Saturday, September 26, 2009

Walk #268: Good Bye to the Feather River Salmon...

I spent the day learning about our local salmon. Drove down to Oroville to attend the weekend festivities of the Salmon Festival. Salmon were once plentiful in the Feather River. The Festival has a street fair feel to it. People selling trinkets. One church was serving salmon at a reasonable price ($6 for a salmon fillet, potato salad and beans). I like festivals that celebrate the natural environment of a given region. We need more of that!

Thousands attended. There were Maidu Tribal folk doing a ceremony. Belly Dancers. Trinket sellers. Even Tupperware distributors.

I spent a couple of hours walking around, and ducked into the local museum to have a look (it was free today). The Pioneer Museum in Oroville had quite a beautiful collection of items. One photo of a Sugar Pine amazed me, a whole family lined up around the (at least) ten foot diameter tree.
And in a corner of the basement of the museum, this photo of Oroville's most famous resident: Ishi.

But I was there for the panel discussion on the fate of the Feather River Salmon. Four experts lined up to talk for two hours regarding the demise of (what once was) the area staple. Of the thousands outside who attended the street fair, I counted 46 people who actually wanted to hear about the salmon (including the panel discussion leaders). Sad.

The salmon population in the Feather River has gone down by 80 percent in the last 7 years. Since 1966 we have seen a decline of nearly 95 percent. What are the culprits?

1. Dams. This caused both a barrier for the salmon to spawn and also changed the stream flow. Salmon need wide rivers that flood periodically. Dams changed that so now we can build McMansions right up to the river. The monstrous Oroville Dam (completed in 1966, the year the salmon population plunged to near extinction levels) did away with 75 percent of the salmon's habitat.

2. Invasive fish...brought in by sports folks who would rather catch a bass than a trout.

3. Overfishing in the ocean. Hopefully this will no longer be a factor, as salmon fishing has been outlawed south of Eureka, California.
At the end of the seminar, I asked an expert what dam removal would do for the salmon population? He said, "That would be the best would solve 80 percent of the problems".

He went on to elaborate: "But it isn't politically feasible. Everyone needs water". During the lecture he was sure to state that agriculture deserves it's water.

But do they really need Sixty percent of the Delta drainage systems water? That is how much they use. In the meantime, we trade the extinction of six species of salmon in the Feather River so that we can ship almonds to Minnesota. That is not worth it, in my view. Shame on us..

And counterproductive. Without the conveyor belt of salmon, who bring nutrients from the ocean to the soils of the Delta Valley, our fruits and vegetables will lose their taste. Even the wines of Sonoma and Napa depend upon dying salmon for part of their flavor.

Tear down the dams. Conserve water. Change agricultural practices. Will that message ever be heard?


Ian Woofenden said...

Short ride with spouse this early evening. We rode by the Douglas-Fir hedge that I go by most days. The other morning, I passed it pre-dawn, and wondered if Bud had trimmed it, 'cause it smelled like fir chips. Sure enough, head had the machine "mow" the hedge recently...

5.54 miles
7.53 mph average
25.32 mph max

A -- tearing down dams sounds great, but will it lead to more nukes? Hmm.

Ian Woofenden said...

To meditation and back, with a stop at the store.

11.28 miles
11.18 mph average
34.80 mph peak

Bike ride planned tomorrow. Hoping for fair winds

Allan Stellar said...


I hope the wind is at your back both ways tomorrow...

As for Nukes? All the Republican candidates for Governor, and even Jerry Brown on the Dems side are pro-nuke. Now that Nukes are being sold as being "green", it may be hard to stop them.

And given the water situation in California, I don't think tearing down dams is gonna happen. Hopefully enough salmon will survive to make a comeback someday...