Salmon Travel by Truck as Calif. Drought Turns River Route Into 'Deadly Gauntlet'

By Mark Leberfinger, Staff Writer
April 13, 2014; 12:40 AM ET
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Baby salmon have been taking a road trip by land instead of the normal river route because of the extended California drought.

The 2016 fishing season will rely on the survival of the salmon hatchlings hitching a ride to the Delta, according to a recent press release. California's salmon industry currently rakes in $1.4 billion, annually, and employs tens of thousands of people from Santa Barbara to northern Oregon.

"As more and more fresh water is extracted from the Sacramento River and Delta for delivery to San Joaquin Valley agribusiness, the salmon's migration corridor downstream and through the Bay-Delta estuary has become a deadly gauntlet," Zeke Grader, who is the executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations and vice chairman of the Golden Gate Salmon Association, said.

"Add drought, and the Central Valley rivers and Delta become virtually impassable for salmon."

In this photo taken on Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014, at a hatchery in Parkdale, Ore., hatchery technician Keith Moody feeds about 30,000 salmon smolts in a rearing pond. People on the West Coast have counted on fish hatcheries for more than a century to help rebuild populations of salmon and steelhead and bring them to a level where government would no longer need to regulate fisheries. (AP Photo/Gosia Wozniacka)

The salmon-truck run goes from Coleman National Fish Hatchery near Redding, Calif., to the San Francisco Bay and its delta. California officials also planned similar efforts, Spokesman Andrew Hughan of the California Department of Fish & Wildlife said.

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There has been some rain during the last month in Northern California, but now the state is moving into its dry season where the amount of rain is normally minimal, Western Weather Expert Ken Clark said.

"It won't have any effect on improving the drought status at all," he said. "But I doubt it gets much worse right now."

The amount of water coming out of the California foothills will be noticeably less on streams, potentially affecting both fishing and recreational rafting, Clark said.


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