Agricultural Land Donation Promotes Salmon Recovery in the San Joaquin River

NOAA Fisheries

Connley Clayton, a third-generation farmer in California’s Central Valley, stood surveying the San Joaquin River flowing past Sack Dam, a century-old irrigation diversion. He could see that the river, and its salmon, are on their way to recovery.

“We are so happy that the river is running again,” said Connley, 75, who lives about 10 miles north of the property in El Nido with his wife. Specifically, Connley references the stretch of river below Sack Dam, which would often run dry when flow is diverted for agricultural uses. Then in 2016, the San Joaquin River Restoration Program started releasing water specifically for river restoration.

The increased river flows are essential to the next major step in the restoration program. Project partners will reintroduce a population of threatened Central Valley spring-run Chinook salmon into the river. The NOAA Fisheries recovery plan for this threatened, keystone species depends in part on this reintroduction into their historical habitat. The Connleys have helped make that possible.

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