Science & Technology



Wildlife officials truck Chinook salmon to cooler waters in emergency move to help them spawn

Christian Martinez, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Science & Technology News

The winter-run salmon, for example, have been unable to reach areas like McCloud River, above the Shasta Dam, which are fed by cold springs.

Instead, the fish have been forced to lay their eggs at the base of Shasta Lake in the shallowing Sacramento River. And the drought and rising temperatures have heated water fed from Shasta Lake to the river.

The high temperatures are lethal for winter-run salmon eggs; last year, state biologists estimated, less than 3% of the eggs hatched.

With warming waters wreaking havoc on the spawning of Chinook salmon, the government's plans for reintroducing the fish to cooler habitats have raised concerns among members of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe, whose ancestors were displaced by the Shasta Dam and for whom salmon are central to cultural and spiritual traditions.

Instead of releasing hatchery-raised fish, the tribe wants to use salmon that once lived in the Sacramento River but were transplanted to New Zealand more than a century ago.


"There is nobody else who is more supportive of bringing fish back to that river than the Winnemem are," Caleen Sisk, chief and spiritual leader of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe, recently told The Times. "But if you're going to bring hatchery fish, then we will oppose it."

Rather than hauling salmon in trucks, tribal leaders want to develop a way for the fish to move naturally upriver, past the dam, to Shasta Lake.

Years ago, the tribe developed a reintroduction proposal for a swimway with a holding pool, pumps and a pipe system that would allow fish to swim upstream, exiting through a floating structure in the reservoir.


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