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Wild Central Valley Salmon: Managers Missing an Opportunity



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This winter and early spring of 2020 have been drier than normal in the Central Valley. However, precipitation in January, March, and now April provided opportunities to greatly enhance this year’s brood of fall and spring run salmon success. Water managers missed these opportunities by capturing all the water in reservoirs. What happened to prescribed spring flow pulses for salmon in state and federal plans? Is holding the promised water back the “best science”?1 No.
Shasta, Oroville, and Folsom reservoirs, the largest in Sacramento Valley, have released no flow pulses since January 1 to the Sacramento, Feather, and American rivers (Figure1). These are the rivers with the state’s biggest runs of fall-run and spring-run salmon. These three reservoirs now hold 6.5 million acre-feet (MAF) of stored water, over 95% of average for this date.
Also available is 2 MAF of water now stored in Trinity Reservoir, which is at 109% of average for this date. Local rainfall and un-dammed tributaries have provided three significant flow pulses in lower rivers and the Delta, but these pulses have not touched the spawning and rearing grounds just downstream of the major dams.
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