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by Ron Forbes
Fly fishing is like sex, everyone thinks that there is more than there is, and that everyone is getting more than their share.
In September of 1999, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed so the Battle Creek Salmon and Steelhead Restoration Project would begin. This agreement was between Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) and the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR), US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), National Marine Fisheries (NOAA) and the California Dept. of Fish and Game (DF&G). However, more than three years ago, a rancher who owns property along Battle Creek filed suit to prevent the project. I wrote a Conservation Newsletter at that time about the rancher’s hold-up of the project. He had put screens up and downstream stream on Battle Creek as it flowed through his property. The water was then stocked with trophy fish and he charged to fish these waters. His suit had tied up the restoration of the Battle Creek project but finally the issues have been resolved and the project is starting.
The point of the reopening and restoration project is to open 42 miles of Battle Creek water for winter and spring run Chinook and Steelhead. Battle Creek offers prime spring-fed water from the base of Mount Lassen and excellent geography to support these anadromous fish. In addition to the 42 miles of habitat in Battle Creek, 6 addition miles of tributaries will be opened. The Restoration will cost $80 million.
The project will remove 5 dams and substructures from the north and south forks of Battle Creek. The first of these dams to be removed is Wildcat Dam and systems which was built in 1912. It’s about 13 miles upstream from Coleman National Fish Hatchery. In addition to dam removal additional projects include installation of fish screens and fish ladders on North Battle Creek Feeder and ladders on Eagle Canyon Diversion Dams. Loss of power by PG&E will be from 28 to 20 megawatts from 3 small dams. The loss of the 8 megawatts is enough power to service about 6,000 homes. However PG&E can more that make up the loss from their newer more powerful grid.
There are many objectives for this project. But fishers consider the re-opening of 42 miles of drought resistance spring-fed, cool water of prime importance for restoration of the Steelhead and winter and spring run Chinook salmon. With the help all the agency’s involved, this hopefully will restore the self-sustaining populations of the Chinook and Steelhead. Some of the other objectives are:
• Removal of some dams at selected locations where hydroelectric values are marginal
• Installing failsafe fish screens and ladders to increase the probability of restoration
• Structural improvements to give guard against false attractors for anadromous fish
• Establishing an in stream flow releases that will restore self-sustaining fish populations
Over thirty years ago I remember fishing for Steelhead on Battle Creek with my father and being constantly bumped by Chinook returning for the spawn. The last time I fished the area four years ago I couldn’t see any fish. Hopefully with this reopening of 42 mile of prime water, the fisheries will be reestablished and self-sustaining.
He is at it again
In the last two Delta Fly Fishers Newsletters I have had articles about Oakdale Irrigation District (OID) and their nefarious technics, half-truths and outright lies. They are the people doing the and Save the Stan billboards. These are the people, along with four other water districts that we beat in court recently on the Steelhead issue, and they are at it again. Steve Knell, the general manager of the District, recently spoke to Tuolumne County Chamber of Commerce’s Governmental Affairs Committee. Knell’s issue is now with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) 844 page biologic opinion (BO). This paper, put out by NOAA scientists, identifies procedures that will help native fish in the Delta to survive. These include the Delta Smelt, Steelhead and Chinook salmon.
Knell and his people hired a "consultant" to examine the problem. The hydrologist hired is Dan Steiner. It should come to no one’s surprise that these "consultants" such as Mr. Steiner always find exactly what their employers want them to find. In this case, Mr. Steiner’s finding is that the New Melones Reservoir will be bone dry, 18 percent of the time, if NOAA’s biological opinion has to be followed. He "projected" the BO out 80 years and claims New Melones will go empty 13 times during that period. It’s interesting that no independent scientific studies have shown same results.
The point to this meeting was to give OID’s pseudo-science to elected officials and have them react. These politicians, of course, don’t question the pseudo-science spoon fed to them by Knell or others but rather accept it as fact. It has happened again as Tuolumne County Supervisor Dick Pland claimed the biologic opinion, and it effects, were "Draconian". And Knell, of course, then questioned the science behind the biological opinion.
Knell also claimed that the areas trout between New Melones and Oakdale would be wiped out which will hurt tourism in these areas. It’s interesting that he only addressed the predation issue briefly during this meeting. Months ago it was their main issue.
The biological opinion does state that it might be changed, in the New Melones area, regarding the changes in the use of ground water, infrastructure improvements and conservation measures. As water continues to be the one of the main issues facing California, there are going to be changes. The Oakdale Irrigation District wants business to continue as it has in the past as does the Chamber of Commerce’s across the state. And they will continue to be a main source of misinformation.