Joint Release of Federal Recovery Plan for Salmon and Steelhead and Conservation Strategy for California’s Ecosystem Restoration Program

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SACRAMENO, Calif. – NOAA Fisheries and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) today jointly released two plans to restore populations of salmon and steelhead in California’s Central Valley: NOAA Fisheries’ Chinook Salmon and Steelhead Recovery Plan and CDFW’s Ecosystem Restoration Program (ERP) Conservation Strategy.

The two plans are complementary in that CDFW’s conservation strategy presents a broader framework for restoring aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems throughout the Central Valley, while the federal recovery plan focuses on the recovery of endangered Sacramento River winter-run Chinook salmon, threatened Central Valley spring-run Chinook salmon, and threatened Central Valley steelhead.

A shared goal of both plans is to remove these species from federal and state lists of endangered and threatened species. The recovery plan provides a detailed road map for how to reach that goal. It lays out a science-based strategy for recovery and identifies the actions necessary to restore healthy salmon and steelhead populations to the Central Valley.

“Establishing clear priority watersheds, fish populations and actions is essential to achieve recovery,” said Maria Rea, NOAA Fisheries Assistant Regional Administrator for California’s Central Valley Office. “Implementation of this plan will depend on many parties working collaboratively to pool resources, expertise and programs to recover Chinook salmon and steelhead populations that are part of California’s natural heritage.“

Recovery plans required by the Endangered Species Act are guidance documents, not regulatory requirements, and their implementation depends on the voluntary cooperation of multiple stakeholders at the local, regional, state and national levels.

“The Sacramento Valley joins together a world-renowned mosaic of natural abundance: productive farmlands, meandering rivers that provide habitat and feed salmon and steelhead, wildlife refuges and managed wetlands, and cities and rural communities,” said David Guy, President of the Northern California Water Association. “The recovery plan is a positive step forward–through efficient management of the region’s water resources, water suppliers throughout the Sacramento Valley will continue to work with our conservation partners to help implement the recovery plan and improve ecological conditions in the Sacramento River for multiple species and habitat values.”

The ERP conservation strategy was developed by CDFW collaboratively with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA Fisheries to help guide environmental restoration and establish adaptive management to improve restoration success in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and its watershed. The approach of conservation strategy is to restore or mimic ecological processes and to improve aquatic and terrestrial habitats to support stable, self-sustaining populations of diverse and valuable species.

“It is critical we make strategic investments in our natural resources,” said Charlton H. Bonham, Director of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. “The funding of these high-priority restoration projects is not only an example of the coordinated effort between state and federal governments, but an example of California’s continued efforts to minimize the effects of drought on fish and wildlife. Central Valley salmon and steelhead deserve nothing less.

California Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr.’s 2014-15 budget provided CDFW with $38 million to implement enhanced salmon monitoring, restore sensitive habitat, improve water infrastructure for wildlife refuges, expand the fisheries restoration grant program, and remove barriers for fish passage. Some of that money will be used on projects recommended by the federal recovery plan.

Dick Pool of the Golden Gate Salmon Association said, “We thank and congratulate the scientists of NOAA Fisheries for their outstanding work in developing the Central Valley Recovery Plan. GGSA and the salmon industry particularly appreciate the fact that the plan includes both short range and long range actions that can reverse the serious salmon and steelhead population declines. GGSA has identified a number of the same projects as needing priority action. We also commend the agency for its diligent efforts to engage the other fishery agencies, the water agencies and the salmon stakeholders in the process. We look forward to assisting in finding ways to get the critical projects implemented.”

The federal recovery plan and state conservation strategy work together as a blueprint of how at-risk species can be restored to sustainable levels.Restoring healthy, viable salmon and steelhead runs will preserve and enhance the commercial, recreational and cultural opportunities for future generations. As the fish populations grow and recover, so too will the economic benefits and long-term fishing opportunities for everyone.

“The Recovery Plan provides a clear framework to better coordinate and align restoration projects in the Delta, the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers and their tributaries to achieve greater conservation outcomes,” said Jay Ziegler, Director of External Affairs and Policy for The Nature Conservancy. “We are pleased to see the integration of multiple habitat values in the Plan including the importance of expanding lateral river movements to enhance floodplain habitat and recognition of the importance of variable flow regimes to benefit multiple species.”

The development of a recovery plan is an important part in the successful rebuilding of a species because it incorporates information from a multitude of interested parties including scientific researchers, stakeholders and the general public. Since 2007, NOAA Fisheries has held 14 public workshops, produced a draft for public comment, and met with strategic stakeholders to guide the plan’s development and ensure a comprehensive and useful document.

CDFW will be investing considerable resources in improving water conservation on public wildlife refuges in the Central Valley and protecting important salmon stocks that contribute to the state’s fishery. The department has also recently released a restoration grant solicitation which includes salmon and steelhead watersheds in the Central Valley. The solicitation can be found here. Applications are being accepted until August 12, 2014.

More on the NOAA Fisheries Recovery Plan and the CDFW Ecosystem Restoration Program

Contact:
Jim Milbury, NOAA Fisheries Communications, (562) 980-4006
Clark Blanchard, CDFW Communications, (916) 651-7824

CDFW to Hold Public Meetings on Proposed Low-Flow Closure of the Russian River

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) will hold two public meetings to discuss the proposed low-flow closure changes to the Russian River and North Central Coast streams.

The first meeting is Wednesday, July 30 from 2 to 5 p.m. at the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, 5550 Skylane Blvd., Suite A, in Santa Rosa. The second meeting is Thursday, July 31 from 3 to 6 p.m. at the Gualala Community Center, 47950 Center St. in Gualala near the intersection of Center Street and South Highway 1.

A CDFW representative will detail the proposed regulation changes. Following the short presentation, interested parties can make comments and provide input that will help shape CDFW’s final recommendation to the Fish and Game Commission, which CDFW anticipates presenting at the Commission’s meeting in Van Nuys in December.

The Russian River and other North Central Coast streams provide critical life-stage habitat for coastal Chinook salmon, coho salmon and steelhead trout. All three of these species are listed under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA). Coho salmon is also listed under the California ESA.

CDFW is preparing regulatory changes for Title 14, Chapter 3, Article 4, section 8, part (b) to add low-flow fish restrictions to the Russian River and base the closure of North Central Coast streams on one or more stream gauges on rivers that are more representative of these North Central Coast streams than the current regulated flows of the Russian River. These proposed regulatory actions are based upon fishery impact concerns that have arisen during the past three years of drought conditions. During the past two winters, salmon entering these streams were forced to congregate into the remaining pools below restricted passage areas, and then were subject to heavy angling pressure. In both years the Russian River and North Central Coast streams have dropped to mere trickles, yet have remained open to fishing till an emergency closure was enacted by the Fish and Game Commission in February 2014. This emergency action expired on April 30, 2014.

The two public meetings are being led by CDFW to solicit public comments regarding the regulatory changes that are proposed to protect these ESA-listed fish while still providing sport fishing opportunities. In addition to these public meetings, individuals and organizations may submit comments in writing. The written comments can be sent by email to ryan.watanabe@wildlife.ca.gov, or by mail addressed to CDFW, Bay Delta Region, Attn: Ryan Watanabe, 5355 B Skylane Drive, Santa Rosa, CA 95403.

 

Media Contacts:
Ryan Watanabe, CDFW Fisheries Branch, (707) 576-2815
Andrew Hughan, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8944

CDFW and NOAA Fisheries Introduce Voluntary Drought Initiative to Protect Salmon and Steelhead

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The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries announced a Voluntary Drought Initiative today designed to protect populations of salmon and steelhead from the effects of the current unprecedented drought.

“This is one of many measures we’re attempting to get us through this extreme drought and keep enough water in the state’s rivers and streams to protect our fish resources,” said CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham. “I am thankful that water users and landowners came to our agencies with ideas about working together in northern California, which allowed us to take this immediate, voluntary action during this important spawning time and improve regulatory certainty for rural communities.”

The initiative provides a framework for water users to enter into individual agreements with the two agencies in an effort to maintain enough water for fish spawning in specific high priority streams, and implement other collaborative actions like fish rescue, relocation, monitoring and habitat restoration. The geographic focus includes some Sacramento River tributaries (Antelope, Deer and Mill creeks) and the Russian, Shasta and Scott rivers. In return, landowners and water users will benefit from greater regulatory certainty under the federal and state endangered species laws, and may receive incidental take authorizations for California Endangered Species Act (CESA)-listed fish in case a participant unintentionally takes listed fish species while withdrawing water.

Archie “Red” Emmerson, owner of Sierra Pacific Industries and the largest private landowner in California, was among the first to participate in the voluntary program. “This is one of the toughest water years in recent memory for people, cattle and fish,” Emmerson said. “We have learned a great deal about salmon spawning and rearing on our properties. This year we are volunteering to keep additional cold water in the creek to help salmon. We hope working with the fish agencies will give the salmon a better chance to survive this difficult drought.”

This is a temporary, voluntary initiative that is only being implemented during federal and state drought declarations or designations, with the goal of supporting agricultural activities while protecting the survival and recovery of federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) and CESA-listed salmon and steelhead during this crucial time in their life cycle.

“This initiative is a great example of how to we can respond, in a meaningful way, to the ill effects of a drought” said NOAA Fisheries West Coast Regional Administrator William Stelle, Jr. “Instead of fighting over scarce water supplies and possible regulatory violations, we are building partnerships with landowners and water users who value the salmon resources of California. The voluntary salmon protections coming out of these partnerships are significant.”

NOAA Fisheries and CDFW are aware that the State Water Resources Control Board is currently considering curtailing water rights to respond to current drought conditions. This Voluntary Drought Initiative, under the ESA and CESA, is limited to those authorities and responsibilities of NOAA Fisheries and CDFW. However NOAA Fisheries and CDFW are coordinating closely with the State Water Board. While this initiative is separate from the Board’s authorities and independent actions that it may pursue related to the drought, including emergency curtailments, NOAA Fisheries and CDFW intend to support any local cooperative solution formalized through an executed voluntary agreement before the State Water Board as an alternative to mandatory curtailments.

A description of the fish agencies’ Voluntary Drought Initiative can be found at www.westcoast.fisheries.noaa.gov/protected_species/salmon_steelhead/voluntary_drought_initiative.html.

Today, NOAA Fisheries and CDFW are also announcing the execution of the first set of voluntary agreements with key landowners in the Scott and Shasta river watersheds covering land access for fish rescue and providing critical flows to maintain suitable habitat. For copies of those agreements, please continue to check www.westcoast.fisheries.noaa.gov/protected_species/salmon_steelhead/voluntary_drought_initiative.html which will be updated as agreements are available.

Governor Brown has called on all Californians to reduce their water use by 20 percent and prevent water waste – visit saveourH2O.org to find out how everyone can do their part, and visit drought.ca.gov to learn more about how California is dealing with the effects of the drought.

MOUs:

California Department of Fish and Wildlife Shasta River and Parks Creek MOU (Emmerson)

California Department of Fish and Wildlife Antelope Creek MOU (Edwards Ranch)
California Department of Fish and Wildlife Antelope Creek MOU (Los Molinos Mutual Water Company)
California Department of Fish and Wildlife Mill Creek MOU (Los Molinos Mutual Water Company)
California Department of Fish and Wildlife Mill Creek MOU (Nobmann Cattle LLC)
California Department of Fish and Wildlife Mill Creek MOU (Peyton Pacific Properties)
California Department of Fish and Wildlife Mill Creek MOU (The Nature Conservancy)
California Department of Fish and Wildlife Scott River MOU (Murphy Family Trust)
California Department of Fish and Wildlife Scott River MOU (Michigan Cal)
California Department of Fish and Wildlife Scott River MOU (Barnes)
California Department of Fish and Wildlife Scott River MOU (Gazzarino)
California Department of Fish and Wildlife Scott River MOU (J. Fowle)
California Department of Fish and Wildlife Scott River MOU (J. Spencer)
California Department of Fish and Wildlife Scott River MOU (Morris)
California Department of Fish and Wildlife Scott River MOU (Scott River Ranch)
California Department of Fish and Wildlife Scott River MOU (Tobias Ranch)
California Department of Fish and Wildlife Scott River MOU (K. Whipple)
California Department of Fish and Wildlife Scott River MOU (Stapleton)
California Department of Fish and Wildlife Deer Creek MOU (Deer Creek Irrigation District)
California Department of Fish and Wildlife Deer Creek MOU (Grant Leininger)

Media Contacts:
Jordan Traverso, CDFW Communications, (916) 654-9937
Jim Milbury, NOAA Fisheries Communications, (562) 980-4006

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