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Measures underway to save California salmon population from drought conditions

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    GOLD RIVER, California (KOVR) — California’s water woes and slow-running rivers in the Central Valley are causing a big problem for the state’s salmon stocking program.

Instead of releasing them into the river, where they’d likely die under current conditions, hundreds of thousands of salmon will be hitching a ride to the ocean.

“Demand on water in California is huge, there is not enough of it, everyone wants it,” explained Nimbus Fish Hatchery Manager, Gary Novak.

Salmon are sucked out of the reservoir into tanker trucks bypassing 50 to 100 miles of poor river conditions. The trucks from Nimbus Fish Hatcher then releaser them into the Carquinez bay near Martinez.

“This is the first time in six years that we have not put fish in the river,” Novak said.

In a typical year, 60% of their fish would be released into the river from Nimbus Fish Hatchery but with spiking temperatures and low water levels, 100% are hitching a ride to bigger waters.

“With the lack of rain and the low storage in Folsom Lake has led to higher than normal water temperatures, we are already up past 60 degrees and it’s not even May yet,” he said.

Drought conditions are forcing a total of four state hatcheries to take the same measures for the first time since 2014’s drought, according to Fish and Wildlife Public Information Officer Harry Morse.

“We had a bad year last year. We are in a drought this year. It’s time to take these type of proactive measures to do the best to make the highest return of salmon,” said Morse.

Salmon within the state generates more than $900 million in economic impact annually. Fish and Wildlife experts say without transportation help, many wouldn’t survive.

“When we have less water it narrows down the channels, it moves a little bit and it gives the predatory birds, fish and mammals the opportunity to really hone in on these little fish,” Morse explained. “We can get them to bay, reduce the overall mortality through predation and also reduce the amount of disease that they get in the warmer water,” he said.

The major move costs hundreds of thousands of dollars every year statewide. It’s a drought dilemma experts fear will increase with the temperatures.

“If we want fish, we got to have water, especially during these critical periods. It’s a major issue that will come up as we see dryer and dryer conditions,” said Morse.

In total, more than 16.8 million young salmon will be transported to sites around San Pablo, San Francisco, Half Moon and Monterey bays. It will take around 146 truckloads between April and early June to transport all of the fish.

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