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Alien vs. Predator: are these nasty guys the culprits in the demise of California's salmon? Read on...


Water News for the San Francisco Bay-Delta Estuary


July 1, 2016

Delta smelt all but extinct; last chance for salmon? And other news...


Delta smelt graph
Spring trawl surveys of Delta smelt by California Department of Fish & Wildlife turned up just a few of the once populous fish, leading scientists to estimate that only 13,000 of the species remain in the wild. "There's nothing between them and extinction, as far as I can tell," said Peter Moyle, a UC Davis biologist who began studying Delta smelt 40 years ago when the species numbered in the millions. Read more from The Sacramento Bee and Fish Sniffer.

Measure AA
The Bay Area's nine-county parcel tax to raise $500 million for restoration of the Bay's shoreline passed in the June primary election with 70 percent of the vote.

"This is a fantastic result and this is really a tribute to the people in the Bay Area who love the Bay, "Executive Director David Lewis of Save the Bay said.

"I think voters are ready to hear when they think the Bay needs help and in this case they voted overwhelmingly to share in the cost of making the Bay healthy. That's really encouraging."

Friends of the San Francisco Estuary supported Measure AA. Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle and Save the Bay.

Temperatures at a key monitoring station on the Sacramento River (the confluence with Clear Creek) from May 9 to June 13 during the winter-run egg incubation period. The horizontal yellow line indicates the upper end of daily maximum temperatures known to be protective of Chinook salmon eggs. The daily maximum temperature (green line) and 7 day running average of maximum temperatures (dashed line) exceeded the 55°F threshold for most of May and much of June.

For the past two years, imperiled populations of winter-run and spring-run Chinook salmon and the commercially valuable fall-run that spawn on the Sacramento River have been nearly obliterated, as warm river temperatures wiped out 95-99% of salmon eggs and baby fry. In 2014 and 2015, water management and allocation decisions--including mistakes made in monitoring and temperature modeling--allowed Sacramento River temperatures to climb to lethal levels for baby salmon and eggs. These salmon populations have three-year cycles of returning to the Sacramento River to spawn, meaning that this year is the third and final chance to protect wild spawning populations of the distinct runs of Chinook salmon that spawn in the Sacramento River.

How's it going so far? Despite conservative targets set in March by the National Marine Fisheries Service to protect cold water temperatures in the river, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has not met these targets in its management of reservoir releases, leading to unacceptably high water temperatures in key spawning areas throughout May and June (see graph above). A complaint was filed on May 23 by The Bay Institute, documenting over 21 days in which water temperature targets were violated in May alone.

Meanwhile, federal officials have released a water management plan that--similar to past years--provides for increased water deliveries with less protection of salmon and smelt later this summer. This gamble has not paid off for the past two years. Will it pay off this year?

Read more in the Sacramento Bee here and here.
Sacramento County Superior Court recently ruled on several lawsuits filed over the Delta Plan, declaring the plan invalid. The ruling declares the Delta Plan deficient in several areas requiring measurable or quantifiable targets, particularly in regard to reducing reliance on the Delta as required by the 2009 Delta Reform Act. The Court also found that the Delta Plan fails to contain legally enforceable targets concerning Delta flows.

The Delta Plan, a management plan for the Delta required by the 2009 Delta Reform Act, is intended to be a legally enforceable set of rules and recommendations to meet the state's coequal goals for the Delta. The Delta Stewardship Council, which created the Delta Plan through a multi-year process involving many stakeholders, will most likely appeal the ruling.

Read more from Maven's Notebook.


...Now, about those nasty guys from the header image: should we blame the decline of native salmon on non-native invasive alien species that disrupt the ecosystem, or on species that prey on salmon?

From Alien vs. Predator: Factors that influence salmon predation in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta in
Maven's Notebook 5/26/16:
So, the answer to the initial question, do fish die in the river is yes, and more than we would really like to see biologically, said Dr. Hayes, noting that through the large acoustic studies, it seems to be due to a combination of lower flows and warmer water conditions.
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New research indicates that California's Central Valley harbors three times more groundwater than previously estimated, but...
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How bad is water management in California?
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