Higher Than Expected Number Of Chinook Salmon Return To American River

It appears this is an average year for the number of fall-fun Chinook Salmon returning to spawn in the American River.

The numbers were expected to be much lower because of high water temperatures and predators when the fish were juveniles heading to the ocean during the drought.

Efforts to help salmon populations in recent years include releases of cold water during the beginning and end of the salmon’s life cycle and the rehabilitation of 30 acres of American River spawning ground with 100,000 tons of gravel.

Laura Drath with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife said the daily reports show the numbers of returning salmon are on par with an average year.

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It’s a brutal end for these salmon, but it replenishes oceans and feeds families

Thousands of salmon make the grueling journey from the Pacific Ocean up the American River each fall. The spawning run ends for many with a whack on the head at the Nimbus Fish Hatchery, where salmon eggs are gathered and fertilized.

The salmon would normally die a slow death after spawning. But at Nimbus, they’re quickly dispatched in a process viewed annually by hundreds of children and adults through big glass windows at the hatchery in Gold River.

What becomes of the dead salmon is less well known. While the ending isn’t happy for the adult fish, their offspring repopulate the oceans, and tens of thousands of pounds of salmon fillets feed hungry families in northern and central California during the winter months.

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Portion of American River Bike trail to close temporarily beginning Monday

A portion of the American River Bike Trail near Nimbus Dam will be closed for more than three days beginning Monday, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and state Department of Parks and Recreation report.

During the three days, there will be electricity tests of the ground grid at Nimbus Dam and Powerplant, according to a Bureau of Reclamation news release. The tests will ensure proper grounding of electrical equipment and other metallic objects in and around the dam and powerplant, officials said.

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Folsom Lake and Lake Natoma had high E. coli readings

Environmental advocates are calling on state officials to notify the public about past tests showing high levels of E. coli in Folsom Lake and Lake Natoma, two of the region’s most popular areas for open water swimming and boating.

But officials responsible for recreational use on the lakes say the test results cited are too old, while the agency that conducted the tests says it has no responsibility for public notices.

The Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board in December concluded that the amount of E. coli in the lower American River had exceeded the federal threshold for safe recreational use. The test results didn’t become public until The Sacramento Bee reported them in late August.

The findings were based on water samples taken from 2007 to 2014. Some tests showed E. coli concentrations in Lake Natoma were eight times the level considered safe for recreational use by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

A board report earlier this year found elevated E. coli levels in the lower American River in 2015 and 2016, but did not include samples from Lake Natoma and Folsom Lake, where tens of thousands of people swim, boat and fish every year. The board has limited funds for testing and wanted to focus on areas where higher levels had been found in the past, said Adam Laputz, assistant executive officer at the board. The highest concentrations have been near downtown Sacramento.

E. coli can sicken and even kill people who swim in or drink contaminated water. State and county officials have said they’re not aware of anyone getting sick from the bacteria in the American River.
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Crews quickly contain American River Parkway fire

Sacramento Fire Department crews quickly corralled a grass fire on the American River Parkway early Monday afternoon.

The fire was reported near mile marker 5 and crews were making access to the area about 1:45 p.m., according to a Fire Department Twitter post. Fire crews were able to confine the fire to about half an acre and were reported mopping up the area about 2:15 p.m.

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Nimbus Hatchery Fish Ladder to Open Oct. 9

The Nimbus Hatchery Fish Ladder on the American River will open on Monday, Oct. 9 at 10:45 a.m. The ladder is opening unusually early in the season to accommodate the arrival of returning adult fall-run Chinook salmon that hatched in the Coleman National Fish Hatchery (CNFH) in Battle Creek in 2014. Eggs from fall-run Chinook salmon that stray to Nimbus Hatchery will be returned to CNFH to ensure a healthy population of these fish for commercial, recreational and ecological purposes.

“These fish were born at the height of the drought in 2014,” said Jay Rowan, California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) North Central Region Senior Environmental Scientist. “They were trucked to the Delta as fry and released near Rio Vista and the San Pablo Bay as part of a massive effort to improve their chances for survival in a year of poor river conditions.”

Returning now as adults, many of these salmon will stray into the American River and not return to their home waters to spawn. The lack of returning fish will make it extremely difficult for the CNFH to reach their goal of producing 12 million fall-run Chinook salmon this fall to release in the waters below Lake Shasta.

CDFW is partnering with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), with the support of the Bureau of Reclamation, to collect eggs at Nimbus Fish Hatchery to assist CNFH in meeting its production goals and maintaining a stable salmon population on Battle Creek and the upper Sacramento River.

When the salmon reach Nimbus Hatchery, staff will separate out the fish that have had their adipose fin removed, indicating that they carry a tiny coded wire tag that records their hatchery of origin. Fish identified as being of CNFH origin will be spawned with one another, and their fertilized eggs returned to CNFH. Fish that have not had their adipose fin removed will be spawned and their eggs held until it is determined if they will be needed to meet CNFH production goals.  Fish that are not yet ready to spawn will have a colored tag attached to their dorsal fin and will be returned to the American River, where they will be available to anglers until they either spawn naturally or climb the ladder again and are spawned at the hatchery to meet the Nimbus Fish Hatchery egg collection goals. While anglers are able to catch and keep fish marked with these tags, the tags have no monetary value and do not need to be returned to CDFW.

From >>> cdfgnews.wordpress.com

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Lower American River contains unsafe levels of E. coli. Are homeless camps to blame?

Levels of E. coli bacteria found in the lower American River exceed the federal threshold for safe recreational use, in part due to human waste from homeless camps, state regulators say.

The Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board has proposed adding the bacteria to a list of pollutants that make the lower American River a federally designated impaired water body. A state board is expected to sign off on the decision later this year and ask for final approval from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

E. coli can sicken and even kill people who swim in or drink contaminated water. State regulators say they’re not aware of anyone who has been sickened by E. coli in the the lower American River, but nearly a decade of test data indicate the risk of exposure.

“It should give people some discomfort about using the water – it’s not good,” said Ron Stork of Friends of the River.

A report summarizing test results from 2007 to 2014 found average levels of E. coli at three sites that were higher than the EPA standard, “beyond which the water body is not recommended for recreation.” The three sites are in the westernmost section of the American River Parkway, near downtown Sacramento, where the highest concentration of homeless camps are set up.

Seventeen of the 25 test sites had at least one recording in excess of the federal threshold, according to the “Safe-to-Swim Assessment.”

Thousands of people use the lower American River each year, from the boaters who launch at Discovery Park, to the swimmers who enjoy the beach at Sutter’s Landing Regional Park, to the triathletes who participate in Eppie’s Great Race.

“My concern is that it could make me sick,” said Alex McDonald, who was sitting in the water with his wife at Sutter’s Landing last week. “I would like to know more.”

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Bad news for bikers: Slide danger likely will keep American River trail closed till 2018

A section of the American River Parkway recreation trail that was closed nine months ago by a large landslide likely will not be repaired and reopened until late next spring or summer, state parks officials say.

The lengthy closure has prompted complaints from cyclists and others, but state parks officials say the situation is far from simple or safe.

Mounds of dirt and rock are lying on the trail alongside Lake Natoma in Orangevale since heavy January and February rains caused slices of the hillside to slide. Officials say the cliff above the trail is still unstable and will require stabilizing before cleanup can begin.

State parks does not have the expertise to handle the job, so it is in negotiations with Caltrans, an agency that has a lot of experience dealing with landslides and unstable slopes, according to Richard Preston, the Folsom area state parks superintendent.

The two agencies are close to signing an agreement, he said. Caltrans will assess the hillside safety. That may mean sending workers rappelling down the 70-foot cliff to get closer look, Preston said.

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The state must conduct an environmental impact report, including an analysis of how the project might affect Lake Natoma.

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Supervisors OK effort to clean up American River Parkway’s homeless camps

Sacramento County supervisors on Wednesday approved a $5 million plan to beef up patrols along the American River Parkway and clean up its homeless encampments.

The 3-2 vote came after dozens of residents packed the supervisors’ chambers to support or denounce the proposal to add park rangers, maintenance staff and sheriff’s employees to the 23-mile “jewel of Sacramento” and adjacent neighborhoods.

Some speakers recounted bad interactions with homeless people. Others expressed compassion for the homeless but said they wanted a clean, safe parkway. Still others denounced the proposal as “criminalizing the homeless.”

Supervisors Phil Serna, Don Nottoli and Patrick Kennedy voted for the measure. Supervisors Susan Peters and Sue Frost voted against it, citing concerns about funding.

Kennedy said the issue is “a tale of two tragedies” – homelessness and the condition of the parkway. “I think (the plan) is a little heavy on the law enforcement side, and I fear it will just move people around,” Kennedy said. “But we have to try something … It’s devastating. We just can’t let (the parkway) continue to deteriorate.”

Aimee Rutledge, head of the Sacramento Valley Conservancy, said the conservancy’s property, Camp Pollock, is at “ground zero” in the lower reaches of the river with a clear view of the degradation of a precious natural resource. “To abandon (the parkway) would be to abandon the best part of Sacramento,” she said.

Last month, supervisors asked staff to find ways to fund additional employees for animal control, waste collection and the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department Homeless Outreach Team.

Staff members found several sources of funding but not enough to cover the full costs of the program. Staff laid out options costing $3 million, $4 million and $5 million, which had $1.4 million, $2.9 million and $3.8 million funding gaps. Going forward, the funding gaps increase to $1.8 million, $3.2 million and $3.9 million for consecutive budget years, they said.

“Where is the money going to come from?” Peters asked Wednesday.

County Executive Nav Gill said there’s a $3.4 million placeholder in the budget that will come before the board next month and could be used to fund the parkway plan.

Serna launched the parkway debate in June when he requested between $3 million and $5 million to address the impacts of homeless campers.

Other supervisors countered that campers would simply move into the surrounding neighborhoods when rousted. As a compromise, the board asked staff to come up with options to also clean up unincorporated areas of the county adjacent to the parkway.

Karen Humphrey, former mayor of Fresno, told supervisors the plan will “just move the problem around and waste precious resources.” She said she helped create the San Joaquin River Parkway, modeled on Sacramento’s parkway, so she understands its importance. But there isn’t enough capacity to shelter all of the people living in the brush, she said.

Earlier this year, supervisors voted to dedicate $6.2 million to a slew of new homeless initiatives on top of the county’s roughly $40 million in annual spending for homeless services.

The county will build a 75-bed shelter aimed at moving chronically homeless people off the streets. It’s scheduled to open in early 2018, and the county estimates it could serve 300 people annually. The money will also pay for a rehousing program, transitional housing and case workers.

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