May 2022 Newsletter

Season Update

GSSA supporter, Crystal Smith with a nice salmon. Photo courtesy of New Easy Rider

There seems to be a decent size body of salmon off the southern San Mateo coast, which is open to sport fishing but closed to commercial above Pigeon Point.  The trip from Half Moon Bay south and west is at least an hour and three hours for boats coming out of SF Bay.  The weather has kept all but the big charter boats from making the run on most days.  The fishing has been good with limits reported on most days.

The commercial fleet has been stuck a few miles further south and may be catching the southern edge of the same body of salmon.   It appears this school of salmon is of mixed grade with a good number of commercial size fish mixed in.  Weather has also been a factor for the commercial fleet, keeping all but the biggest of these boats tied up on many days. 

Early catches of commercial salmon reportedly fetched $10/lb but that dropped to around $6.50 to $7 for many boats during the second opening. 

Smaller salmon have been caught out of Eureka and a few salmon are being caught off the Marin and Sonoma coasts. 

Governor seeks money from legislature to propel backroom water deal

The ball is in the legislature’s court

The cause of natural salmon restoration suffered a setback at the end of March when the Newsom Administration announced a back room deal with some of the state’s biggest water districts.  Although they are claiming it will improve environmental conditions for salmon, for the most part, it mostly enshrines high water diversions.  At this point it has no immediate affect nor force of law.  All kinds of legal and regulatory hurdles would have to be overcome for it to be binding, and that’s by no means a sure thing. 

The state legislature has been asked by the governor’s office to appropriate hundreds of millions of dollars to make the deal fly.  GSSA and allies have asked the legislature not to provide funding.  The next several weeks will be telling.  Even if the legislature provides the money, the deal has to be judged biologically beneficial by the State Water Resources Control Board, another hurdle.  The bottom line may simply be that this action is really more about delaying any change to status quo water deliveries for those who have largely controlled California’s salmon rivers for the last 100 plus years. 

After the deal was struck (and fishing groups like GSSA were purposely excluded), the state must have felt bad because they circled back and invited us to a follow up discussion on how to implement the agreement.  GSSA and our allies politely said no thanks.  In addition, GSSA Secretary and Pro Troll Tackle owner Dick Pool, and PCFFA executive director Mike Conroy, both resigned from a state and federal sanctioned group that included water districts and some conservation and fishing voices intended to find common ground on water issues and species restoration.  The two resigned after it became clear that the veneer of collaboration was trampled on by the governor’s office and the major water user groups that struck the water deal by excluding the fishing group representatives. 

Another year of deadly hot water awaits salmon over GSSA and allies’ objections

GSSA and allies once again mounted efforts through the spring to force state and federal water agencies to leave some cold water for salmon in Sacramento Valley reservoirs.  The state responded and struck a deal with some of the senior water districts in the valley whereby the water districts agreed to take far less water this year in return for payments from the state.  The bottom line is instead of a complete wipe out of winter run salmon this year, models show that a little more than half of the eggs laid will die from hot water.  Of the few fry expected to survive, many will be lost to predators downstream.  Hopefully the total loss will be less than the 97 percent loss last year.  Still unknown, what the losses from hot water to fall run salmon, both last year, and again this year. 

GSSA and allies pointed out to the state that the deal it struck with the big water districts wasn’t as protective of salmon as it could and should be.  But that protest fell on deaf ears as the state signed off on the deal.  That triggered a letter from GSSA’s attorneys to the federal attorneys informing them that the hot water deal ran afoul of what they’d recently promised in the federal court case challenging the Trump era water operation rules for the big water projects. 

Feather River needs water treatment equipment before salmon can be reintroduced upstream

Water filtration building and gear at Colman Hatchery

You’ve read about GSSA’s efforts to get salmon reintroduced to some good spawning and rearing water in the Sierra’s, up above some of the dams.  State officials have serious worries about introduction of fish pathogens into upstream waters currently free of them.  Apparently, such an infection happened on Battle Creek years ago after some wild fish were allowed to migrate upstream of the Coleman hatchery.  Those adult fish carried disease with them which next showed up at the hatchery, threatening the fish there.  The disease can be filtered out of the water but filtration equipment is expensive.  Such filtration equipment was installed at the Coleman Hatchery.  Similar equipment will be needed at the Feather River hatchery if adult fish are ever to be released upstream of Oroville Dam. 

GSSA spreading the word on salmon in California

GSSA president John McManus points out features to attendees of CA Water Education Foundation

GSSA staff have been on the road alerting people around the state of the situation our salmon runs are in.  GSSA president John McManus spoke with a group of water agency staffers organized by the California Water Education Foundation on California water issues and what that’s doing to the salmon fishery and salmon fishing families. He also recently spoke with Sierra Club members as well as the CA Striped Bass Association.  GSSA Is scheduled to present to the California Fly Fishers Unlimited in Sacramento.  GSSA seizes on every opportunity to educate more Californians to this incredible natural resource and the ecosystem needed to keep salmon alive as well as the economic and social dimension of the salmon industry in California. 

PG&E raises concerns over decision to truck adult winter run up Battle Creek. Government dismisses them

Winter run king salmon

PG&E has many outdated, small dams on streams flowing from the Sierra Nevada mountains down into the Sacramento Valley.  In some cases, the dams produce such little power (especially with more solar power coming online) that the cost of maintenance isn’t worth it to PG&E.  Some of these dams block access to good spawning habitat for salmon.  These outdated dams are ripe for decommissioning and removal but PG&E, the utility that has burned countless Californians out of their homes and paid little price, is willing to ignore the dams and take the risks that might come. 

One such PG&E dam is the Eagle Canyon Dam on Battle Creek upstream of the Coleman Hatchery.  Due to the likelihood that winter run salmon eggs will die before hatching in hot Sacramento River water this year, state and federal fish agencies plan to move some of the otherwise doomed adult winter run above Eagle Canyon Dam into colder upper Battle Creek water where their eggs stand a good chance of surviving.  When told of this plan, PG&E lawyers reportedly came up with a long list of questions and challenges poses to the state. According to an inside source, the state (to its credit) ignored the potential legal posturing from PG&E and told the utility as much.  The fish move is on track and should help increase the number of winter run salmon produced this year.

Fix for Feather River hot water tested

Here’s the lay of the land
SM 4 (conceptual canal) would provide much cooler water to the Feather River downstream of the Thermalito Outlet

State efforts to address the thermal pollution of the Feather River below the Thermalito Outlet, an effort started after GSSA rallied the legislature to support, is showing progress.   A sophisticated water temperature model has been refined and various proposals for rerouting water downstream without allowing it to warm in the Thermalito Afterbay have been tested.  Although not all test results are yet in, a clear preferred alternative appears to be coming into focus.  It requires construction of a pipe, or canal that could move water from downstream of the Thermalito power turbines to the high flow channel of the Feather River, bypassing the Thermalito Afterbay.  Applying this fix would considerably cool the Feather River downstream, though still not enough to guarantee good spawning habitat for fall run salmon.   Lots more work has to be done but we’re happy that fixing this problem has moved from being ignored to a concrete idea being tested.  

Some Feather River springers released into river, some in SF Bay

More Than 500,000 Spring-Run Chinook Salmon Released Into the Feather River  - Active NorCal

After GSSA repeatedly advocated with the CA Dept of Fish and Wildlife NOT to release all of the Feather River spring run hatchery smolts in the Feather River, CDFW split the lot this year and took half of them down to Vallejo for release.  This was a major departure for CDFW from recent insistence not to truck any of the spring run.  CDFW sent a note to GSSA saying, “Half of the spring-run were released in the river back in March. As you noted, conditions are not anticipated to be favorable for juvenile Chinook survival (in the Feather River) and the second half of the FRH spring-run production were released into San Pablo Bay at Mare Island on May 10 and 11.”

We salute CDFW for saving the half of those fish that got trucked as drought conditions in the Feather River this year made it inhospitable for juvenile salmon trying to survive the downstream migration.   

July 23 Salmon BBQ, Tomales!

KRON anchor Vicki Liviakis with GSSA president John McManus and Katrina Rill at a William Tell House GSSA fundraiser

By the time you get this the June 3 Santa Rosa dinner will be upon us.  We’re already planning the next big salmon fundraising event which will be a salmon BBQ at the William Tell House in Tomales.   This is an afternoon event with outdoor seating at this historic venue in the small west Marin town.   We will be serving the best wild caught CA king salmon planet earth has to offer.  So if you like to eat salmon, and you want to help GSSA do the work we do, get a ticket, or a bunch, and bring the gang for an eating treat.    

Could be foggy but could be hot so make sure you’ve got a hat and some sunscreen.    

Renew Your Membership

If you haven’t done so already, please consider renewing your membership at $35 for the coming year.  We have a lot of work ahead and can’t do it without member support to keep the lights on and the staff working.  If you feel like providing more support, check out the higher membership categories available.

There’s a lot of work unfinished and a lot of work ahead.  Thanks for your support, as always.  You can renew online or mail a check in to:

P.O. Box 320096
San Francisco, CA