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State Has to Truck Salmon to Ocean

California river levels are too low for the fish to travel the usual way
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 29, 2021 6:30 PM CDT

(Newser) – Because of the drought, California officials will again truck millions of young salmon raised at fish hatcheries in the state's Central Valley agricultural region to the Pacific Ocean. Projected river conditions show that the waterways the fish usually use to travel downstream will be historically low and warm. Officials announced the massive trucking operation on Wednesday, the AP reports, saying the effort is aimed at ensuring "the highest level of survival for the young salmon on their hazardous journey to the Pacific Ocean." California is in its second year of drought, and the state says it's the fourth-driest year on record. More than 16.8 million young salmon from four Central Valley hatcheries will be trucked to coastal sites around the San Pablo, San Francisco, Half Moon, and Monterey bays. Getting the fish transported means taking about 146 truckloads to the Pacific Ocean from four state hatcheries, and federal officials will do the transporting from one hatchery.

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California's iconic native Chinook Salmon need cold water to survive, but dams have blocked their historic retreats to the chilly upper reaches of Northern California’s Sacramento River tributaries. The fishing industry and Central Valley farmers are in a constant struggle over the same river water to sustain their livelihoods, with fish supporters lobbying for higher river water levels and farmers against it so that so they can draw water to irrigate crops. John McManus, president of the Golden State Salmon Association, which advocates for fishers, said he appreciates the extra effort to save the fall-run chinook during the drought. But he said the underlying problem for salmon is that state and federal water officials have allowed too much water to be pulled from rivers and creeks for agricultural irrigation. "These river conditions are made worse by decisions that put salmon last," he said.

(Read more salmon stories.)

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