The native, ESA-listed salmon and steelhead of the drought-stricken Gualala River, in California, need your help. Thanks in large part to the pressure that we put on the California Department of Fish & Wildlife (CDFW) a year ago, the CDFW is finally taking action to fix the critically flawed low-flow closure system on the North Central-Coast of California.
Currently, the North Central-Coast Low-Flow Closure is triggered by a gauge on the Russian River, whose flows are highly regulated by dams. The last three years have each had extended droughts in the middle of the winter steelhead season. Each year, the coastal streams have dropped down to mere trickles, yet have remained open to fishing because dam releases keep the Russian up above the low-flow trigger. The ESA-listed fish are forced to congregate into a handful of shrinking holes below restricted passage areas, and then subject to increased angling pressure. It also makes poaching enforcement more difficult when the fish are most vulnerable.
CDFW is preparing regulatory changes to move the trigger for North Central-Coast streams to one or more gauges on rivers that are more representative of the region’s small, undammed coastal streams, like the Gualala. Key issues will be which gauge(s) and low-flow triggers to use, how often CDFW will update its closure status.
The brief comment period ends August 7, 2014, so now is the time to voice our support for an appropriate low-flow closure trigger to protect these ESA-listed winter steelhead and coho from increased angling pressure (and poaching) during the extreme low-water conditions that have become the norm in this part of the state.