Proposed Rule to Authorize the Reintroduction of Central Valley Spring-Run Chinook Salmon in the Upper Yuba River
- Proposed rule (85 FR 79980, 12/11/2020)
- Proposed rule; extension of public comment period (86 FR 2372, 01/12/2021)
Chinook salmon are anadromous fish, which means they can live in both fresh and saltwater. Chinook salmon have a relatively complex life history that includes spawning and juvenile rearing in rivers followed by migrating to saltwater to feed, grow, and mature before returning to freshwater to spawn. They are vulnerable to many stressors and threats including blocked access to spawning grounds and habitat degradation caused by dams and culverts. Two species of chinook salmon are listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act, seven species are listed as threatened under the ESA, and one species is a candidate for listing under the ESA.
The Sacramento River Winter-run Chinook is one of NOAA Fisheries' Species in the Spotlight.
NOAA Fisheries is committed to conserving and protecting chinook salmon. Our scientists and partners use a variety of innovative techniques to study, learn more about, and protect this species.
The Sacramento River winter-run evolutionarily significant unit (called an "ESU") of Chinook salmon is one of NOAA Fisheries' Species in the Spotlight. This initiative is a concerted, agency-wide effort to spotlight and save the most highly at-risk marine species.
Chinook salmon are an iconic part of California's natural heritage that must be preserved in order to ensure the economic and recreational wellbeing of future generations. Millions of wild salmon once returned to spawn in the foothills and mountains of California's Central Valley. Streams fed by rainfall, snowmelt, and cold water springs encircled the valley, fostering a diversity and abundance of Chinook salmon. The endangered Sacramento River winter-run Chinook salmon are particularly important among California's salmon runs because they exhibit a life-history strategy found nowhere else on the West Coast. These Chinook salmon are unique in that they spawn during the summer months when air temperatures usually approach their warmest.
As a result, winter-run Chinook salmon require stream reaches with cold water sources that will protect their incubating eggs from the warm ambient conditions. Because of this need for cold water during the summer, winter-run Chinook salmon historically occurred only in rivers and creeks fed by cold water springs, such as the Little Sacramento, McCloud, and Pit rivers, and Battle Creek.
The construction of Shasta and Keswick dams eliminated access to the Little Sacramento, McCloud, and Pit rivers, effectively causing the extirpation of the winter-run Chinook salmon populations that spawned and reared there. The fish from these different populations were forced to mix and spawn as one population downstream of Keswick Dam on the Sacramento River. The construction and operation of hydropower facilities in Battle Creek made the creek inhospitable to winter-run Chinook salmon, and that population also was extirpated.
The one remaining winter-run Chinook salmon population has persisted in large part due to agency-managed cold water releases from Shasta Reservoir during the summer and artificial propagation from Livingston Stone National Fish Hatchery's winter-run Chinook salmon conservation program. Thus, winter-run Chinook salmon are dependent on sufficient cold water storage in Shasta Reservoir, and it has long been recognized that a prolonged drought could have devastating impacts, possibly leading to the species' extinction.
Currently, Shasta and Keswick dams block winter-run Chinook salmon from nearly all of their historical spawning habitat. The spawning habitat that is accessible is subject to water temperatures that are too warm to support egg and fry survival, particularly during droughts, some of which have been very severe in recent years.
In addition to lost and degraded spawning habitat, 98 percent of riparian and floodplain habitat along the Sacramento River is no longer available to support juvenile rearing. Other threats to winter-run Chinook salmon include water withdrawals, predation by non-native species, lack of quality rearing habitat in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, and commercial and recreational fisheries.
In 2014, NOAA Fisheries adopted a plan to recover Sacramento River winter-run Chinook salmon, as well as Central Valley spring-run Chinook salmon, and Central Valley steelhead.
State and federal agencies, public organizations, non-profit groups and others in California's Central Valley have formed strong partnerships to save Sacramento River winter-run Chinook salmon. Efforts to protect winter-run Chinook salmon include restoring habitat, utilizing conservation hatchery programs, closely monitoring the population, and carefully managing scarce cold water. Additional key actions needed to safeguard winter-run Chinook salmon from further declines include:
In 2016, we completed a Species in the Spotlight 5-Year Plan of Action that builds on the recovery plan and details the focused efforts that are needed over five years. The plan lists key actions NOAA Fisheries and its partners can take from 2016 to 2020 to help recover the species. These actions include:
We are renewing our Priority Actions plans for 2021–2025.
In our first five years of the Species in the Spotlight, we have:
While we still have much to do, these are important steps towards recovery for Sacramento River winter-run chinook salmon.
NOAA Fisheries has adopted three recovery plans for the four ESA-listed Snake River basin species: steelhead, spring/summer Chinook salmon, fall Chinook salmon and sockeye salmon. The Snake River Sockeye Recovery Plan was adopted in June 2015. The Snake River Fall Chinook Recovery Plan and Snake River Spring/Summer Chinook Salmon and Snake River Basin Steelhead Recovery Plans were adopted in November 2017.
It is our intent to optimize Recovery Plan implementation through stakeholder involvement to prioritize and implement recovery actions; particularly through NOAA Fisheries’ Snake River Coordination Group.
Sacramento River Winter-Run ESU
Brian Ellrott, Recovery Coordinator
Central Valley Spring Run ESU
Brian Ellrott, Recovery Coordinator
In 2017, the Karuk Tribe and Salmon River Restoration Council petitioned NOAA to list the Upper Klamath-Trinity Rivers (UKTR) Chinook salmon ESU or, alternatively, create a new ESU to describe Klamath Spring Chinook salmon and list it as threatened or endangered under the ESA.
NOAA Fisheries reviewed the petition and determined that a status review of the Chinook salmon in the UKTR Basin should be conducted.
On September 24, 2019, the Native Fish Society, Center for Biological Diversity, and Umpqua Watersheds petitioned NOAA to identify Oregon Coast spring-run Chinook salmon as a separate ESU and list the ESU as threatened or endangered under the ESA.
NOAA Fisheries reviewed the petition and determined that a status review of Oregon Coast spring-run Chinook salmon should be conducted.
NOAA Fisheries conducts various research activities on the biology, behavior, and ecology of chinook salmon. The results of this research are used to inform management decisions for this species.
Our work to forecast salmon harvests, assess the impact of commercial fisheries on salmon, and evaluate how salmon populations respond to environmental changes enable us to estimate abundance and trends for chinook salmon in Alaska.
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