GSSA Acts to Stop Overheating of Sacramento River, Impending Salmon Losses


Asks State Water Resources Control Board to exercise its authority to save salmon

San Francisco   —  The Golden State Salmon Association has asked the State Water Resources Control Board to stop the federal Bureau of Reclamation from killing salmon in the upper Sacramento River this year.  The Bureau admits it’s likely to kill at least 27 to 28 percent of winter run salmon spawn this year and leave a river too hot to support spawning fall run, the run the salmon industry relies on.  In a letter to the State Water Board, GSSA demonstrates more credible calculations show the loss of salmon is likely to be higher than the Bureau admits.

GSSA started warning the public and policy makers last July when National Marine Fisheries Service scientists concluded that a new federal water plan allowing more reservoir releases, diversions, and pumping was likely to gravely harm salmon. In August the California Dept. of Fish and Wildlife sent a letter to the Bureau repeating those warnings which was ignored.   Now the Bureau of Reclamation, in its rush to divert more of the state’s northern salmon river water to supporters in the dry western San Joaquin Valley, is proving those warnings right. 

“The State Water Board needs to exercise its authority and require the feds to protect state resources, including the state’s salmon runs.  All eyes are upon them to see if they’ll do so,” said GSSA president John McManus.  

“The threat to the state’s most important salmon runs, those in the Sacramento Valley, is imminent and grave,” GSSA chairman and West Marine founder Randy Repass.  “That’s why GSSA is taking action to head off this disaster. In addition to this request to the State Water Board, GSSA is also in court to reverse the salmon-killing reservoir releases and water diversions by the federal government.”

“Federal water practices, including reservoir releases, diversion, and pumping, have been a major reason for the steady decline of salmon in California,” GSSA secretary and Pro Troll owner Dick Pool.  “The new federal rules make things worse and basically dispense with any effort to protect salmon runs and the many fishing families, both sport and commercial, that rely on them.“

“The State Water Board knows that the Bureau can’t be trusted to operate Shasta responsibly,” said McManus. “In 2014 and 2015, the Bureau killed 95 to 97 percent of the endangered winter run and similar numbers of fall run salmon.  Fishermen and women paid the price through reduced catches two years later.  The Board must take action to prevent another temperature disaster in the Sacramento River.”

The State Water Board has rarely used its authority to reign in the damaging water practices of the federal government.  A crack appeared in March when the State Water Board sent a letter to the Bureau of Reclamation asking it to revive its Shasta reservoir release plans to make them more protective of salmon.  The Bureau failed to produce the requested revisions.

In addition to killing salmon spawn by overheating the upper Sacramento River, federal water operations in the fall threaten to dewater salmon redds, or nests, killing even more eggs.

The overheating of the upper Sacramento River, once the strongest salmon spawning grounds in the state, also forces salmon to stray from their natural spawning areas to nearby creeks that sometimes run a few degrees colder.  This has happened in the past and is likely to happen again.  This typically encourages upper Sacramento fall run salmon to stray into the colder waters of Battle and Clear creeks to spawn.  Hatchery managers at the Coleman hatchery on Battle Creek kill excess salmon when this happens. 

About GSSA: The Golden State Salmon Association ( is a coalition of salmon advocates that includes commercial and recreational salmon fishermen and women, businesses, restaurants, a native tribe, environmentalists, elected officials, families and communities that rely on salmon. GSSA’s mission is to restore California salmon for their economic, recreational, commercial, environmental, cultural and health values.

Currently, California’s salmon industry is valued at $1.4 billion in economic value and 23,000 jobs annually in a normal season.  Central Valley salmon provide about half that much in economic activity and jobs again in Oregon. Those who benefit stretch from Santa Barbara to northern Oregon. This includes commercial fishermen and women, recreational fishermen and women (fresh and salt water), fish processors, marinas, coastal communities, equipment manufacturers, the hotel and food industry, tribes, and others.

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Media contact:  Cat Kaiser, 855-251-4472