

Climate Linked to "Silent Streams"?

Memo to anglers: If you’re wondering why they’re not biting, it may be because they’re not there. Little noticed this week was a report from the U.S. Geological Survey, detailing the staggering losses that freshwater fish species have suffered across the U.S. The report describes nearly 40% of North America’s freshwater fishes as “imperiled.” The figure represents a 92% increase over a similar survey done in 1989 by the American Fisheries Society, which participated in the new report. USGS director Mark Myers cited loss of habitat and invasive species as primary causes for the decline but noted that “climate change may further affect these fish.” The news is worse for California, as topping the Survey’s at-risk list are “salmon and trout of the Pacific Coast and western mountain regions.”

Release of the report followed by one day Terry Root’s keynote presentation at the California Climate Change Conference, in which the Stanford researcher warned of a catastrophic loss of trout habitat in California, due in part to climate change.