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Study takes look into fishes’ issues

MARYSVILLE – So if you’re a fish, what stresses you out?

More specifically, what makes life difficult for lower Yuba River salmon and steelhead trout, which are listed as threatened on the federal Endangered Species list?



Officials wanted to know that Monday night at a meeting that attracted about two dozen people.




For years, different agencies have studied the Lower Yuba to see how things can be improved for fish. Now an effort is under way to round up all that information, analyze it, prioritize what would most help the Yuba’s salmon and steelhead, and then take action.

Two Sacramento-area consulting firms received about $220,000 to do the study: $170,000 from Calfed, the state and federal Bay Delta restoration effort; and $50,000 from the Yuba County Water Agency.

“We want you to tell us what you’re wanting us to look at,” said moderator Craig Fleming, a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Stream bed “armoring” was one problem mentioned by several people.

“Shot rock,” large, irregularly shaped canyon rocks left over from blasting out space for Englebright Dam, has moved downstream and become “cemented” or wedged into place, covering up rounded gravel and cobbles in which underwater insects live and fish spawn or lay eggs.

“That would appear to me to be a real problem,” said Nevada City fishing guide Ralph Wood. He said the armoring keeps moving farther and farther downstream of Englebright.

Ralph Mullican, who owns property at the confluence of Deer Creek and the Yuba River, has studied salmon and steelhead for years.

Currently, state officials and environmentalists are pushing for more and colder water to be released into the Yuba during the summer to help salmon and steelhead.

But Mullican challenged conventional wisdom and said the river’s too cold for the fish.

Historically, he said, the Yuba’s summertime flows were only 50 to 500 cubic feet per second, compared to about 700 to 2,200 cubic feet per second now. That increased flow comes from Bullards Bar Reservoir and gets passed through Englebright.

Mullican said before dams were built, the Lower Yuba’s summertime temperature got into the 70- and 80-degree Fahrenheit range, compared to 54 degrees below Englebright Dam now.

Because the river doesn’t warm up now in the summer, Mullican suggested juvenile salmon and steelhead born in the Yuba can’t tell when it’s time to head out to sea.

“How do the fish know it’s time to go?” Mullican asked. “I think the largest stressor to anadromous fish is the cold water.”

The comments from Monday’s meeting will be compiled for consideration by the two consultants: Robertson-Bryan, Inc. and Surface Water Resources, Inc. The consultants also are seeking more comments from the public.

u To offer comments about restoring the Lower Yuba, e-mail Karen Riggs at Riggs@swri.net or fax her at (916) 286-0957.


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