Initiative Aims to Speed Coho Salmon Recovery in California Coastal Watersheds from Santa Cruz to Mendocino Counties

Coho salmon are getting a boost from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) strategic plan to prioritize salmon restoration and habitat improvement projects in coastal watersheds from Santa Cruz to Mendocino counties. In most of these watersheds, coho salmon are in severe decline or locally extinct due to human alterations to land and water resources.

The Priority Action Coho Team (PACT) is designed to focus much needed restoration to help maintain, stabilize and increase localized coho salmon populations. The approach of the PACT initiative is to identify and implement specific short-term actions, drawing from existing state and federal coho salmon recovery plans, to bring immediate benefits.

“PACT employs six strategies emphasizing planning actions and collaboration to accelerate coho salmon recovery from Santa Cruz to Mendocino counties,” said Kevin Shaffer, CDFW Branch Chief. “We look forward to working with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries) and our many partners on collaborating to recover this amazing fish.”

Watersheds where PACT restoration projects are being implemented include Scott Creek in Santa Cruz County and the Russian River in Sonoma County, where a range of projects to restore and improve stream and estuarine habitat have been carried out. These initiatives include recovery actions such as stream habitat restoration, water conservation, captive rearing and fish rescue, together with improvements to permitting, regulatory and enforcement processes.

PACT was developed jointly by CDFW and NOAA Fisheries, and is part of several initiatives to accelerate the implementation of ecological restoration and stewardship projects in California. Complimentary efforts include the Cutting the Green Tape initiative recently launched by the California Natural Resources Agency, other state agencies and the North Coast Salmon Project.

More information about the PACT process, as well as the link to the report, can be found on the CDFW website.

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Media Contacts:
Stephen Swales, CDFW Fisheries Branch, (916) 376-1746
Harry Morse, CDFW Communications, (208) 220-1169

Rush Ranch, landscape photo

CDFW Awards $37 Million for Ecosystem and Watershed Restoration, Protection and Scientific Study Projects

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) today announced the selection of 40 multi-benefit ecosystem restoration and protection projects to receive funding under its Proposition 1 and Proposition 68 grant programs.

The awards, totaling $37 million, were made under CDFW’s 2020 Proposition 1 and Proposition 68 Grant Opportunities Proposal Solicitation Notice.

Of the $37 million, approximately $24 million was awarded to 19 projects statewide through the Proposition 1 Watershed Restoration Grant Program. Approximately $7 million was awarded to seven projects through the Proposition 1 Delta Water Quality and Ecosystem Restoration Grant Program to projects that directly benefit the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Approximately $6 million was awarded to 14 projects through the Proposition 68 Rivers and Streams Grant Program.

While California faces numerous challenges related to COVID-19 (coronavirus), CDFW will continue to administer its grant programs and will implement awarded grant projects while working with grantees to incorporate necessary accommodations under these circumstances.

“We are all currently going to get through this public health emergency together. In the longer term, this year’s awards represent a visionary effort to invest in our ecosystems statewide which will outlast our current challenges,” said CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham. “These awards represent our focus on continuing necessary support for our restoration partners in local government, Tribes, nongovernmental organizations and communities who support these efforts, which is why we wanted to keep this business going in this difficult time with the announcement of these awards.”

The awarded projects represent priorities outlined in the solicitation, as well as the California Water Action Plan, State Wildlife Action Plan, Sacramento Valley Salmon Resiliency Strategy, Delta Plan, California EcoRestore, Safeguarding California Plan, the California Biodiversity Initiative and the fulfillment of CDFW’s mission.

The following projects were approved for funding through the Proposition 1 Watershed Grant Program.

Acquisition Projects:

  • Wagner Forest Conservation Easement ($5,000,000 to Northcoast Regional Land Trust)
  • Ocean Song Conservation Project – Myers Property Acquisition ($2,423,431 to LandPaths)
  • Snell Valley Ranch Conservation Easement ($1,337,500 to Land Trust of Napa County)
  • Mountain Meadows Conservation Project-Phase 2 ($1,342,449 to The Trust for Public Land)
  • Wright Ranch Conservation Easement Acquisition Project ($821,393 to Sierra Foothill Conservancy)
  • Butte Creek Water Right Acquisition ($791,892 to Friends of Butte Creek)

Implementation Projects:

  • Trout Creek Restoration Reaches 4 and 5 ($2,310,000 to Town of Truckee)
  • Napa River Restoration: Oakville to Oak Knoll, Group D ($2,235,000 to County of Napa)
  • Bear Creek Lower Meadow Restoration ($1,357,606 to Truckee River Watershed Council)
  • Cochran Creek (Humboldt Bay) Fish Passage and Habitat Rehabilitation Implementation Project ($996,986 to California Trout, Inc.)
  • Llano Seco/M&T Ranch Cone Fish Screen Project ($895,701 to Family Water Alliance)
  • Middle Stewart Canyon Creek Restoration Project ($864,317 to City of Ojai)
  • Escondido Creek Watershed Invasive Plant Control, Restoration and Fire Prevention Program ($552,097 to The Escondido Creek Conservancy)

Planning Projects:

  • Golden Trout Wilderness – Kern Plateau Meadows Restoration Planning Project ($834,799 to Trout Unlimited)
  • Atascadero Creek Sedimentation Analysis and Fish Passage Restoration 65 Percent Design Project ($551,220 to Gold Ridge Resource Conservation District)
  • Making the Most of the Urban Landspace: Habitat Restoration and Stormwater Banking for Coho Recovery and Watershed Health in the San Geronimo Valley (536,091 to Salmon Protection and Watershed Network)
  • Tijuana River Valley Regional Park Invasive Species Removal and Restoration Plan ($520,168 to County of San Diego Department of Parks and Recreation)
  • Southern Los Cerritos Wetlands Restoration Planning ($405,828 to Los Cerritos Wetlands Authority)
  • The Alamo and New Rivers Riparian Habitat Restoration Planning and Permitting Project ($321,332 to River Partners)

The following projects were approved for funding through the Proposition 1 Delta Water Quality and Ecosystem Restoration Grant Program.

Implementation Projects:

  • Lower Walnut Creek Restoration Project ($1,350,000 to Contra Costa County Flood Control and Water Conservation District)

Planning Projects:

  • Analysis of opportunities for island-wide improvements that includes a mosaic of multiple land uses for subsidence reversal, sustainable agricultural practices, carbon sequestration, water quality and habitat restoration ($1,131,942 to Metropolitan Water District of Southern California)

Scientific Studies:

  • Interior Delta Export Effects Study ($1,689,432 to State Water Contractors)
  • Ecosystem Engineering Impacts of Water Primrose in the Delta ($952,844 to University of California, Merced)
  • Identifying Cyanobacterial Harmful Algal Bloom Toxins in Delta Invertebrates: Implications for Native Species and Human Health ($823,415 to San Francisco Estuary Institute)
  • Impacts of storm-driven contaminants on larval delta smelt and the community scale adaptive capacity of prey items to handle those stressors ($659,991 to University of California, Davis)
  • Willow Bend Floodplain Monitoring ($338,282 to River Partners)

The following projects were approved for funding through the Proposition 68 Rivers and Streams Grant Program.

Implementation Projects:

  • East Fork Scott – Meadow Enhancement and Large Woody Debris Addition ($92,299 to U.S. Forest Service – Klamath National Forest)
  • Riprap and Ditch Removal to Restore Merced River Riparian and Meadow Habitat ($293,933 to Yosemite National Park)
  • Restoring Riparian Habitat for Native Aquatic Species in Southern Sierra Watersheds ($264,442 to Yosemite National Park)

Planning Projects:

    • Final Fish Passage Design for the I-5 and Metrolink barriers in Trabuco Creek ($1,499,499 to California Trout, Inc.)
    • Russian River Floodplain Restoration Planning Grant ($717,900 to Endangered Habitats Conservancy)
    • Final Design for Santa Margarita River Fish Passage Project and Bridge Replacement ($714,865 to California Trout, Inc.)
    • Lower Sutter Bypass Anadromous Fish Habitat Restoration Planning ($500,000 to River Partners)
    • Upper Rose Bar Restoration Project: Planning ($365,157 to South Yuba River Citizens League)
    • Lakeville Creek Restoration Project, Phase 1 Planning ($332,495 to Sonoma Land Trust)
    • Lagunitas Creek Watershed Enhancement Plan ($300,000 to Marin Municipal Water District)
    • Advancing Fish Passage in the Little Shasta Watershed ($292,405 to California Trout, Inc.)
    • Sulphur Creek Fish Passage Improvement Project – 100 Percent Designs ($220,000 to California Trout, Inc.)

 

  • Chadd Creek Fish Passage Enhancement Planning Project ($189,780 to Humboldt County Public Works
  • Tenmile Creek Bridge Design Project ($169,945 to Eel River Watershed Improvement Group (ERWIG))

 

General information about CDFW’s Prop. 1 and Prop. 68 Restoration Grant Programs, as well as a schedule for upcoming grant solicitations, once available, can be found at wildlife.ca.gov/grants.

Funding for these projects comes from Prop. 1 and Prop. 68 bond funds, a portion of which are allocated annually through the California State Budget Act. More information about Prop. 1 and Prop. 68 can be found on the California Natural Resources Agency website.

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Media Contacts:
Matt Wells, CDFW Watershed Restoration Grant Branch, (916) 216-7848
Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 804-1714

turkey vulture receiving veterinary treatment for poisoning

CDFW Reminds Veterinarians and Pet Owners to Properly Dispose of Animal Remains

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is reaching out to veterinarians and owners of pets and livestock to remind them of the importance of properly disposing of the remains of chemically euthanized animals. CDFW’s Wildlife Investigations Laboratory has recently confirmed the fourth known incident of secondary pentobarbital poisoning in a turkey vulture from Marin County.

The other three Marin County incidents, dating back to 2014, also involved turkey vultures that were suffering from secondary poisoning after consuming the remains of animals that were euthanized with sodium pentobarbital. CDFW has confirmed similar cases of poisoning in Ventura County in 2017 and Shasta County in 2018, also involving turkey vultures. In 2017, a bald eagle was also poisoned by pentobarbital in Fresno County.

Sodium pentobarbital is commonly used to humanely euthanize domestic animals such as dogs and cats, horses, goats, cattle, poultry and other livestock. The drug is quickly distributed throughout the animals’ body. Secondary poisoning of wildlife occurs when the animal remains are disposed of improperly and scavengers feed on the animal exposing them to the euthanasia drug.

Pentobarbital poisoning of wildlife is entirely preventable. Law requires that animals chemically euthanized with pentobarbital be cremated or buried at least 3 to 4 feet deep to prevent exposing scavenging wildlife to the euthanasia drug. Leaving a euthanized animal unburied in a field or landfill will put wildlife scavengers at risk of poisoning. Proper disposal of animal remains is the responsibility of the animal owner and veterinarian administering the drug.

Wildlife that have ingested pentobarbital-contaminated animal remains may appear dead. They often have no reflex response and breathing may be barely detectible. If treated promptly, turkey vultures have a fair chance of survival. The most recent turkey vulture was successfully treated and released by wildlife rehabilitation staff at WildCare in San Rafael. Unfortunately, given that several turkey vultures may feed on the same animal remains, it is possible additional vultures and other scavengers may have been similarly affected but not recovered.

Incidents and information about possible sources of poisoning may be reported to the CDFW’s Wildlife Investigations Laboratory by phone at (916) 358-2790, by email at WILab@wildlife.ca.gov or online via the CDFW website.

If grounded birds are observed, please contact your local wildlife rehabilitation center.

For more information, please see the USFWS Fact Sheet “Secondary Pentobarbital Poisoning of Wildlife.”

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Media Contacts:
Krysta Rogers, CDFW Wildlife Branch, (916) 531-7647
Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 804-1714
Alison Hermance, WildCare, (415) 453-1000, ext. 24

 

CDFW fish hatchery planting trucks

CDFW’s Salmon Evacuation Decision Pays Exceptional Dividends

In February 2017, damage to the Oroville Dam’s spillways prompted the evacuation of more than 180,000 people living downstream along the Feather River. The raging muddy waters also triggered an emergency decision to relocate millions of young salmon from the Feather River Hatchery to the Thermalito Annex Hatchery to be raised and held until river water conditions improved. Most, if not all, of the young salmon would have otherwise died when mud from the raging river overwhelmed the hatchery waters.

About 2 million spring run Chinook and 5 million fall run Chinook were evacuated during the two-day flood event. Those fish survived and were later released to the wild – helping fuel a record class salmon harvest in the ocean two years later.

Last year, most of the rescued salmon had matured in the ocean and were ready for their migration home to the Feather River. Their survival helped power strong ocean fisheries with one of the largest commercial catches in decades. According to data collected by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), approximately 272,000 salmon were harvested in the commercial fishery along with a catch of nearly 88,500 in the recreational ocean fishery, while returns to the Feather River basin exceeded 70,000 in 2019.

Ocean fishing activities were an economic stimulus for local communities and industries along the coast and inland. Commercial trollers landed 2.6 million pounds of salmon valued at more than $17.2 million, which was the highest level of harvest since 2013. The Feather River Hatchery was estimated to have contributed one quarter of all commercially harvested salmon and one third of the recreational ocean harvest.

“The return of the salmon released from Feather River Hatchery after the flood event was exceptional,” said Kevin Shaffer, CDFW Acting Chief of the Wildlife Branch. “At several points in the crisis, the majority (if not all) of the young salmon could have been lost. If not for the hard work, ingenuity and dedication of the hatchery employees and staff we could have ended up with nothing.”

The effort to save the young salmon began on Feb. 9 and 10, 2017. More than 60 people from CDFW, the California Department of Water Resources, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries and other agencies worked night and day to successfully transfer more than 5 million Chinook salmon to the Thermalito Annex hatchery facility nine miles away. Fisheries and engineering staff also constructed an emergency filtration system for the remaining salmon and steelhead at the Oroville facility, saving an estimated 1.5 million fall Chinook salmon fry that were too small to move and 1.6 million steelhead eggs which lead to a returning year class of 1,874 steelhead in 2018-19.

On March 20, 2017, the first salmon to be released after the evacuation were 1 million state and federally listed threatened spring-run Chinook salmon. They were released successfully into the Feather River. In all, a total of 2 million spring-run Chinook and 5 million fall-run Chinook were released.

Their work did not go unnoticed. Team members received a letter of appreciation from then-Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom, and were later presented with the CDFW Director’s “Team Award” for their ingenuity and dedicated work to save the salmon and steelhead eggs.

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Media Contacts:
Harry Morse, CDFW Communications, (208) 220-1169
Jay Rowan, CDFW North Coast Region, (916) 358-2883

 

California Cannabis Enforcement Program logo

State Regulators Focus on Compliance with Commercial Cannabis Cultivation

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), and State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board) are reminding commercial cannabis cultivators to follow existing state regulations to avoid fines and other administrative penalties.

“Environmental compliance is much less expensive than the penalties for cultivation-related violations,” said Jeremy Valverde, CDFW’s Acting Cannabis Program Director. “The state is here to help commercial cannabis cultivators of all sizes navigate the regulatory process. Cultivators can call or email regulatory staff to learn more about state requirements or attend a permitting workshop, when they are scheduled later this year.”

Under Fish and Game Code, section 12025, civil penalties can be ordered against a landowner or occupant who has violated one or more environmental laws in conjunction with cannabis cultivation. Fines are per day and include up to $8,000 for each unpermitted water diversion and up to $20,000 for each instance where harmful materials may discharge into waters. Both licensed and unlicensed cultivators can be charged. Since 2016, CDFW has filed 10 administrative complaints against 10 cultivators. In September 2019, a trial judge ordered a landowner liable for his tenants’ actions and upheld a penalty of over $680,000.

With CDFA’s new citation authority, illegal cultivators can face fines of up to $30,000 per day, per violation of commercial cannabis laws. Failure to get a license or obey environmental regulations can result in civil penalties and possible licensing actions against the commercial cannabis license. In most cases, a person engaging in illegal commercial cannabis activity can face civil penalties of up to three times the amount of what an actual cannabis license costs, ranging from $3,615 to $233,715 per day.

The State Water Board’s Cannabis Cultivation Policy requires that commercial cannabis cultivators obtain regulatory approvals and follow certain principles and guidelines in order to protect water quality and stream flows. Civil penalties of up to $5,000 per day can be levied for illegal waste discharges to streams, lakes or groundwater, and penalties up to $500 per day plus $2,500 per acre-foot can be assessed for illegally diverting or using water. Additional penalties can be assessed for operating a cultivation site in a manner that does not adequately protect the environment, in violation of the requirements described in the Cultivation Policy.

Those seeking more information about current regulatory requirements can view presentations from a recent online workshop at wildlife.ca.gov/cannabispermitting or attend one of the cannabis cultivation permitting workshops that will be scheduled later this year. Workshop locations and times will be announced on CDFA, CDFW and State Water Board websites as soon as they’re scheduled. In addition, cultivators can email or call any agency with their questions; please see the contact information listed below.

To learn more about CDFW’s cannabis program, please visit wildlife.ca.gov/cannabis or email askcannabis@wildlife.ca.gov. To report environmental crimes, such as water diversions, pollution and poaching, call the CalTIP hotline at (888) 334-2258 or text information to “TIP411” (847411).

For information on the state’s cannabis cultivation licensing process and the California Cannabis Track-and-Trace Metrc System, please visit the CDFA CalCannabis Cultivation Licensing Division website at calcannabis.cdfa.ca.gov, call (833) CALGROW or (833) 225-4769, or send an email to calcannabis@cdfa.ca.gov. To report suspected illegal cannabis cultivation or related complaints, call (833) WEED-TIP or (833) 933-3847.

To learn more about the State Water Board’s role in cannabis cultivation permitting, please visit waterboards.ca.gov/cannabis. For permitting and compliance assistance, email dwq.cannabis@waterboards.ca.gov or call (916) 341-5580 (Cannabis Cultivation General Order), or email cannabisreg@waterboards.ca.gov or call (916) 319-9427 (cannabis cultivation water rights).

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Media Contact:
Janice Mackey, CDFW Communications, (916) 207-7891