Photo: Dead endangered coho salmon on Patterson Creek, a tributary of the Scott River. Photo by Erica Terence, Klamath Riverkeeper
As happens every year, endangered coho salmon are being stranded in drying pools in the Scott River system, due to inaction by the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG), NOAA Fisheries, the U.S. Forest Service and the California Water Resources Control Board.
An independent investigation by Klamath Riverkeeper Erica Terence reveals that in spite of the DFG “rescuing” 1,500 coho out of disconnected pools up Kidder Creek, a Scott River tributary, on July 25 and 26, hundreds of juvenile coho salmon were still trapped in Patterson Creek.
“At the rate the creek is drying up, those fish will be jerky by the end of today,” Terence said in a note to DFG officials. “I suggest that in addition to rescuing what fish you can, your agency should open an investigation into nearby diversions and possible Fish and Game Code violations immediately.”
CDFG Game Warden Steve McDonald responded to Terence’s note within days, supplying a report that all three surface diversions upstream of the dewatered reach with the photographed dying coho were shut off or were returning all the water they diverted back into the creek after using it, according to Terence.
Although fish rescue in the Scott River fails to address the root causes of the dewatering such as irrigation dams, canals, ditches, groundwater pumping and soil deposition caused by irresponsible logging in the watershed, “it is a necessary tactic to prevent total extinction of the severely endangered Scott River coho population,” Terence said.
The stranding of endangered salmon on Scott River tributaries occurs at a time when one of the largest fish kills in California history is taking place at the state and federal pumps on the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.
A horrific total of 8,942,347 splittail, 35,435 chinook salmon, 385,392 striped bass, 49,812 largemouth bass, 67,383 bluegill, 66,403 white catfish, 20,178 channel catfish, 91,956 threadfin shad, 166,336 American shad, 1,642 steelhead and 51 Delta smelt were “salvaged” in the state and federal water export facilities from January 1 to July 21, 2011, according to DFG data. The actual numbers of fish lost in the pumping facilities dwarf the salvage numbers.
Meanwhile, the state and federal governments are pumping record amounts of water out of the California Delta at a time when southern California reservoirs are full and the Metropolitan Water District of California is selling water at cut-rate prices.
As the Delta fish kill proceeds while Brown and Obama administration officials do virtually nothing to stop the carnage, the California Department of Fish and Game refuses to take a proactive and comprehensive approach to stopping the dewatering problem that takes place yearly on the Scott and Shasta rivers.
As the Who song said so well, “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.”
I applaud the Klamath Riverkeeper to standing up for the fish and fighting against the diversions of water of the Scott and Shasta rivers that lead to the stranding of endangered coho salmon every year. For more information, go to: http://www.klamathriver.org.