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Newsom announces strategy to help salmon populations

California Farm Bureau Federation Ag Alert by Christine Souza 2/7/24

As California experiences hotter, drier temperatures due to climate change, Gov. Gavin Newsom has announced the state’s first strategy to protect and help restore salmon species to reduce their risk of extinction.

The California Salmon Strategy, released last week, is a 37-page document that outlines actions state agencies are already taking to stabilize and recover salmon populations. It also maps out additional or intensified actions needed in coming years. The document identifies six priorities and 71 actions.

The salmon strategy’s priorities call for: removing barriers and modernizing infrastructure for salmon migration; restoring habitat; protecting water flows in key rivers at the right times; modernizing hatcheries; transforming technology and management systems; and strengthening partnerships.

California Farm Bureau senior policy advocate Alexandra Biering said, “Many of the strategy actions—from dedicated habitat to dam removal and ecosystem flows—require the participation of private landowners and water rights holders.”

Biering said farmers would also like to see thriving salmon populations. She said the state’s objective to “recover salmon in the state across their range is a worthy goal but one that might not be completely attainable.”

The state’s salmon strategy includes several projects that are already underway, including removal of four hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River. The Copco 2 Dam in Siskiyou County was removed in 2023.

The deconstruction of two other Siskiyou dams, the Iron Gate and Copco1 dams, and the JC Boyle dam in southern Oregon is expected to happen in May or June.

Other ongoing efforts include a push by tribes and the Pacific Gas & Electric Co. to decommission and remove the Scott Dam on the Eel River in Mendocino County.

In addition, work continues toward finalizing agreements for passage and reintroduction of fish in the Yuba River. Other efforts include developing minimum instream flows and a long-term management plan for the Scott and Shasta rivers in Siskiyou County and completing a salmon conservation and rearing facility below Friant Dam on the San Joaquin River on the border of Fresno and Madera counties.

Dennis Thibeault, executive vice president of forestry for the Humboldt Redwood Co. and the Mendocino Redwood Co., called the state’s new salmon strategy “a major step forward.”

He said, “Conserving this keystone species will require a coordinated effort throughout its range in California on both public and private lands.”

In a related effort, the California State Water Resources Control Board, at its Feb. 6 board meeting, will consider a proposal to approve final biological goals for unimpaired flow objectives to help improve salmon populations in the Lower San Joaquin River tributaries.

The state’s decision to set flows on the Stanislaus, Tuolumne and Merced rivers is part of the state’s Bay-Delta Water Quality Control Plan.

The Newsom administration and the California Legislature have spent almost $800 million in the past three years to protect and restore salmon.

With projections showing Chinook salmon population at historic lows last year, the salmon season was closed, and the state requested a federal fishery disaster declaration to support impacted communities.

Learn more about the California Salmon Strategy at www.gov.ca.gov/wp-content/uploads/2024/01/Salmon-Strategy-for-a-Hotter-Drier-Future.pdf.

(Christine Souza is an assistant editor of Ag Alert. She may be contacted at csouza@cfbf.com.

Permission for use is granted. However, credit must be made to the California Farm Bureau Federation





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