CDFW News | Endangered California salmon have returned to safer waters after more than a century

*** A joint press release issued by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife; the US Fish and Wildlife Service; and the Claims Office***

State and federal biologists have begun moving threatened chinook salmon to Clear Creek in northern California, where cooler water temperatures will better promote spawning and help their eggs survive the persistent drought.

Crews from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) are moving the fish. Together they will return approximately 300 overwintering adult chinook salmon to their natural habitat above Eagle Canyon Dam on North Fork Battle Creek, about 20 miles east of Cottonwood, in Shasta and Tehama counties for the first times in over 110 years.

Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), which operates hydroelectric facilities on Battle Creek, coordinated operations to make the move possible. It is one of a series of urgent actions to help native fish survive another year of long-lasting drought and high temperatures, thiamine deficiency, predators and other stressors that have devastated the population over the past two years in the Sacramento River below the Shasta and Keswick dams.

Agencies join forces

The CDFW, USFWS, NOAA Fisheries, Bureau of Reclamation, California Department of Water Resources, and water users are coordinating their efforts to save state and federally protected species. The agencies work closely with the Winnemem Wintu tribe, whose culture is closely tied to salmon in the region. Other actions include:

  • Manage releases of limited water stored in Shasta Reservoir into the Sacramento River, where additional spawning gravel has been placed, to improve the chances that the water released will be cool enough to allow some Chinook salmon eggs into the river to survive.
  • Increased production of juvenile winter run Chinook salmon at the USFWS-operated Livingston Stone National Hatchery at the base of Shasta Dam. The offspring produced at the hatchery in recent years have helped save the species as most of their eggs in the wild have died. Juvenile fish will be released into the river in stages when conditions are more favorable in late fall and winter.
  • Displacement of spring adult Chinook salmon moving up the Sacramento River to upper Clear Creek in Shasta County to cooler waters and increased chances of egg survival.
  • Boosting the resilience of transported adult salmon with thiamin (vitamin B) injections to counter a deficiency that researchers say has reduced the survival of their offspring in recent years. The deficiency has been linked to changing ocean conditions and salmon feeding primarily on anchovies versus a more diverse diet of forage fish, krill and other species.
  • Monitoring the survival and reproduction of transported fish as part of a science-based plan to learn from these actions to promote climate resilience of Chinook salmon. Research includes field studies to understand the productivity of historic habitat where winter-run Chinook Salmon will be reintroduced.

Transporting adult Chinook salmon wintering up to Upper Battle Creek builds on the “jumpstart” reintroduction program that began in 2018 with annual releases of juvenile salmon into the lower reaches of the creek. Many released fish migrated to the ocean and returned as adults to spawn, demonstrating that Chinook salmon can recover in habitat cool enough for their eggs to survive the summer.

Hydroelectric facilities and natural barriers prevent adult salmon from reaching the cool spring-fed waters in the upper reaches of North Fork Battle Creek about 3,000 feet above the Sacramento Valley floor. Juvenile offspring of transported adults that hatch in the creek are expected to be able to swim downstream from Eagle Canyon Dam and reach the Sacramento River.

Back above Shasta

State and federal salmon recovery plans also call for the return of wintering Chinook salmon to historic spawning habitat in the McCloud River above Shasta Dam and Reservoir. This requires a way to collect the juvenile salmon that hatch and try to swim downstream to the ocean and must safely cross the 600-foot-tall Shasta Dam. The agencies plan to test a pilot juvenile collection system this fall.

These efforts are part of a comprehensive program in the Sacramento Valley to address all stages of the freshwater life cycle for the benefit of the region’s four Chinook runs. Work will continue this year to advance science through the Sacramento River Science Partnership and to implement projects in the downstream reaches of rivers and streams to create additional spawning habitat, habitat for side channel rearing, fish food and removal of migration barriers.

These efforts are also part of a longer-term recovery effort underway to address climate change and provide greater resilience for salmon by expanding access to important habitat and landscapes, including reintroduction for spawning and rearing above Shasta Dam and Reservoir, spawning in upper Battle Stream, food sources and safe haven in bypasses, backwaters and historic floodplain in lower system.

Comments from agency leaders

Charlton H. Bonham, director of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife
“The historic reintroduction of overwintering adult Chinook Salmon to the North Fork Battle Creek this spring will help secure another generation of this iconic species at risk. This reintroduction – combined with long-term efforts to restore the Battle Creek watershed and establish a second winter migration population beyond the Sacramento River – means we are helping this species become more climate and drought resistant. for a better future.

Paul Souza, Pacific Southwest Regional Director for the US Fish and Wildlife Service
“This is the first time in many years that anadromous fish have been found in upper Battle Creek. Releasing salmon here is critical in this third year of drought, as water temperatures are cooler and habitat is more conducive to spawning. This action would not be possible without the support of the Battle Creek Salmon and Steelhead Restoration Project, a collaborative effort between state, federal and private agencies.

Ernest Conant, Regional Director of the Bureau of Reclamation
“Close collaboration is essential to manage the limited resources we have to work in the Sacramento River Basin in this third consecutive drought year. Together, we are taking unprecedented steps to increase salmon productivity in one of the driest years on record.

Jan Nimick, vice president of power generation at PG&E
“PG&E recognizes the current critical situation for adult salmon overwintering this year and is pleased to work with agencies to coordinate our project operations where we can to support a successful movement of salmon to cooler waters to support this action. urgent by the agencies. .”

Photos and videos of salmon relocation and release in North Fork Battle Creek and Clear Creek can be downloaded and used at the following FTP link.


About the California Department of Fish and Wildlife
The mission of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife is to manage California’s diverse fish, wildlife, and plant resources, and the habitats on which they depend, for their ecological values ​​and for their public use and enjoyment. To learn more, visit Join us on Facebook, TwitterInstagram and YouTube.

About the United States Fish and Wildlife Service
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service works with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continued benefit of the American people. For more information about our work and the people who do it, visit or connect with us via Facebook, TwitterYouTube and Flickr.

About the Claims Office
The Bureau of Reclamation is a federal agency under the United States Department of the Interior and is the nation’s largest wholesale water supplier and the second largest producer of hydroelectric power. Its facilities also provide substantial flood control, recreational opportunities and environmental benefits. Visit and follow @USBR & @ReclamationCVP on Twitter; Facebook @bureau.of.reclamation; LinkedIn @Claims Office; Instagram @bureau_of_reclamation; and YouTube @reclamation.

Media contacts:
Peter Tira, CDFW, (916) 215-3858
John Heil, US Fish and Wildlife Service, (916) 414-6636
Mary Lee Knecht, Reclamation Office, (916) 978-5101

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