Salmon Move Into Nimbus Hatchery

Nimbus Fish Hatchery workers have counted a total of 2,765 fall-run Chinook salmon, including 789 jacks and jills (two-year-old fish), at the facility since the salmon ladder opened Monday, Nov. 2

Considering the low flows of 500 cfs, this return is surprisingly good. Last year at this time the hatchery staff had counted approximately 2950 salmon, including 350 adults.

The other good news is that the water temperature on the river has cooled down 5 to 7 degrees over one week.

“The water temperature has gone down to 55 to 57 degrees, depending on which gauge you go by,” said Gary Novak, hatchery manager. “That’s phenomenal; last year the water temperature didn’t cool down to this temperature until the middle of November.”

The hatchery has spawned salmon three times to date. Novak noted that many of the fish at the facility are still “green,” not ready for spawning yet.

The 300,000 juvenile steelhead that will be released into the river system next February have also returned to the hatchery, after spending the summer at the Feather River Fish Hatchery in Oroville, due to high water temperatures at Nimbus.

A record low number of Central Valley steelhead, listed as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act, returned to the American River in January, February and March of 2015 and December of 2014. Only 143 adult steelhead returned to Nimbus Fish Hatchery during this time. In good years, the hatchery has trapped between 2000 and 4000 adult steelhead.

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Folsom Lake Water Level Shrinks To New Historic Low

The water level of Folsom Lake has dipped to a new historic low.

On Sunday the lake level was measured at 140,410 acre feet. The previous record was set in November 1977 when the lake decreased to 140,600 acre feet.

Recent rain has provided a little help, but there’s still a long way to go.

“We may have a very wet winter, but if we don’t have dramatic snowfall and so forth we’ve got to still be conscious we’re still living through this drought,” he Rep. Ami Bera during a recent tour of the lake.

As has been long discussed, Bera says the state must find better ways to store water and he’s pushing the proposed Sites Reservoir, a potential water storage option west of Colusa. The planned reservoir would hold twice the water of Folsom Lake.

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American River Parkway Cleanup Saturday In Sacramento

A clean-up is planned Saturday along a stretch of the American River Parkway in Sacramento.

The goal is to reduce potential pollution in the region’s two major rivers.

The American River Parkway Foundation is coordinating the clean-up of trash and other debris near the Northgate Blvd. area.

The foundation says some of the material is left by visitors and illegal campers. There’s also a bridge over the river nearby that gets a lot of foot traffic.

From food wrappers and cigarette butts, to large pieces of plywood and discarded barbecues, the trash can end up in the American River, and eventually downstream in the Sacramento River when river levels rise.

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New American River bridge near Auburn getting new life?

The possibility of a new pedestrian bridge across the American River near Auburn is making a comeback.

Targeted for canyon users on horseback, on bikes or onfoot, the bridge was discussed seriously more than a decade ago as Placer County Water Agency closed a tunnel diverting American River water in the canyon below Auburn.

The tunnel closure daylighted a stretch of river that was diverted underground during the Auburn dam project – but the Water Agency’s work also removed a foot crossing by land over the tunnel that had linked El Dorado and Placer counties.

The Water Agency pledged $500,000 for a bridge crossing as part of its $72 million American River pump station project but the funding has remained in a state of limbo since then.

That situation could change as the Auburn State Recreation Area undergoes a renewed general plan effort by State Parks and the site’s owner, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

The agencies are scheduling a series of workshops to gather public input for the recreation area’s $600,000 general plan-resource management plan project. The first public workshop is scheduled from 6 p.m. Nov. 12 at Skyridge Elementary School, 800 Perkins Way in Auburn.

The plan will consider types of recreation that could be enhanced and improved, including camping, picnicking, boating, fishing, hiking, bicycling, horseback riding, rock climbing and bird watching.

Park and recreation specialist Jim Micheaels, of State Parks, said Wednesday that the project’s public outreach will provide opportunity for comments and public engagement to help determine a broad-based blueprint for future planning. The recreation area covers 40 miles of the north and middle forks of the American river and has 900,000 visitors a year. The new plan replaces one created in 1992.

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Fish Ladder Opens On American River

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is releasing water from the bottom of Folsom Lake in an effort to get the river temperature below 60 degrees.

Laura Drath with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife says that’s the temperature needed for fall-run chinook to spawn.

“We have water running down the ladder from the hatchery to the river,” she says. “And when the salmon feel that current their instinct is to swim up river. So, they’ll jump up the steps of the ladder, make their way up the ladder from the river to the hatchery where we can  take bring them inside and start spawning them and collecting those eggs.”

The Nimbus Hatchery on the American River will open its fish ladder Monday morning for spawning salmon.

Drath says it’s too early to say how many salmon will return to spawn.

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Appeals court says Folsom can go ahead with improvements for Lake Natoma

A state appeals court has cleared the way for Folsom to add and enhance facilities on the shore of Lake Natoma.

The city plans a project that it says will make the shore more accessible to the disabled.

On Thursday, Folsom won a court victory over the Save the American River Association, a citizens’ group dedicated to safeguarding the natural environment of the American River Parkway. The group argued that the city was using the improvements to attract more people to the Folsom Historic District, a zone of shops, bars, restaurants and some historic locations adjacent to the lake.

The city’s true intent is “to increase access and intensity of use … so that Folsom can realize an economic benefit to the Folsom Historic District,” the association argued in a lawsuit to force an environmental impact review by the city in accord with the California Environmental Quality Act.

The association also argued that Folsom’s intent is inconsistent with land-use plans that cover the area.

A three-justice panel of the 3rd District Court of Appeal said in Thursday’s unanimous opinion that the project was not inconsistent with adopted plans covering management of the parkway.

The Save the American River Association “has not shown the existence of any substantial evidence giving rise to a fair argument that the project is inconsistent with either plan,” the justices concluded, affirming Sacramento Superior Court Judge Michael Kenny’s earlier rejection of the association’s plea for an environmental study.

The association pressed its argument that the project will destroy the “natural” quality of the area, changing it “from one appropriately assigned to the low-intensity recreation/conservation designation” to one with a higher-intensity designation that has no conservation element.

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Woman pulled from American River on Saturday expected to survive

A 35-year-old woman who went into the water at Discovery Park while trying to avoid an altercation with a group of transients is expected to survive, the Sacramento Fire Department said Saturday.

The woman was seen floating Saturday morning in the American River at Tiscornia Beach, at the confluence of the American and Sacramento rivers, and was reached quickly because a boat from Sacramento Fire Station 2 already was on the river about a quarter-mile away when she went into the water, said fire spokesman Chris Harvey.

A county ranger recognized her as being part of a group of transients in that area and called for help after seeing her enter the water from shore, he said.

The unidentified woman was transported to a local hospital. No additional medical details were released.

“She was trying to get away from somebody,” Harvey said. “There was a little bit of a transient group of people, and she was perhaps intoxicated or under the influence and went into the water.

“She was floating on the top and she was breathing, but she wouldn’t have been floating much longer. She was kind of unresponsive.”

The area has been the scene of multiple drownings in recent years, and this year’s tally of drownings has been especially bad. Authorities estimate 13 people have died in incidents in the American and Sacramento rivers in Sacramento County this year, twice the normal amount.

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Folsom Lake hits lowest depths in 20-plus years

Even as Sacramento waits for the soaking El Niño forecast to hit this fall, Folsom Lake continues to lose water and will almost certainly fall Thursday to its lowest level in more than 20 years, government data show.

Folsom Lake provides drinking water to hundreds of thousands of residents in the Sacramento region. Releases from the federal reservoir also serve as a bulwark against Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta saltwater intrusion, and are critical to maintaining the delicate ecosystem of the lower American River.

Folsom Lake became the face of California’s drought early last year when aerial photos of its moonscape lake bed were broadcast nationwide. At its lowest point last year, the lake level was the same as what the reservoir contained Wednesday. By Thursday, the reservoir is expected to fall to levels last seen in 1992, at the tail end of a five-year drought. And by month’s end, the depth likely will approach levels not seen since the great drought of 1977.

Area water officials said they are concerned about the dwindling supply but expressed relief that lake depths are not even lower. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which operates the reservoir, initially warned that the lake could fall to 120,000 acre-feet by the end of September.

“The situation has been so rough,” said bureau spokesman Shane Hunt. “We are doing everything we can to make sure we maintain water supplies to homes.”

Still, he added, “We are better than a worst-case scenario.”

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Authorities arrest alleged parkway arsonist

Brian Larue Sacramento Police Department
Brian Larue – Sacramento Police Department

A man suspected of starting several of this summer’s fires on the American River Parkway has been arrested, the Sacramento Fire Department said in a news release Friday.

Brian Larue, 31, was arrested by fire investigators working with Sacramento police officers and Sacramento County park rangers, it said. He’s suspected of setting several fires that burned on the morning of Aug. 27 south of the American River and a quarter-mile west of the Howe Avenue bridge

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