Reservoir Levels Rising, But Not Fast Enough

Reservoir levels are rising in Northern California thanks to the recent rain, but much more is needed to make a dent in the state’s three-year drought.

The water levels at Folsom Lake, for example, have risen 7 feet in the past week to stand at 397 feet.

That’s a good start, but Folsom needs much more water before boaters can exceed the 5 mph speed limit.

The slow speeds make it smooth sailing for paddle boarders like Alex Minno, who noticed a big difference in scenery Sunday.

“This used to be all exposed right here,” said Minno, pointing to a water-covered area. “It used to go out like a peninsula and now it’s all covered.”

Fisherman Brian Wallace didn’t catch many bass Sunday at Folsom Lake, but he did notice a difference in water levels.

“The water has come up and covered some of the islands a little more in different places,” Wallace said.

Fisherman Steve Yee has noticed it, too.

“More water, less land,” Yee said.

More at KCRA.com >>>

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Reservoir Levels Rise After Pacific Storm

This week’s powerful Pacific storm delivered welcome rain to area reservoirs. According to Louis Moore with the Bureau of Reclamation, much of this rain goes directly into storage.

Folsom Lake is now at 34 percent capacity after seeing about a four foot rise with this storm. That equates to nearly 1.3 million gallons of added water. Shasta Lake, which is larger and feeds the entire state with water, rose nearly 12 feet and is now at 29 percent capacity.

Moore says reservoirs are still low and water conservation will need to continue. He says we hit near historic lows as recently as November due to the prolonged three year drought.

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American River Trout Hatchery Reopens After Summer Evacuation

The American River Trout Hatchery operated by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) reopened this week after warm water temperatures forced the closure of the facility in early summer.

Colder winter temperatures and recent rain are allowing hatchery staff to begin filling the raceways with cooler river water and start to produce rainbow trout for planting in northern California lakes this summer.

“The drought forced us to think quickly and make the best decisions for the health of the fish,” said Dr. Bill Cox, CDFW Fishery Program Manager. “Because of the rain and colder weather, we can start producing trout right away.”

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Sacramento Rainfall Totals Rising With Good Drenching

The strongest storm of the season flooded Sacramento streets, sent drivers spinning out of control on area highways and dropped about an inch-and-a-half of rain in a 24-hour period.

“This is by far the most rain we have had this season,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Mike Smith.

The steady drumbeat of rain through Wednesday morning was welcome to drought-stricken Northern California.
However, maneuvering a car on surface streets and highways was difficult and simply walking around sometimes meant hopping over rain-and-leaf choked gutters.

Sheets of water formed on roadways. Backed-up drains produced six-inch deep mini-ponds on highway onramps, despite the best efforts of Caltrans crews.

In a 24-hour period ending at 8 a.m. a total of 1.44 inches had fallen in Sacramento, 1.56 in Elk Grove, 1.34 in Orangevale, 1.02 at Folsom Lake, 1.10 in Roseville, 1.58 in Auburn and 1.51 in Walnut Grove. Between 2 a.m. and 8 a.m. Wednesday an inch of rain fell in Sacramento.

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Emergency Plan In Place To Protect Dam From Downed King Fire Trees

An emergency plan is now in place ahead of storms that threaten to damage a dam above Auburn with tons of downed trees from the King Fire.

The King Fire burned 40,000 acres of the Placer County Water Agency watershed and the downed trees and the sediment washed down from the bare hillsides is creating a dangerous situation in and around the Ralston Afterbay, about 30 miles upstream from Auburn.

“And we have a dam downstream that is at risk of an over top as a result of those trees just floating down the river,” PCWA’s Tony Ferenzi, Deputy Director of Technical Services said.

Ferenzi says PCWA has a plan to catch the trees before they get down to the dam.

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Hiker Rescued After Falling Down Embankment In El Dorado County

A Pollock Pines man who fell down an embankment while hiking in the area, then became stranded on a rock in the American River, was rescued and flown to safety by a California Highway Patrol helicopter Wednesday morning.

Robert Douglas, 47, was suffering from minor hypothermia, scrapes and bruises to both legs, and an injury to his ankle when he was rescued about 11:30 a.m., said Deputy James Morgan of the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office search and rescue division.

Morgan said Douglas told rescuers that he had started hiking about noon Tuesday near the Forebay Road pike area. During the hike, he slipped and fell down a steep embankment. Unable to climb back up the embankment, he spent the night in a makeshift dirt cave.

At daybreak, he spotted power lines leading to a Sacramento Municipal Utility District power plant and began following them. He saw a power plant on the other side the river and decided to swim across, but he became tired and cold, and took refuge on a rock in the middle of the river. He then spotted employees of the El Dorado Irrigation District, which also has a power plant in the area, and began yelling for help.

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Campfire Enforcement To Be Increased After KCRA Investigation

Sacramento County officials pledged to do more to enforce campfire laws in light of a KCRA 3 investigation that found only a handful of citations were issued this year.

A KCRA 3 investigation found only six illegal campfire citations have been issued on Sacramento’s parkway this year, despite an unprecedented number of fires — and drought conditions across the state.

Despite a continuing statewide drought and an unprecedented number of wildfires along the American River Parkway this summer, a review of citations found only six were written for open campfires.

KCRA 3 captured video of open fires burning along the American River Parkway and spotted smoldering fire pits remnants.

“As long as nobody does anything about it and makes them move or finds somewhere for them to be, preferably not here, they’re going to continue to illegally camp along the river — and they are destroying it,” Cathe Torgerson said at a homeowners meeting in the Woodlake neighborhood recently.

Jeff Leatherman, the director of the county’s Regional Parks Department, said officials are now reviewing how the county is enforcing campfire laws.

“We need to do an increase in enforcement — not only on the campfires, but then we have new ordinances in place that deal with barbecues on the parkway, as well,” Leatherman said.

The fires are indicative of a larger issue, the sheer number of homeless people camping along the river.

The parks department has beefed up its force of 21 park rangers, including a task force dedicated to illegal camping.

When officials find people in the tents, they get a citation.

“You are going to get a ticket today,” a ranger told two campers after waking them in their tents. “It’s an infraction. All right. Make sure you guys take care of it or it will turn into a warrant.”

Through September of this year, rangers have cited 485 people for illegal camping.

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Sacramento’s Salmon Run In Full Swing, But Drought Still A Worry

A miraculous thing happens each fall in the Sacramento Valley, and it’s not the end of 100-degree weather: Salmon return to the area’s rivers and creeks.

One hundred miles from the Pacific Ocean, the valley hosts one of the largest annual salmon spawning runs in America. More than 300,000 fall-run Chinook (or king) salmon are expected to return from the ocean to area creeks and rivers, mostly in October and November, to spawn in hatcheries or on their own in river gravels.

The big fish – many 2 feet long and weighing more than 20 pounds – swim past riverside restaurants, office buildings, sewage outfalls and subdivisions. Many swim up tiny creeks pinched between movie theaters and shopping malls. They all follow a mysterious homing impulse to return to the same waters where they were born, to lay eggs and begin the next generation. After spawning, they die.

“It’s kind of amazing to be there in these suburban creeks and see these giant fish,” said Orangevale resident Kally Kedinger-Cecil. “I didn’t realize these fish are so big, and they’re right there in these urban creeks.”

In the ocean, these fish are the basis of a wild-caught salmon market that supplies grocery stores and restaurants throughout California. And on the rivers, recreational fishermen have crowded the banks for decades in hopes of hooking a prize salmon.

More recently, volunteers have begun to walk the smaller waterways each fall for another purpose: to restore salmon habitat long ago cut off by development, and to count the salmon that find their way back.

On Friday, Kedinger-Cecil volunteered with the Dry Creek Conservancy to look for salmon on the network of tiny streams – many narrow enough to jump across – that thread through Roseville. After pulling on waders, she walked a section of creek to count salmon that found their way into the Dry Creek system in search of safe spawning habitat.

“Especially in Roseville, you don’t really associate that area with wildlife like that,” she said. “You get the sense that it’s so urbanized, but there’s this stuff going on right there.”

In total, the group counted more than 120 salmon Friday on four sections of creek. That is far below the peak of 800 fish counted about a decade ago, said Gregg Bates, the conservancy’s executive director. But it’s a strong showing given the drought conditions.

“We’ve seen a lot of fish on Secret Ravine especially,” said Bates, noting a tributary where the group has restored habitat, including removing an old bridge that partially blocked salmon movement. “So now there’s absolutely no problem for fish to get through there. It turned out really, really well.”

In many areas, the salmon are waiting for more flow to move upstream. Rain in the fall is important because it provides a signal telling the fish where to go, and also to deliver more water to help them swim over barriers. But there hasn’t been much rain this fall. Fish have moved with the sparse storms that have occurred so far, but more is needed.

“What we need is a big old dousing, about 40 days’ and 40 nights’ worth,” said J.D. Richey, a longtime Sacramento-area fishing guide.

Richey normally takes customers out in search of salmon until Thanksgiving. But he quit offering salmon trips three weeks ago, because it’s been too hard to find fish in the rivers. Instead, he’s going after striped bass, a non-native species that has been plentiful.

He thinks the salmon season has been slow because of the drought. River flows may be too low and warm to lure salmon upstream from the ocean in big numbers. There is not much sign of change in the weather forecast. A small storm is expected Tuesday night, and it won’t be very wet.

The salmon run already seems to be winding down, and many of the fish may have decided to stay in the ocean. Chinook salmon usually spawn when they are 3 years old but can wait a year or two, if necessary, for better conditions.

“Generally, fishing has been the pits. That’s the talk of the town,” Richey said. “Everything is just funky and late this year because of the warm water.”

Salmon hatcheries, on the other hand, are expected to collect enough fish to meet their required breeding quotas. Because the hatcheries use controlled breeding practices, fewer eggs perish than when breeding takes place in the wild, and they can produce millions of young salmon from only several thousand fish. Only a small percentage survive to adulthood, but it is usually enough to maintain fishing seasons.

Nimbus Hatchery on the American River has collected about 3,000 adult salmon in the first two weeks of the spawning operation, with six more weeks to go, said Gary Novak, a hatchery manager with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. The hatchery will collect extra fish this fall to create a safety margin in case complications from the drought cause problems, he said. Some of the eggs produced from these fish will be shared with the Mokelumne River Hatchery to ensure it has enough to meet production quotas.

The most pressing problem for salmon in the American River is a lack of cold water in Folsom Reservoir. The reservoir is just 29 percent full, which has shrunk the usual pool of cold water available to support the salmon run. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which owns and operates the reservoir, began tapping cold water from a deeper outlet in Folsom Dam starting in late October. This water could run out by the end of this month, before the salmon run is over.

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Second Piece Of El Dorado Ranch Property Sells For $5M

A nonprofit conservation group has picked up a second piece of a 7,500-acre ranch along the Upper Cosumnes River owned by developer Angelo Tsakopoulos.

American River Conservancy closed escrow at the end of October on 1,080 acres along the river east of the Sacramento County line for $5 million.

“This is beautiful river canyon landscape with tremendous views of the Sacramento Valley,” said conservancy executive director Alan Ehrgott.

The property purchase, accomplished through a combination of state grants and foundation money, not only keeps the area out of development but opens up more property for a planned river trail and wildlife area, Ehrgott said.

To that end, American River Conservancy last year purchased the first piece of what’s known as the El Dorado Ranch — 1,059 acres along the river and next to the new purchase. Ehrgott said the hope is to eventually acquire the entire ranch property.

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California’s Turkey Population Moves To Town

Some 130,000 people are licensed to hunt birds in California. Some already know wild turkey hunting season opened this week. But you don’t have to go to woodland areas to find these large birds.  The number of wild turkeys in urban areas seems to be growing.

On a fall morning, few people walk around the Effie Yeaw Nature Center in Carmichael. But dozens of wild turkeys are foraging through fallen leaves next to the American River

“The irridesence of the feathers is marvelous, they’re a beautiful bird,” says Paul Tebbel is director of the nature center. “The population has certainly grown in the last couple of decades. There’s very little predation.”

In open landscapes like this, where females graze quietly and males fan out their tail feathers, turkeys can be a pleasant and peaceful way to experience wildlife. But where there are more homes and more people, it can be a different story.

“Nobody likes them, They’re just a nuisance. And we can’t kill them,” says Ben Gordon with the Limeridge Homeowners Association, a community of almost 250 houses in Concord.

He says in the last three years, 150 to 200 turkeys have showed up.

“They’ve been all over the development,” says Gordon. “We see them everywhere. They cross the streets.”

Gordon says the turkeys on the periphery of the development don’t bother people, but they leave a mess on sidewalks, pick apart lawns and land on rooftops and trees.

“Somebody told me, ‘You could shoot them and eat them, and they’re really good eating.’ And I said ‘Oh, did you do that? And he said ‘Well no, I wouldn’t do that, it’s against the law,’” says Gordon.

Turkeys were introduced in California for hunting. But you can’t hunt in most cities. California started establishing the birds in wild land areas in 1959 and stopped 15 years ago. But since then the population has grown and moved to town.

“They hadn’t even really looked at the available data to try and assess what might be impacted by introducing these large omnivores into a naïve landscape,” says Dan Gluesenkamp, director of the California Native Plant Society.

The organization that sued the state to stop the turkey releases. While a species of turkey did exist in California until 10,000 years ago, Gluesenkamp considers these large wild birds, some of which originated in Texas, to be invasive in California.

“You can look at a flock of 60 turkeys, and those birds weigh about 20 pounds each. And when you do the simple math, that’s a lot of biomass that they’re vacuuming off the landscape,” says Gluesenkamp. “So if you care about the wildflowers, and you care about the bugs, and you care about snakes, and you care about frogs… Then the more turkeys you got, the less of everything else.”

Gluesenkamp did a study that showed turkeys remove acorns and eat a lot of small critters. But there isn’t much research showing the ecological harm turkeys might cause. Still, Gluesencamp says species in the ecosystem are like rivets in an airplane.

“You can pop a lot of rivets out of an airplane before something goes wrong,” says Gluesenkamp. “There’s a lot of extra rivets holding those wings together. But you don’t know which rivets are critical. And you don’t know when you’ve popped one too many until the plane starts to crash.”

Gluesenkamp says there aren’t a lot of predators to hold turkey populations in check. He thinks hunters should be allowed to take more. But state wildlife managers say that wouldn’t help the urban turkey population.

“Turkeys are somewhat nomadic, so over time they’re going to move to the areas that frankly the living is the easiest,” says Scott Gardner with the Department of Fish and Wildlife.

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