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National Review

In 2012, the British Columbia–based Native American Haida tribe launched an effort to restore the salmon fishery that has provided much of their livelihood for centuries. Acting collectively, the Haida voted to form the Haida Salmon Restoration Corporation, financed it with $2.5 million of their own savings, and used it to support the efforts of American scientist-entrepreneur Russ George to demonstrate the feasibility of open-sea mariculture — in this case, the distribution of 120 tons of iron sulfate into the northeast Pacific to stimulate a phytoplankton bloom which in turn would provide ample food for baby salmon.

The verdict is now in on this highly controversial experiment: It worked.

In fact it has been a stunningly over-the-top success. This year, the number of salmon caught in the northeast Pacific more than quadrupled, going from 50 million to 226 million. In the Fraser River, which only once before in history had a salmon run greater than 25 million fish (about 45 million in 2010), the number of salmon increased to 72 million.

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The Sacramento Bee

The public is invited to a free presentation May 3 at Nimbus Hatchery on how California’s drought is affecting salmon and steelhead populations in the American River.

The event is offered by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, which operates the hatchery, one of five in the Central Valley that produce most of the salmon caught by commercial and recreational anglers in the state.

Rob Titus, a senior environmental scientist at the department, will discuss the state of salmon and steelhead runs and the challenges the drought poses to their survival. He’ll also outline actions the agency is taking to protect these fish and improve their survival. Forest Williams of the Sacramento County Water Agency will then describe ways the public can reduce water use and lessen human impact on the river.

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San Francisco Chronicle

The California drought cannot be oversimplified as farmers versus fish. It is a very real challenge that is having serious impact on farmers, fishers, families and businesses across our entire state.

Unfortunately, the Field Poll results outlined in The Chronicle’s April 16 story “California residents divided on drought solution” oversimplified the ongoing drought in just this way. The poll shows that 49 percent of state voters support relaxing regulations that protect fish in order to help people; 44 percent think that the regulations should not be relaxed.

If regulations are relaxed, that means an increased amount of water could be pumped south out of the San Francisco Bay estuary. Taking more water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, which is part of that estuary, would lead to problems that go far beyond the survival of the endangered salmon and delta smelt. Real people would be hurt.

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The Stockton Record

It may be a drought year, but plans for restoration of endangered spring-run salmon on the parched San Joaquin River are proceeding with the release of 54,000 hatchery-raised fingerlings today and Friday near the confluence with the Merced River, federal agencies announced Thursday.

David Murillo, Director of Reclamation’s Mid-Pacific Region, said he is “hopeful” that in three years some of the salmon being released now will return to the river to spawn.

The announcement also said that no additional water will be released for the fish and that the fish are considered an “experimental population,” which means that they are exempt from Endangered Species Act rules that normally would make it illegal to kill the species by sucking them into water export pumps near Tracy.

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The Fresno Bee

Biologists this week helped 54,000 Northern California salmon become San Joaquin River inhabitants — launching the river’s largest experiment to rejuvenate a long-dead salmon run.

As part of the nearly 5-year-old San Joaquin restoration project, half of the juvenile fish will be released today for a long, dangerous swim to the Pacific Ocean. The other half will be released Friday.

The fish are tagged so survivors can be identified in a few years on the return trip to the San Joaquin for spawning.

“This is a big step for the project,” said biologist John Netto of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “We’re coordinating the right window of opportunity to get the fish down the river.”

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NBC Bay Area

Workers at a central California ranch could hardly believe their eyes when they spotted a sea lion pup hopping through an almond orchard, a mile from the San Joaquin River.

The Merced Sun-Star reported Tuesday that the ranch hands quickly got in touch with wildlife officials after discovering the confused animal last month at Mape’s Ranch near Modesto.

A Marine Mammal Center volunteer eventually coaxed the lost sea lion into a cage, where it promptly fell asleep.

The newspaper reports the 36-pound sea lion, nicknamed Hoppie, is recovering at the center. Hoppie is undergoing treatment for sores and getting some nourishment in hopes of returning him to the wild.

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Santa Maria Sun

A low-hanging mist is strung out between the summits directly above the gray-blue expanse of Lake Cachuma. From the Bradbury Dam overlook, you can only see the side of the lake that butts up against a 2,976-foot-long, 206-foot-high, rock-covered slope of a wall with a road running along its top and a gigantic cement structure of gates on one end. Remnants of last night’s rain cling to the vegetation on both sides of the fenced vista point, and a tall, thin man looks out at a portion of the lake. What he sees this March 26 morning prompts him to knit his eyebrows together.

Tim Robinson, whose hands are shoved into the pockets of his faded jeans, crouches down, pulls one hand out of its shelter, and points through a gap between oak tree branches, toward a spot in the lake a couple hundred feet from the dam.

There are two barges, one much smaller than the other. As manager of the Cachuma Operations and Management Board Fisheries Division, Robinson’s got a problem with what’s not working out there. He said the smaller barge is responsible for dangling a water intake pipe at a certain level in the lake, and the bigger barge holds two pumps. The contraptions link up to pull water from a cooler portion of the lake, send it through a little black pipe that runs over the top of the dam, and deposit it into Hilton Creek on the other side of the dam wall.

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The Spokesman-Review

Modifications to fish ladders at Wanapum and Rock Island dams are allowing salmon and steelhead to pass over the mid-Columbia dams, utility officials said Wednesday.

Fish counts show that 31 spring chinook and 102 steelhead passed over Wanapum Dam near Vantage, Wash., this week. Thirty-eight miles upstream at Rock Island Dam, three steelhead and eight whitefish passed over that dam.

The reservoir behind Wanapum Dam has been drawn down since late February, when a crack was discovered in the concrete support for one of the dam’s 12 spillway gates. As a result of the lower reservoir, fish ladders had to be modified to allow for salmon passage.

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USACE

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Sacramento District today released a draft study report recommending restoration of 90 acres of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to its natural tidal marsh state.

The proposed project would fill the sunken interior of areas near Antioch, using existing dredge material including stockpiles from dredging at the Port of Stockton. The Corps used the same method in 1987 to restore vibrant tidal marsh conditions for Donlon Island, another nearby tract in the same area of the Delta.

“This is an important first step for the Corps in helping with the critical problem of ecosystem degradation in the Delta,” said Col. Mike Farrell, Sacramento District commander. “This plan would use a proven, sustainable restoration method that we hope can serve as a model for more Delta restoration work in the future. Still, this is a draft recommendation, and we very much want to hear from the public about it during the open comment period.”

Co-funded by our partners the California Department of Water Resources, this study examines the feasibility for a Corps ecosystem restoration and flood risk reduction strategies of varying scope and complexity. The study found that the cost of even the most efficient flood risk reduction project considered would be nearly double the expected benefits, and does not recommend Corps investment in levee improvement work for now.

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E&E Publishing

The delta smelt has an unfortunate name; it’s easy to say with a sneer. The fish is also quite puny — 2 to 3 inches, on average — and physically weak. It can’t swim very well.

All these traits make a creature easy to pick on. So it’s no surprise that people have seized on the smelt as the unwelcome party in California’s latest drought.

“They want to protect this fish right here called the delta smelt,” Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) said on the House floor in February, pointing to a poster of the fish. “This is what this is about. It is about the Endangered Species Act. It is about the biggest water grab in history and running people out of water to protect this little fish.”

The semitransparent delta smelt has a life span of one year. Swimming using a “stroke-glide” style that takes advantage of the tides, the fish inhabits the zone where the salty waters of the Pacific mix with the fresh water of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, the largest such estuary on the West Coast. Before the 1980s, it was often abundant in the delta — the only place in the world where this particular species lives.

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