Posted on Categories WildlifeTags , Leave a comment on Delta blues: Can salmon survive California's 'Peripheral Canal'?

Delta blues: Can salmon survive California's 'Peripheral Canal'?

by Alastair Bland, NORTH BAY BOHEMIAN
Chinook salmon are abundant this year in one of the best seasons in local fishing memory, with sport and commercial fishermen reeling in easy boatloads of the most prized food and game fish on the Pacific Coast.
Still, a local conservation group warns that all this could change if state officials in Sacramento, now plotting the near future of California’s water-development infrastructure, approve and build a large canal intended to deliver Sacramento River water to Southern California.
via Delta Blues | News | North Bay Bohemian.

Posted on Categories Land Use, WildlifeTags , , Leave a comment on Opponents of Roblar Road quarry win round in court

Opponents of Roblar Road quarry win round in court

by Brett Wilkison, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
A Sonoma County judge has sided with key points in a lawsuit challenging approval of the controversial Roblar Road rock quarry, a move that could derail the project west of Cotati.
A split county Board of Supervisors approved the 70-acre project in late 2010 over the objections of a group of neighbors and others concerned about environmental impacts.
via Opponents of Roblar Road quarry win round in court | Petaluma360.

Posted on Categories Water, WildlifeTags , , Leave a comment on Steelhead trout lose out when water is low in wine country

Steelhead trout lose out when water is low in wine country

by Sarah Yang, UC BERKELEY NEWS CENTER
The competition between farmers and fish for precious water in California is intensifying in wine country, suggests a new study by biologists at the University of California, Berkeley. Juvenile steelhead trout are hit hard when water levels are low.
The findings, published in the May issue of the journal Transactions of the American Fisheries Society, link higher death rates for threatened juvenile steelhead trout with low water levels in the summer and the amount of vineyard acreage upstream.
via Steelhead trout lose out when water is low in wine country.

Posted on Categories Water, WildlifeTags , Leave a comment on Salmon win in 9th circuit court

Salmon win in 9th circuit court

San Francisco Chronicle editorial board, SFGATE.COM
California salmon and salmon fishermen won in federal court Friday when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit said the federal water project is obliged to provide enough water to double the salmon population. You can read the decision here.
Under the ruling, only surplus water from the bay-delta water system can be delivered to water users in the San Joaquin Valley, not water from the 800,000 acre-foot allotment promised to fish under a 1992 federal law.
for more, see Salmon win in 9th circuit court | Opinion Shop | an SFGate.com blog.

Posted on Categories WildlifeTags , Leave a comment on Wild salmon are not holding up, study finds

Wild salmon are not holding up, study finds

by Rachel Nuwer, NYTIMES.COM
Since 1964, the Mokelumne River Fish Hatchery in California has supplied the watershed with four to 10 million juvenile Chinook salmon each year. The hatchery began the practice as a way of countering the effects of dams that block migration and making sure that the salmon population remained viable. But recent research shows that the massive influx of hatchery-raised fish is masking the fact that wild fish populations are not holding up.
“Without distinguishing hatchery from wild fish, the perception is that we have healthy salmon surviving in a healthy river,” said Rachel Johnson, a fish ecologist affiliated with the University of California, Santa Cruz, and the lead author of a new paper published in the journal PLoS One.
via Wild Salmon Are Not Holding Up, Study Finds – NYTimes.com.

Posted on Categories Forests, Land Use, Water, WildlifeTags , , , , , Leave a comment on Fall of the redwood empire

Fall of the redwood empire

Alastair Bland, NORTH BAY BOHEMIAN

Clearcutting for vineyards is nothing new in wine country. Can it be stopped?

This past Oct. 11, in a rare instance of a local politician speaking out publicly against a member of the North Bay’s influential winemaking community, Sonoma County supervisor Efren Carrillo lambasted winemaker Paul Hobbs for uprooting hundreds of trees in Sebastopol and adding one more open wound to a Russian River watershed already impacted by erosion and sediment.

Carrillo called Hobbs "one bad apple," and noted that the globally renowned maker of high-end wines hadn’t bothered to acquire a permit to remove the trees, part of the old Davis Christmas Tree farm, which Hobbs is planning to buy and convert to vines. It was one of three instances this year in which Hobbs has cut down trees to the dismay of onlookers; he leveled 10 acres in Pocket Canyon just east of Guerneville, and eight acres of redwood trees along Highway 116 on land acquired in a court settlement from his neighbor John Jenkel.

"Paul Hobbs has shown a blatant disregard for Sonoma County, its resources, his fellow vintners and community sentiment," Carrillo declared in his editorial, printed in the Sonoma County Gazette.

But local environmentalists feel Carrillo’s outburst needs to be echoed a hundred times over. To Jim Doerksen, who has lived in the Mayacamas Mountains for 44 years and has watched local streams sucked dry as wineries near his property have been built, Carrillo’s words on Hobbs only amplify the silence that nearly all officials have kept toward the local wine industry through years of alleged environmental abuse.

"Efren said Hobbs is ‘one bad apple,’" Doerksen says, "but all we have are bad apples."

Doerksen points straight to his neighbors, whom he charges with illegally cutting down about 60 acres of conifers to plant vineyards. This activity, along with overuse of the area’s groundwater, has virtually destroyed Mark West Creek, a story covered in January in the Bohemian.

via Fall of the Redwood Empire | Features | North Bay Bohemian.

Posted on Categories Sonoma Coast, WildlifeTags , Leave a comment on Abalone die-off plagues the coast

Abalone die-off plagues the coast

Sam Scott, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

A recent explosion of plankton off the Sonoma Coast has turned lethal for abalone and other shellfish.

White meat from the prized sea snails has been washing up on area beaches for more than a week, sending wafts of rotting flesh over bluffs, and dismaying those who consider themselves stewards of the ocean.

“It’s like going up to an old growth forest and then coming back and it’s been clear cut,” said Matt Mattison, an abalone diver from Monte Rio, who was stunned by the extent of the die-off near Fort Ross on Monday. “In 28 years of diving up here, I have never seen anything like this.”

State scientists say the destruction appears to be the result of a plankton bloom that began toward the end of August and is now dissipating.

via Abalone die-off plagues the coast | The Press Democrat.

Posted on Categories Land Use, Water, WildlifeTags , , , , Leave a comment on The wrath of grapes

The wrath of grapes

Alastair Bland, NORTH BAY BOHEMIAN

How a Goldman Sachs executive is helping to kill Mark West Creek— and what the county isn’t doing about it

For decades, Sonoma County’s wine industry has been thriving. The county’s salmon and steelhead, meanwhile, are vanishing, and some fisheries biologists, attorneys and conservationists assure that the wine industry’s gain is the Russian River’s loss.

To Patrick Higgins, the story boils down to a one-line synopsis: "The county is trading fish for wine." Higgins is a private-practice fisheries biologist in Arcata. Among his ongoing battles to save the North Coast’s struggling fish species, including federally endangered coho salmon and steelhead trout, is the fight for Mark West Creek.

Though many streams naturally dry up during the arid summers of Sonoma County, this small tributary of the Russian River historically has not. Mark West Creek was once the main spawning stream for the steelhead and coho salmon that made the Russian River famous.

But lately, Mark West and its feeder streams have been running dry, according to residents who live nearby. Jim Doerksen, who has lived within sight of Mark West Creek for 43 years, has been measuring its flow levels since 2005 after visibly dwindling water levels spurred concern. Between 2006 and 2009, he says, its flows almost entirely vanished each summer. In 2008, Doerksen measured what might have been the lowest flow ever recorded in Mark West Creek, a volume of six one-hundredths of a cubic foot per second.

via The Wrath of Grapes | Culture | North Bay Bohemian.