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Why the drought put the California salmon supply in danger




Juvenile Chinook salmon in the lower section of Gatton Creek, close to its mouth on Lake Quinault.
Juvenile Chinook salmon in the lower section of Gatton Creek, close to its mouth on Lake Quinault.
USFWS - Pacific Region/flickr Creative Commons

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Salmon trucked to the ocean a few years ago because of low river flow are having trouble making their way back home to lay eggs.  That means the state's largest hatchery has about half as many fish as normal, forcing officials to truck the baby salmon to nearby deltas.

"The reason they were trucked is because the river where the hatcheries were located were running so low and so clear. They basically would have perished," said John McManus, executive director of the Golden Gate Salmon Association. "The reason why is because when the rivers run low and clear, it makes it very easy for predatory fish to gobble up the baby salmon."

How salmon trucking could be prevented in the future

Water managers could address this and help us solve quite a bit if they simply reserve some water for release in the springtime. It's interesting to note that up in Oregon, Washington, Idaho ... there is a legal requirement that reservoir operators release water in the springtime for the very purpose of delivering baby salmon down the river and out to the ocean. So if they have it up in Oregon and Washington, why don't we have it here? If we did, we'd be in much better shape.