California Drought Prompting Extraordinary Measures To Shield Salmon

State and federal wildlife officials this month are preparing extraordinary measures to shield Chinook salmon returning to spawn in California’s drought-depleted rivers.

Sacramento River fall-run Chinook salmon are producing their way upstream from the Pacific Ocean to start their annual spawning ritual. These fish, mainly created in hatcheries, make up the most abundant salmon run in California and are the principal catch for an ocean fishery that sustains thousands of jobs.

But the species has had wild population swings over the previous decade due to the fact of droughts, poor ocean circumstances and loss of habitat. Officials are hoping to prevent a different wild swing by taking action to support this year’s run, like some measures that have in no way been attempted in California.

At the American River Hatchery near Sacramento, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife is installing water chillers at a expense of almost $1 million to guarantee water coursing via the hatchery doesn’t come to be lethally warm for salmon and other species hatched and raised there. The chillers, primarily giant refrigeration units, are in location at a couple of hatcheries about the state but had in no way ahead of been used on the American River.

And in case Sacramento River flows grow to be too low or as well warm, state and federal agencies are thinking about a different new tool: egg injection. In this approach, salmon eggs would be preserved in a hatchery until river temperatures cool off later this fall, then moved to the river and injected with a hose into gravel beds, where they theoretically would hatch on their own. Egg injection has been prosperous in Oregon and Alaska but has never been used in California.

Kevin Shaffer, salmon plan manager at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, said egg injection is getting “seriously regarded as.” But it would be used experimentally, not as a broadly applied tool to shield the salmon run.

“We consider that’s the very best strategy, mainly because it is something definitely new to California,” Shaffer mentioned. “We could see some substantial die-off of organic eggs (due to the drought). But we could also see significant die-off of the injected eggs. We just don’t know.”

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Spring To Arrive Rain-Free In Sacramento And North State, Much Like Winter

The official arrival of spring today brings with it the realization that Sacramento and the Sierra Nevada have again been abnormally dry for the fourth straight winter.

The rainy season began in the fall with hope that the drought would be broken, but that was not to be.

With the exception of one big “Pineapple Express” in December and a good rain in February, Sacramento has been dry – and, lately, warm.

On Thursday, Sacramento set a record when the high temperature reached 81 degrees at Executive Airport, topping the previous mark of 80 degrees set in 2004, according to the National Weather Service.

The lack of rain was especially stark in usually soggy January when just 0.01 of an inch was recorded in Sacramento.

The winter also did not deliver a great deal of snow to the Sierra Nevada. California’s water supplies are reliant on mountain snowpack that melts in the spring and fills reservoirs for summer use in cities and on farms.

The most recent snowpack survey showed that statewide the mountains have just 13 percent of the snowpack normal for this time of year.

“Generally our snowpack accounts for about a third of our state water supply,” said Brooke Bingaman, weather service meteorologist. “Not all of the 13 percent snowpack will end up in the reservoirs, some of it will soak into the ground. So the level our reservoirs are at now is essentially what we will have for the rest of the summer.”

The culprit behind the snowfall shortfall is a familiar meteorological villain – a high-pressure ridge that has shunted snowy storms to the north, Bingaman said.

In addition, the northern part of the state usually gets five to seven atmospheric rivers, large storms that can drop several inches of rain. This year, Sacramento got two such storms.

One hit in December, a month when 7.63 inches fell and another in February, when 2.28 inches of rain were recorded.

“Since Oct. 1, we have had 11.73 inches,” Bingaman said. “Normally we should have had 16.64. So we are at 70 percent of normal right now.”

Bingaman said Folsom Lake is 59 percent full, but it won’t get the usual snowmelt from the American River.

“December, January, February and March are typically our wettest months of the year,” she said. “Really, December was the only month that was really wet.”

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Folsom Lake Higher Now Than In All Of 2014

Folsom Lake levels are now higher than they ever were in 2014 – by about 1,000 acre-feet.

“We know we’re in the fourth year of a drought. We know that the snowpack is essentially at a fraction of what it normally is. We know we are going to need water later, so we are holding onto as much as we can now,” said Erin Curtis with the Bureau of Reclamation.

The bureau co-manages the lake with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Folks like Kent Wright knows that conservation mindset is much needed when it comes to managing releases for the water supply.

“Disturbing,” he said, when asked how the lake looked to him.

The lake is now at 572,000-acre feet or 103 percent of the average of what it’s held over the last 15 years.

Still that’s just 59 percent of capacity – something that concerns Wright every time he rides by.

“It scares me. It’s scary,” he said before taking off on a lake trail on his bike.

It’s a situation not lost on Rodrigo Lopez of Sacramento who comes out to the lake often to enjoy what water view is left.

“We need the rain, because we’re in a drought. Everybody’s talking about it, but what can we do?” he asked.

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City Of Folsom Smokes Out Sewer Leaks

With coffee cup in hand, Dan Oldham calmly watched a thick stream of white smoke rising from a pipe on the roof of his Folsom home Tuesday morning – a sight that normally would have sent him hurrying to call the Fire Department.

Oldham had been warned by the city of Folsom that his house would be included in a program that uses smoke to test the soundness of the sewers. The smoke testing reveals where cracks exist in sewer lines, or where a homeowner has illegally hooked up gutters into the sewer system.

“When people take their downspouts and connect those directly to the sewer, rainwater goes directly to the sewer, and we don’t want that,” said Todd Eising, environmental and water resources manager with the city of Folsom.

Stormwater flowing into the sewer system eats up valuable capacity and can potentially lead to raw sewage spills. It also costs money to treat and convey that extra water.

The smoke testing is simple. Workers open a manhole and attach a lawnmower-sized engine. It powers a fan that blows vaporized water into the sewer system. The water is harmless, more condensation than smoke.

The most noxious part of the process stays at the street, in the form of the smoke that sputters out of the engine at the manhole cover.

In order not to alarm residents, the city alerted homeowners two weeks prior to testing, said Eising.

Some of the homeowners spilled into the street Tuesday to watch smoke trail out of their pipes. “I’m glad they’re doing it,” said Oldham. “I just don’t want any smoke inside my house.”

It takes less than half a minute for the smoke to travel underground from the manhole cover and emerge from a home’s vent pipe. The vents, located on roofs, are part of standard home design. They work with the sewage system to make sure changes in water pressure in the house don’t suck in sewer gases or smells, Eising said.

Smoke rarely enters the home, unless there is a leak – or the homeowner has tied into the system illegally.

Folsom’s sewage collection system consists of more than 267 miles of sewer pipe and nine pump stations. The smoke testing costs the city between $2,000 and $2,500 for each mile of pipe.

The entire system was smoke-tested between 2002 and 2006, said Eising. This year, the city is testing in phases. It’s the kind of testing that feels like it never ends, he said. Once all the 17 basins have been tested, it’s not long until the city needs to start testing again.

Smoke testing also has been employed by such cities as Berkeley and Santa Rosa.

Eising said the testing is part of Folsom’s commitment to water quality – an issue that dogged the city in the past. Between 1995 and 2000, the city had several overflows of raw sewage into the American River and the Folsom South Canal.

The largest overflow occurred in 2000, when the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board fined the city $700,000 after a spill sent 700,000 gallons of sewage into the American River.

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Folsom Bike Trail Safety Brought Into Question

Bright red and bruised, Mia Gaytan’s entire right side now shows off all that she thinks is wrong with what’s going on on some Folsom trails.

“I shouted out to him because I knew. He looked at me but just kept going,” Gaytan, 16, told FOX40.

“We were gonna T-bone so I swerved off and I landed in the ditch,” she said.

Doctors say her right shoulder has a possible fracture.

The peace and freedom Gaytan, an avid mountain biker, usually finds riding around Lake Natoma bottomed out in that ditch as well.

The trail has been a conflict zone between runners and cyclists.

Folsom firefighter Eric Williams is still battling back from major head trauma after a cyclist hit him from behind during a January jog.

His blog boasts his practice at walking from early last month.

Gaytan feels there is an even bigger problem developing on the trail between mountain bikers like her, and those on the kind of road bike that forced her off the road.

“I definitely think a lot of cyclists need an attitude adjustment because I feel like they think that they’re going for the Olympics or something and this is their training ground. I definitely don’t feel like it’s a family oriented place,” Gaytan said.

“There’s a lot of traffic out there now in the last seven years. I’ve seen it increase twice as much, if not more,” Folsom cyclist Ken Ruth said.

Ruth rides around Lake Natoma six days a week and has had run-ins with other bikers and pedestrians.

“Some people walked right in front of me so I hit the brakes and stood, basically stood it up, and slammed into the bridge. Almost went over it,” he recalled.

So how do folks out to enjoy a good time avoid hurting each other?

“I think everybody needs to be courteous, number one. Everybody needs to be educated how to use the trail. I think the county needs to put some signs up showing the rules,” Ruth said. “They have some written on the pavement but they don’t have a sign and advertisement of the importance of this.”

County park rules stipulate that both riders and pedestrians in groups need to stay in a single file line in order to share the trails safely.

Both Gaytan and Ruth say that’s a big problem because people want to be side by side to talk.

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Body With Multiple Gunshot Wounds Found Near American River

Sacramento police were called in Thursday morning after a body with multiple gunshot wounds was discovered near the American River according to Sacramento police spokesperson Doug Morse and Sacramento officer Traci Trapani.

Police received the call around 10:24 a.m. in the 7900 block of La Riviera Drive. Morse said they had enough information gathered to initiate a call to homicide detectives.

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Assured Flows Keep American River Whitewater Rafting Afloat In Drought

Assured flows from upstream reservoirs are providing the promise of an active rafting season for American River whitewater outfitters – even in the face of a fourth year of drought.

Nate Rangel, owner of Coloma’s Adventure Connection and president of the California Outdoors rafting organization, said that while the north fork American River may have a shorter whitewater season because it doesn’t have water-storage reservoirs, prospects for a whitewater summer on the south and middle forks are expected to be good.

The state is in a fourth year of drought conditions and snowpack measurements in the Sierra showed levels far below normal on Tuesday and moving toward being the lowest on record in more than two decades.

“We may see a short season on the north fork because of lack of much snowpack,” Rangel said. “I’m hoping we’ll see a couple of weeks some time in April and May. It hasn’t been great the last couple of years.”

Rafting companies have gravitated to the higher flows on the middle and south forks. The middle fork American River flows are controlled by the Placer County Water Agency and the Sacramento Municipal Utility District controls flows from its upstream dam on the south fork American River.

Norm Schoenhoff, owner of Whitewater Excitement, said Wednesday his business is getting ready for the first trip of the season in mid-March.

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Trail Work Commences Along Folsom Lake

California State Parks is performing brush removal along the American River Parkway Trail between Beals Point and Negro Bar in the Folsom Lake State Recreation Area from Feb. 17 through early March. The trail will remain open during the work, but there may be brief delays to trail traffic as crews remove trees and larger limbs that lean across the trail.

This project will im-prove the safety of park visitors by increasing sight distances and cleaning up trail shoulders which provides a wider trail surface and an alternative to the paved surface for pedestrians and equestrians.

“This heavily used section of trail is enjoyed by pedestrians, cyclists and equestrians and we understand that this work may result in a slight inconvenience for many of our park visitors,” said Superintendent Rich Preston. “We ask for the public’s cooperation by slowing down when approaching the work areas and follow the directions of the staff on site.”

The California Conservation Corps will be assisting State Parks in this project by removing brush and other vegetation that is growing adjacent to and in some cases encroaching on the paved trail.

The Folsom Lake State Recreation Area administers approximately 15 miles of the paved American River Parkway trail between Hazel Bridge and Beals Point, including both the north and south sides of Lake Natoma.

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County Officials To Declutter American River Parkway

You’ve probably seen them while jogging or biking along the American River Parkway. Old, battered, barely readable signs posted along the 23-mile stretch. Many of those signs are now planned to be replaced or just taken down all together.

It is part of an effort by Sacramento County to declutter the parkway and make signs easier to read and understandable.

There are over 1,500 signs saying everything from where it’s okay to bike to making sure you pick up after your dog. However, over the years, many of them are left scratched, worn out or even knocked down.

The plan is to have the signs grouped together near parkway access areas and recreational sites within the parkway.

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Placer County Sherrif Is Working To Stop Bridge Catwalk Trespassing

Illegally trespassing on the Foresthill Bridge catwalk in Auburn has become a social media trend; a potentially deadly trend that the Placer County Sheriff’s Office is working to stop.

It is a misdemeanor to trespass on the county-owned bridge’s catwalk, and deputies are actively patrolling and citing violators. Ten people, mostly from the Sacramento area, were cited early Sunday and 24 more were encountered there later Sunday.

Not only is it illegal to enter the gated catwalk area, it is extremely dangerous. There is a zero percent chance of survival if someone falls to the American River canyon, 730 feet below the metal structure. Various social media sites are promoting the bridge as a place to “girder hang,” which entails trespassing onto the bridge, then hanging from girders without safety restraints.

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