CCFA and coho 2013: The state jumps back into the fray while NMFS begins execution of plan

by Cate Moore on March 23, 2013

California Fish and Wildlife stuns Scott Creek residents with an attempted hijacking of their water rights

The CCFA Board heard the first rumblings of this at our 2012 November Board meeting when Scott Creek resident Barbara McCrary reported all the locals had been told they would be prevented from drafting from their springs if the flow in Scott Creek falls below a Fish and Wildlife mandated flow rate.  She had few details, so the board instituted a web search to see what we could find out.

We found this draft instream flow recommendations document, (DRAFT Scott Ck Flow Recs_111412) as well as two letters announcing the comment period, then an extension to the comment period. Flow recommendations for Scott Creek   Extension of comment period-Scott Creek

An examination of the document finds the calculations are based on what coho salmon and steelhead trout need to spawn and live in their freshwater phases, but no reference to the actual historical flows of Scott Creek and its tributaries.

There is also no allowance given for the wildly unpredictable nature of Central Coast rainfall and the resultant stream flows.  The flow rate table expects that January, February and March will always be able to sustain a 40 cubic foot per second flow.  The 2012/2013 Central Coast rainy season saw all of its action in November and December, with no appreciable action since.  This shows the correlation between rainfall and the mandated flow rate in Scott Creek are nonexistent.

While we completed our research and prepared an article for our members, Fish and Wildlife abruptly withdrew the the draft, due to overwhelming protests from the Scott Creek population, which includes the Cal Poly staff at Swanton Ranch, who have done extensive watershed studies on the Scott Creek watershed.

Pacific Legal Foundation warns that the alarming part of the document was fine print that stated that the Department of Fish and Wildlife intended to expressly restrict water diversion if the flow rates were not met, which is not within their legal authority. PLF also warns the Fish and Wildlife has not given up.  All of us, whether we reside in the Scott Creek basin or not, need to keep our eyes and ears open.  Since the Scott Creek residents are now awake and watching, Fish and Wildlife is very likely to pick another watershed for its next attempt.

California Third District Court of Appeal rules in CCFA vs California Fish & Game Commission

After years of pushing its way through the appellate court, Central Coast Forest Association vs California Fish & Game Commission has emerged from the Third District Court of Appeals with the decision that there are only two ways a species can be delisted under the California Endangered Species Act:

  1. the species has recovered
  2. the species has gone extinct

There is no provision for delisting based on an erroneous listing due to bad science.

The original petition to delist coho south of San Francisco was based on the assertion that coho are not native south of San Francisco, and should not have been listed in the first place.  There is ample evidence to support this assertion in previous CCFA coho postings, starting with 2002 data.

There is also ample evidence to support the assertion that there is nothing special about the genetic structure of central coast coho, since the hatchery shipment records show the fish came from Northern California, Oregon and Washington, and if there even were a distinct central California coho strain, it has long since been genetically diluted out of existence.

The decision defies logic.  It is altogether possible for scientists to make errors and there should be a mechanism for adjusting parameters within recovery plans to correct these errors and to introduce new data as it arises from research.

CCFA and Big Creek Lumber are petitioning the California Supreme Court for a review of the decision.

The Pacific Legal Foundation has many more details about the case and what it means in these blog posts and their embedded links:

Central Coast Forest Association petitions the California Supreme Court

A One-way Endangered Species Act?

NMFS begins seeding San Vicente Creek with breeding-age coho.

The San Jose Mercury New (“Spawning more fish, 20 coho released near Santa Cruz to reestablish species: Aaron Kinney, 1/31/2013) reported that NMFS has begun a program to reestablish coho salmon in San Vicente Creek by planting breeding-aged salmon in the stream.  The fish came from the Big Creek hatchery which is run by the Monterey Bay Salmon and Trout Project.  The 2012 planting included 10 male and 10 female salmon which are ready to spawn.

There has been next to no rain in Central California since the planting occurred, which does not bode well for this generation’s survival.



{ 0 comments… add one now }

Leave a Comment