First spring run Chinook salmon in San Joaquin River in 65 years

This news certainly deserved more than it received in this rewrite of a Bureau of Reclamation press release.  But, the event to which it negligently refers was tremendous and unique, an event which took 18 years in federal court, a fight for funding in Congress that cost one congressman his seat, and may be responsible for the insanity of another still sitting congressman, whose district straddles the Friant-Kern Canal as well as making the San Joaquin River habitable for salmon again.

It was a triumph for an American river ranked among the most damaged by agriculture and urban pollution in the nation against the intrenched Federal bureaucracy and the corporate agribusiness interests and the bought politicians that bureaucracy obeys.

One of the numerous environmental groups that joined the Natural Resources Defense Council was the Merced-based San Joaquin Raptor Rescue Center.

The Fresno Bee is the hometown newspaper for Westlands Water District (largest irrigation district in the world), the Friant Water Users Authority (primary beneficiary of the Friant Dam), the South-Central Area office of the federal Bureau of Reclamation, state Department of Fish and Wildlife, state Department of Water Resources, both US senators, several congressmen and other agencies involved in the 18-year suit and subsequent years of the funding battle in Congress, and the development and application of the plans for restoration and water management.

This article seems to emphasize, to paraphrase Sir Francis Bacon, the role of federal scientists in torturing nature for more data. We can only hope data gained in these ways is indispensable to the restoration of the San Joaquin River and not just for the edification of the scientists.

Nevertheless, in its lurching bio-agro-legal fashion, unique in the nation, the restoration is progressing. If only Fresno’s newspaper could acknowledge this great work without fear of constant hostility from powerful agribusiness interests, including the region’s Numero Uno Lunatic, Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Tulare, now known nationwide and beyond.



Sacramento Bee (from Fresno Bee)

It hasn’t happened in 65 years. This threatened species has returned to the San Joaquin River  

Tim Sheehan

Before the construction of Friant Dam and creation of Millerton Lake in 1942, the San Joaquin River was a historic spawning habitat for spring-run Chinook salmon.

But it’s been more than 65 years since adult salmon returned from the Pacific Ocean to the river – until this month, that is.

So far in April, five adult Chinook salmon have been discovered in the same area of the San Joaquin River for the first time in decades. Josh Newcom, a spokesman for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s San Joaquin River Restoration Program, said the salmon were all caught in net traps in an area of the river’s lower Eastside Bypass.

 “This is monumental for the program,” said Donald Portz, manager of the restoration program. “It’s a clear indication of the possibility for these fish to make it out of the system as juveniles and then return as adults to spawn.”

The first of the five fish was caught on April 9. Scientists collected tissue samples and an acoustic tag was inserted down the fish’s throat so they could track its movements before they released the salmon into a portion of the river called Reach 1, a 40-mile stretch downstream from Friant Dam.

Two fish were caught on April 19, and two more were caught this week – one on Tuesday, another on Wednesday – in the same part of the Eastside Bypass.

Scientists could determine that all five salmon were from California hatcheries, and not wild fish, because their adipose fins – a small fin on the back between the dorsal fin and tail – had been removed.

Additionally, one of the two fish caught on April 19 did not survive, and biologists were able to recover a coded wire tag embedded in its snout that confirmed it was one of more than 38,000 juvenile spring-run Chinook released into the river two years ago, in March 2017.

Spring-run Chinook get their name from the March-through-June period when they leave from and return to the river system where they are spawned, according to the restoration program.

Adult salmon inhabit the river’s cool upper reaches during the summer and spawn in the fall. After hatching and growing to juvenile stage, where they are about the size of a human hand, some fish migrate to the ocean or remain in the river for a year before migrating. Salmon spend two to five years maturing to adulthood before returning to the river, according to biologists.

Additional tissue testing will be conducted to determine if any of the fish were spawned at a state hatchery along the river downstream from Friant Dam.