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Delta at Clifton Court and Tracy Fish Facility
Peripheral Delta Pipeline

In his annual State of the State address, California Gov. Jerry Brown reiterated a desire to move forward with the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) and have a proposal ready this summer outlining a project that is intended to restore the Delta ecosystem while still providing water to communities throughout the state (the co-equal goals of the BDCP). Of course, he is referring to the controversial peripheral canal project, which would divert water from the Sacramento River around the delta (or through, depending on the alternatives) and directly to the main aqueducts of California via the state and federal pumping stations (Figure 1).


The existing system draws water from the southwest section of the Delta, manipulating flow throughout the estuary (Figure 2). One study suggests that increasing exports likely increases the number of salmon from the Sacramento River that stray into the southern Delta and become entrained in the pumps (Newman and Brandes, 2009). Another study demonstrated that survival is lower for San Joaquin River salmon using the Old River route during outmigration (that leads towards the pumping stations), than for salmon migrating in the mainstem of the river (VAMP 2011). If the pumps entrain fish, they are salvaged and trucked to several release sites throughout the western Delta; however, not all entrained fish will survive the salvage process. The California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG) released the 2011 data showing that a record 11 million fish were salvaged while a record amount of water was drawn at the pumping stations. It is yet to be determined if the abundance of salvaged fish is a sign that the populations are rebounding or if the higher numbers are due to the record volume of pumped water, or most likely a combination of the two.


A total of $125 million has been spent since 2006 on the BDCP and Delta Habitat Conservation and Conveyance Plan (DHCCP) planning activities and another $115 million is expected to be spent through 2013. Estimates indicate that the peripheral canal could cost roughly $12 billion, but there is no way to truly know the price tag until a plan is drawn up and an environmental impact report is conducted.


One thing is certain, the Delta is a vulnerable ecosystem that is being pushed to its limits. If there is not a strategy to modify the way we utilize our resources or present ways that we can reduce the amount of resources used, then we will continue to struggle with prioritizing social matters and environmental concerns.

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California Central Valley Steelhead
O. mykiss As we noted a couple weeks ago, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) recently published the final Southern California Steelhead Recovery Plan (Sticker Shock). However, NMFS has not yet released a final recovery plan for the California Central Valley Steelhead Distinct Population Segment (DPS), which is federally listed as threatened. A Draft Central Valley Recovery Plan covering winter-run and spring-run Chinook and Steelhead dates back to 2009. Central Valley Steelhead are believed to have occurred historically from the McCloud River and other northern Sacramento River tributaries down to the Kings River... Read more > 
Delta Water Projects
   Figure 1. Proposed peripheral canal project.    Figure 2. Natural Delta flow (black) vs.
influenced by water exports.
IN THE NEWS: Recent stories you might have missed...
Sierra snowpack's water level low, but not dire

Sacramento Bee

Despite January's storms and a bit of snow overnight, Wednesday's state Department of Water Resources snow survey showed there is still not a lot of water trapped in Sierra snow. Manual and electronic readings showed just 37 percent of normal snow water content for Feb. 1, officials reported. "We had a series of very decent storms in January, but we have not had enough of them," said Ted Thomas, a DWR spokesman. "The storm gate's been pretty much closed to California..." Read more > 

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DFG News 

The California Fish and Game Commission today took final action to reject proposed changes to striped bass regulations. In a unanimous decision, Commissioners voted not to pursue a proposal that would have changed sport fishing regulations related to anadromous striped bass, including increasing bag limits and decreasing size limits. The proposal that was introduced by the Department of Fish and Game arose out of a settlement agreement resulting from a 2008 lawsuit... Read more > 
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Central Valley Business Times 

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Sierra frogs get state endangered species protection

Summit County Voice

A Two species of rare frogs native to high-elevation lakes in California's Sierra Nevada will get protection under the state's Endangered Species Act. The California Fish and Game Commission voted unanimously this week to designate Sierra mountain yellow-legged frogs as threatened and southern mountain yellow-legged frogs as endangered. "With formal state protection, California can start recovering an important part of mountain ecosystems to bring back formerly abundant amphibians,.." Read more > 

DFG Releases Adult Coho Salmon into Sonoma County Creek

DFG News 

The Department of Fish and Game (DFG) recently released adult coho salmon in Salmon Creek, Sonoma County to reestablish a coho salmon population. This is the fourth consecutive year adult salmon were released. This year 200 adults were released on two separate occasions in late December 2011 and early January 2012. The released coho included 120 males and 80 females, predominantly hybrids derived from mating between coho salmon of Russian River and Olema Creek origin,... Read more > 

Celebrated Marin County salmon make their return

San Francisco Chronicle  

The storied silver salmon of West Marin - long considered a bellwether of salmon health in California - are laying eggs and carrying on in Lagunitas Creek this week almost as if they weren't teetering on the edge of doom.

There are, of course, plenty of obstacles to the species' long-term survival, but last month's long-awaited rain - paltry as it was - prompted the endangered fish to begin their annual rush into the creeks and tributaries of the lush San Geronimo Valley to make babies... Read more >