Yuba Salmon Now!
A Solution to California’s Wild Salmon Crisis
“Historic” Englebright Dam Site and Salmon Viewing Platform, Mainstem Yuba River.
Artists Concept by Mona Caron
California’s Salmon Crisis: What’s at Stake?
In the Pacific Rim, all waterways lead to Salmon. “Coastal” Californians, including those in the Sierra Nevada foothills, are indeed living in Watersheds Built By Salmon, both in an ecological sense spanning hundreds of thousands of years and in a cultural sense with the arrival of humans many millennia ago.
Of all the great salmon rivers of the world, the pre-1849 Sacramento River runs of Chinook salmon were among the mightiest, with estimates of 1-2 million salmon returning to their natal streams to spawn. The collapse of Central Valley Chinook in this first decade of the 21st century (from estimates of 800,000 returning spawners as recently as 2002 to 39,500 in 2009) is a result of multiple and interacting impacts to the ecological health of our freshwater, estuarine and marine environments.
Regardless of where and to what degree blame is ascribed to these causes (e.g. “ocean conditions,” pumping from the Delta, loss of functional floodplains, pollution from municipal and agricultural discharges, degraded riparian habitat, dams, etc.), the prospect of salmon extirpation within the greater San Francisco Bay-Sierra Nevada Watershed is an ecological crisis with severe implications to the biotic integrity of California.
Today Californians face a choice: Will we become forever exiled from the great “Salmon Nation” of the Pacific Rim, or will we take bold and immediate actions to reconnect our Central Valley rivers with the ancestral upland habitats that can provide refuge and habitat resiliency in a changing climate?
The magnitude of the problem warrants bold recovery measures—and rigorous public debate—that go well beyond the compromises that are typically reached through protracted negotiations that attempt to accommodate a broad range of “interests.” Such decision-making processes have brought our most ecologically beneficial, culturally important, and economically valuable species to the edge of extinction.
Due to a confluence of regulatory processes, legal actions, and the opportunities created through the wild salmon crisis itself, action or in-action on the Yuba River in the next 5 years will help determine the fate of wild salmon and dictate a course for California’s ecological future.
This Yuba Salmon Now! campaign strategy is designed to re-frame the salmon crisis in terms of this imperative for California.
Summary of Campaign Strategy
SYRCL, American Rivers and our allies are developing a 5-year strategy to affect key decisions that are to be made between now and 2016. This proposal is for the first 18-month phase of a broad-based and comprehensive campaign spearheaded by potent combination of a uniquely successful grassroots watershed organization (SYRCL) and the leading national river protection organization with expanding capacities in California (American Rivers).
The proposed campaign leverages our network of partners, our unique abilities for grassroots mobilization, our deep history with the politics and science of Yuba Salmon, and our relationships with decision-makers inside the beltway.
While cognizant of, and coordinated with, salmon advocacy efforts playing out in the Delta, the oceans and the “mainstem” rivers of the San Joaquin and Sacramento, the Yuba Salmon Now! campaign strategy is focused on the impacts to salmon from dams and is aimed squarely at the action of reintroducing salmon above the “terminal rim dams” (TRDs) and re-operating water supply to accommodate salmon within the middle elevations of the Sierra Nevada.
While SYRCL and American Rivers continue to provide leadership in advancing the science and regulatory processes of salmon recovery, our experiences and perspective make clear that the limiting factor to successful restoration of wild salmon in California is a coordinated and broad-based grassroots organizing effort to advance policy-level reforms for salmon management.
This proposal identifies the points of greatest leverage to meet our Campaign Goal, directs each organization’s greatest strengths to meet the Objectives, and identifies gaps in capacity to ensure a comprehensive and robust approach to implementing the strategy and tactics.
To re-establish viable, self-sustaining populations of salmon and steelhead into the upper Yuba River, thereby doubling the population of threatened salmon species in the Central Valley.
Fish Passage: Restore salmon and steelhead to historic waters above Englebright, New Bullards Bar and Our House dams through volitional passage.
Cold Water Management: Provide sufficient in-stream flows to support salmon and steelhead in reaches of the Middle and South Yuba Rivers through new license operating terms for YCWA’s, PG&E’s and NID’s dams.