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  • Randall Benton / rbenton@sacbee.com

    U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hydrologist Craig Anderson, left, fisheries biologist Bill Beckett, center, and state Department of Fish and Wildlife scientific aide Shawn Cox test the gravel bed of the American River near River Bend Park in Rancho Cordova on Friday as part of an effort to learn how many salmon eggs have been killed by low water levels in the drought-shrunken waterway.

  • Randall Benton / RBenton@sacbee.com

    US Fish and Wildlife Service Hydrologist Craig Anderson, left, and California Department of Fish and Wildlife Scientific Aid Shawn Cox wade across the water with test equipment on the American River near River Bend Park in Rancho Cordova on Friday, January 17, 2014. Dams upstream keep gravel from naturally washing downstream, so - as part of a large project - 6,000 tons of gravel were added to the river bed to provide a better habitat for spawning chinook salmon. Recently, low water levels have left some of the salmon nesting areas (called redds) have been left high and dry. Today, biologists surveyed the American River to try to learn how many salmon eggs have been killed by low water levels. They sampled salmon redds (nests) for water quality, and the permeability of the river bed.

  • Randall Benton / RBenton@sacbee.com

    Fishermen angle for salmon along the American River just below Nimbus Dam on Saturday, January 11, 2014. Flows from Folsom Dam to the American River were reduced because of drought-like conditions.

  • Randall Benton / rbenton@sacbee.com

    Steven Wood of Folsom fishes for salmon in the American River below Nimbus Dam on Jan. 11. Amid a drought, the California Fish and Game Commission requested that anglers stop fishing in the river until April 30. People wading in rivers can trample nests of eggs needed to sustain threatened fish.

  • Randy Pench / rpench@sacbee.com

    Sharon Olson of Roseville holds up her 16-pound salmon which she caught in the Sacramento River south of the American River. Olson was among the first to catch a salmon early this morning. Monday, July 16, 2012.

  • Randy Pench / Sacramento Bee file

    Dave Johnson of West Sacramento, accompanied by Karen Laudenschlager, holds his salmon which he caught in the Sacramento River on 2012 opening day of fishing season. Experts on Thursday said the projected salmon run this year should be enough to produce a good fishing season.

  • Randall Benton / RBenton@sacbee.com

    Cramer Fish Sciences Fisheries Biologist Bill Beckett, left, California Department of Fish and Wildlife Scientific Aid Shawn Cox, and US Fish and Wildlife Service Hydrologist Craig Anderson test the water velocity and streambed permeability on the American River near River Bend Park in Rancho Cordova on Friday, January 17, 2014. Dams upstream keep gravel from naturally washing downstream, so - as part of a large project - 6,000 tons of gravel were added to the river bed to provide a better habitat for spawning chinook salmon. Recently, low water levels have left some of the salmon nesting areas (called redds) have been left high and dry. Today, biologists surveyed the American River to try to learn how many salmon eggs have been killed by low water levels. They sampled salmon redds (nests) for water quality, and the permeability of the river bed.

Trucking of Sacramento River salmon starts Monday

Published: Friday, Mar. 21, 2014 - 11:08 pm
Last Modified: Monday, Mar. 24, 2014 - 6:03 pm

More than 12 million juvenile hatchery salmon will get a truck trip downstream starting Monday to help them circumvent the harmful effects of drought on the Sacramento River.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the plan Friday, as a way of bolstering survival rates for the fish. The Sacramento River, compromised by California’s persistent drought, is too low to provide adequate food and protection from predators, potentially jeopardizing a crop of fish that supports the state’s commercial and recreational salmon fishing industries.

Agency spokesman Steve Martarano said it will take 22 days to transport all the fish in tanker trucks from Coleman National Hatchery near Red Bluff. The first salmon will be trucked in a trial run on Monday, with additional shipments continuing Tuesday, if all goes well. Each delivery will deposit the fish back into the Sacramento River near Rio Vista.

Each truck holds about 2,800 gallons of water and 130,000 salmon smolts – juveniles 4 to 6 inches long – and is climate-controlled to maintain a water temperature between 55 and 60 degrees.

The agency owns only two such trucks, so it will borrow five from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. The state agency also plans to truck its salmon production from four hatcheries, including Nimbus Hatchery on the American River, starting April 4.

“It’s got to be a joint operation because of the use of the trucks,” Martarano said. “There’s a whole schedule in place that’s really complicated.”

The trucks will make three stops along the nearly 300-mile journey to check on the health of their cargo and make sure water conditions remain acceptable, Martarano said.

The fish will be released back into the Sacramento River at Rio Vista. They will be placed into floating net pens for a few hours to protect them from predators while they adjust to the water temperature and chemistry downstream. After this adjustment period, they’ll be released to complete their migration to the Pacific Ocean on their own.

Wildlife officials prefer to release salmon into the river near where they were born so they can imprint on that location and find their way back in three to four years when it’s time to spawn as adults. Trucking the fish could mean fewer of them find their way back to the right location.

Martarano said there’s a chance not all the fish will end up being trucked if the weather changes.


Call The Bee’s Matt Weiser at (916) 321-1264. Follow him on Twitter @matt_weiser.

Read more articles by Matt Weiser



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