- Wet Week
- Peachland Washout
- Outlaw Hills
- Orr Springs Road Closed
- Highway Re-openings
- Marijuana Budgeting
- Yesterday's Catch
- Low Cunning
- Conservative Bible
- The Quarrel
- ukiaHaiku Festival
- Gardening Classes
- Mendocino Land Trust
- Little Dog
- Shocking Poverty
- Steelhead Study
RAINFALL FOR THE PRIOR WEEK (since back to last Thursday) ranged from four to well over seven inches for most of Mendocino County, with Laytonville totaling over 7.60 inches, and Boonville at around 6.70. Clearing Thursday and Friday, with a couple more modest rain systems over the weekend which is not expected to bring over an inch. Colder nights with overnight lows returning to winter-levels near freezing inland followed by a slight warming trend into next week.
PEACHLAND CUT OFF. The Peachland Road runs east up into the hills off Highway 128 just after Boonville. The road has washed out about a mile up from 128, stranding quite a few people, including the well-known Emerald Earth collective and quite a number of full-time residents.
ONE OF THOSE stranded hill dwellers said Wednesday: "Right now people are parking cars on each side of the slide. We saw this coming and drove just one car down yesterday, so we can park at the bottom of the slide, walk across, then get into our second car and continue up the hill."
ANDERSON VALLEY FIRE CHIEF, Andres Avila said early Wednesday evening that he is working on alternative routes, but for emergency vehicles only. "I have confirmed an alternate route through private property for emergency vehicles only. It will be difficult in one small area for a two-wheel drive ambulance to make it, but I am pursuing road fixes with County OES. We have a temporary plan in place that will be reinforced soon. In short, we are significantly delayed in response time but can access above the slide and are working on establishing a long term fix for all emergency vehicles."
NON-EMERGENCY residents, it seems, will be maintaining vehicles on both sides of the slide for some time.
IT IS POSSIBLE, in dry weather, to drive in and out of Peachland from the Ukiah Road (253), but this route is blocked by at least two locked gates. The road is accessed near the Hammond Place about 9 miles from Boonville. I believe it's also possible to get in and out of Peachland from deep Nash Mill Road, but it's been years since anybody did it.
PEACHLAND has an interesting history. During the latter half of the 19th century, stage coach robberies were rife in Mendocino County. The most famous bandit was, of course, Black Bart, but he was far from the only "road agent" living off highway robberies. The famous outlaw, Tiburcio Vasquez, born in Monterey and descended from the original Spanish explorers, was chased into the upper Peachland area after he robbed a store somewhere in the Ukiah Valley. He was not apprehended, as I recall from his bio, at least not for that one. Some time in the 1870s, a couple of immigrant Missouri families, friendly with the infamous James brothers, were said to occasionally knock off a stage coach, fleeing to a sanctuary in the Peachland area. Frank James is known to have visited friends from the old neighborhood who'd settled in the Anderson Valley. The irony is that in 2017 there are many more outlaws in the hills of Mendocino County than there were in Black Bart's day, none of them with the panache of the old time highwaymen.
* * *
William Corbett & John Dwyer, October 9, 1884
On October 9, 1884, at 3:00 am., the stagecoach from Cloverdale and Anderson Valley to Mendocino City when three miles from Boonville in Mendocino County was stopped by two masked, heavily armed road agents. They demanded and received the Wells Fargo express treasure box and the local mailbag. After the box and mailbag were delivered, the robbers told the driver to continue on, and the box was reported to contain $3,664. The amount taken from the mails was not known, but being only the local mail it was almost certainly an insignificant sum. The driver hurried into Anderson Valley and reported the robbery. The citizens of Anderson Valley, knowing the sheriff was away electioneering, organized a posse consisting of John Burger, E.K. Jones, Charles Rector, John Ingram, Nute Ornbaum and Hugh Hereford and they went to the scene of the robbery. They were soon on the trail of the robbers and captured them, and they identified themselves as 19-year old William Corbett of San Francisco and 22-year old John Dwyer of Missouri. They were captured so soon after the robbery they still had all the plunder with them, and it was recovered to the cent.
At first it was thought that parties from Anderson Valley had lynched the two road agents, but they soon arrived in Ukiah and the prisoners were lodged in jail. By the first week of November the two road agents had been examined, indicted, tried and convicted of the stagecoach robbery. On November 8, the night before they were to depart for the prison to begin their five-year terms, they escaped from the jail. Undersheriff Seawell had no notion that the boys were planning or preparing for an escape when he went to supper, but when he returned he noticed that the iron shutter over the barred window of the jail was ajar. On examination, he found that the bars had been sawed through and the lock for the shutter had been pried off with one of those iron bars. He checked the prisoner population and found all present excepting the two convicted road agents, and the other prisoners feigned ignorance of the entire affair.
Sheriff J.M. Standley formed a posse and they traced the men to the Seven Mile House, but the escapees had continued on and were next heard of east of Cloverdale. The men were finally cornered and captured in Napa County on November 13, and jailed there to await transfer to San Quentin. Mendocino officers took their prisoners directly from the Napa County jail to the prison on November 14, 1884. Corbett registered as prisoner #11449 and Dwyer as prisoner #11450. Dwyer had his sentence commuted and he was released on January 6, 1887, while Corbett was released by expiration of sentence on June 14, 1888.
(Sources: Territorial Enterprise, Virginia City, Nevada: October 10-11, 1884. October 16, 1884. Ukiah City Press: November 14, 1884, October 17, 1884.)
A READER WRITES: Orr Springs Road is closed. A large of chunk the road about five miles west of Ukiah near the 39 milemarker fell out due to erosion. I tried to call KZYX about it when it happened, called all three numbers, but nobody answered. I thought one of their main claims for their recent pledge drive was how they were there on the spot to report such timely things. Guess not. Orr Springs is a County Road and I saw where the County’s recent emergency services report mentioned the closure (but not the reason or any assessment). I don’t know what the County’s going to do as a workaround, nor do I know if the Transportation Department is equipped to make such major and costly road repairs. Last I checked, Orr Springs Road is in Supervisor Hamburg’s Supervisorial district. I wonder if anyone’s heard anything from him.
THE FOLLOWING HIGHWAYS in Mendocino county that had been closed due to flooding are now open:
- Hwy 1 at the Garcia River mile marker 17.3 to 18.6
- Hwy 128 mile marker 0 to 11
- Hwy 175 mile marker 0 to .75 (CHP Ukiah Dispatch)
WE RECENTLY ASKED the County’s CEO office a few questions about how the County was handling the budget for the new medical marijuana permit program.
Deputy CEO (and County Budget Specialist) Alan ‘The Kid’ Flora provided these extensive replies:
AVA: We have been trying to follow the County’s plans to implement the new medical Cannabis Cultivation program and we note in the latest CEO report that there have been several new hires for that program, particularly in the Ag Department.
Flora: You are correct, the County has hired four of five additional staff for the Cannabis Program. One Assistant Commissioner (specific to cannabis), two Cannabis Inspectors, and an Administrative Assistant. There is one additional Cannabis Inspector position that is in the process of being filled, but a hire has not been made yet. At this time there are no immediate plans to hire additional staff in other departments. We expect some impacts to Planning and Building, the Treasurer's Office, etc. but the primary impact will be on the Agricultural Commissioner's Office. We are preparing so that we are positioned to hire additional staff expeditiously if it appears necessary.
AVA: How do you (the County, the Board, yourself) see the budget for that new staff and program working?
Flora: The FY 2016-17 Budget includes funding for the program and staff within the Agricultural Commissioner’s Office. There is no additional funding provided at this time in any other departments.
AVA: Will there be a separate budget unit/line for pot cultivation permits? Will permit applications and associated costs be reported to the Board on a monthly basis?
Flora: Currently the cannabis program is budgeted in the Agricultural Commissioner's budget (Budget Unit 2710). The program is budgeted separately from the traditional responsibilities of the Ag. Commissioner’s Office (internally), but it is not reflected separately in the County Budget. The FY 2017-18 Budget will include a separate budget unit for the cannabis program so the finances specific to that program are more externally transparent. The Board has not provided specific direction on reporting applications and/or costs, however we would envision the Ag. Commissioner reporting on the program during quarterly budget reports.
AVA: How much will the marijuana permit program cost to implement? And will the County make sure that the processing/staff costs are covered by fees?
Flora: The Agricultural Commissioner's Office has estimated that with 350 applicants the annual program cost would be $745,832. The Board adopted fees in January that would cover these costs. Of course this is somewhat of a moving target and adjustments will need to be made if the number of applicants fluctuates significantly from that estimate. For example, if the County receives 500 applications, the fee structure should still be valid as far as the amount of time required to process a single application, but the County may need to hire additional staff to handle the increased workload.
AVA: What is the estimated fee/permit revenue for the marijuana program. (We gather that there are upwards of 350 permitted grows, but we don’t know how many have paid or how much they have paid.)
Flora: The fees under the 9.31 Program included a $1,500 application fee and then a $50 charge per zip tie, with a limit of 99 plants/zip-ties. The maximum cost under this program for a 99 plant grower would be $6,340. Under the Ag. Commissioner's program the application fee is $1,240 and growers are charged an additional $675 for each required inspection. The number of inspections varies based on grow size. Smaller grows will require one additional inspection, and then larger grows will require two. This leaves a permit fee range of $1,915 to $2,590. Nursery operations have the same application fee, but their inspection fee is $725. There are likely to be additional fees paid by the grower, for example for an anticipated "Track and Trace" program, but our intent is that this would be a required grower/contractor relationship rather than passing the fees through the County.
AVA: And how much money has been budgeted (revenue and expense) for this fiscal year and next fiscal year for the new program?
Flora: The FY 2016-17 Agricultural Commissioner's Budget includes an additional $327,570 in revenue, mostly associated with the cannabis program. This is based on a six month program (starting January 1, 2017), which is why there is a significant difference from the $745,832 estimated through fee calculations, as that number was for a full fiscal year. The fee calculations were also based on more detailed information than what was available when the budget was created nearly a year ago. The budget was based on fee revenue covering 100% of the cost of running the program for six months, except for an additional $64,541 of one-time general fund dollars for program start up. This was intended to allow the Agricultural Commissioner's Office to hire staff approximately one month before program start up and have them trained before the program started in January, as well as new desks, office supplies, etc.. As you know, the program is still not accepting applications until an ordinance is adopted, so the cost to the County to pay for staff that will not be covered by permit fees, will be larger than estimated. Currently the department anticipates being able to cover any additional costs within its current budget and will not require additional funding support this fiscal year. The Board also appropriated $35,000 to remodel existing office space to provide for the cannabis program staff.
The County is just now working on developing next fiscal year's budget, but the budget will initially be based on the numbers established through fee hearings. Assuming that an ordinance is adopted in the next month or two, we will have a small window to update our assumptions on the number of applicants expected, which would impact the FY 2017-18 budget.
While you did not ask specifically about the Cannabis Tax, the revenue from this tax will not necessarily go to support the permit program. Further, it shouldn't be necessary if the fee structure is on target. One of the priorities the Board has indicated for use of the tax revenue is support of additional cannabis enforcement, but it is as yet undetermined whether any of this would be handled through Ag or be primarily for supporting enforcement from public safety agencies.
CATCH OF THE DAY, February 22, 2017
KYLE BYRNE, Ukiah. Suspended license.
PEDER ELDER, Ukiah. Failure to appear.
SHANE ELDREDGE, Miranda/Ukiah. DUI with priors, domestic assault, offenses while on bail.
JARED KIDD, Ukiah. Drunk in public. (Frequent flyer.)
SEAN RHIEN, Clearlake/Ukiah. Parole violation.
CHARLES WHIPPLE, Covelo. Community Supervision violation.
A LOW AND EFFECTIVE CUNNING
If we have become a people incapable
of thought, then the brute-thought
of mere power and mere greed
will think for us.
If we have become incapable
of denying ourselves anything,
then all that we have
will be taken from us.
If we have no compassion,
we will suffer alone, we will suffer
alone the destruction of ourselves.
These are merely the laws of this world
as known to Shakespeare, as known to Milton.
When we cease from human thought,
a low and effective cunning
stirs in the most inhuman minds.
— Wendell Berry, Sabbaths 2005 (XII) from [Leavings]
THE QUARREL—TAKE ONE
by Louis S. Bedrock
The quarrel began because I wanted to go jogging in the evening snow storm. Our Vine Street apartment was only two blocks from the outer loop of Warinanco Park. Warinanco offered two jogging routes: the inner loop of 1.7 miles and the outer loop of 2.5 miles. I preferred the outer loop and often ran it two times.
That evening, Krystyna did not want me to run and she was adamant about it. She claimed that I had promised to help her study for the United States Medical Licensing Examination, which she needed to pass to get into medical school in the U.S.. I told her we could study after my run, but this was not acceptable to her,
I was just as inflexible and told her I was going to run whether she wanted me to or not. The argument heated up as I got into my sweats and tied the laces of my running shoes.
—Maybe I not be here when you get back.
I clamped my mouth shut and did not respond.
I ran only one loop and it was glorious. I love running with snow blowing in my face. She was still there when I got back. I showered and changed into a clean pair of sweats which I prefer over pajamas. I got into bed next to Krystyna who was watching a movie on television. I was grateful for the fatigue and sleepiness. There would be no love tonight.
—If you sleep in the bed, I go to couch.
—You can sleep in the hallway if you want. Or call up your illegal immigrant sister. I’ve give you a ride over to her house.
She got out of bed, dressed, and began packing her belongings into a large suitcase.
—On the second thought, I’m tired. Call a cab. I’ll give you forty dollars.
—I don’t want your money, you, you bastard.
—You’d better take it. It’s snowing and I’m not lending you the car.
She snarled something in Polish.
—I love you too, but these fights are getting old. Maybe it’s time we moved on.
Krystyna put on her coat and moved to the door. As she opened the door, I called after her:
—Wait. Take all of your stuff. I’m going to change the locks. I don’t want you coming back.
I began throwing the rest of her things into the hallway: books, clothes, boots, shoes, records, her reading lamp, and the huge Teddy Bear I had bought for her last Valentine’s Day.
We were both in the hall now and we were screaming at one another.
—My sister told me Jews were good husbands, but you not a good anything.
—That’s because I’m not a real Jew. You, however, are a real snot-nosed Polish princess.
—Debil! Maybe I’ll call the FBI and report a certain illegal East European immigrant.
—She never hurt you, you monster.
—You and Elizabeth are a couple of opportunistic, manipulative, spoiled little rich girls who...
I stopped mid-sentence because we had made eye contact. Her glare had morphed into her special kind of pout with her mouth all puckered up. It makes her look adorable. I tried to stifle myself, but I broke out laughing. She looked so cute and so funny.
She too began to laugh. The whole scene was ridiculous. We were soon both laughing uncontrollably, hysterically.
A neighbor looked out her door and asked if we were okay. That made us laugh more. Tears began running down our faces because we were laughing so hard.
The whole hallway was covered with books, record albums, clothes, boots and shoes, the lamp, the suitcase, and the Teddy Bear. We were sitting in the middle of all the rubble and laughing like a couple of imbeciles.
We began moving everything back into the apartment.
—We were like two terrible actors rehearsing a lame breakup scene in a grade D movie.
—You were worse.
After we got everything into the apartment, we undressed, got back into our bed, and tried feebly to make love, but were thwarted by spasms of laughter.
—You’re screwing up the hot reconciliation scene —I said.
Krystyna laughed so hard we had to stop.
Later, wrapped in one another’s arms, we closed our eyes. I thought we would never get to sleep. One of us would start giggling and that would set off the other. Finally, somehow, we laughed ourselves to sleep.
UKIAHAIKU FESTIVAL 2017
Ukiah, CA – February 21, 2017 – The ukiaHaiku Committee invites submissions for its 15th annual ukiaHaiku Festival. The postmark deadline for entries is Friday, March 17. Submission forms can be picked up at the Ukiah Branch Library, Grace Hudson Museum, or online at www.ukiaHaiku.org. The website also lists the various contest categories and the contest guidelines. Nine categories, two in Spanish, are reserved for poets from Mendocino, Lake, Humboldt, and Sonoma counties with divisions by age and topic. The Jane Reichhold International Prize category is open to poets from around the world and offers cash prizes.
The website also offers the opportunity to read haiku winners from past years, as well as information on composing haiku. Haiku are poems that express the very essence of simplicity, elegance, and depth. A haiku causes a vivid image or experience to arise in the reader within the context of three brief lines (short, long, short).
The winning haiku will be printed in a ukiaHaiku Festival booklet, for sale at the event. The winning writers will be honored and will share their work at the ukiaHaiku Festival on Sunday, April 30 at the Ukiah Civic Center. There is no fee for entry. For further details contact Cathy Monroe at 485-8249 or email@example.com.
GETTING STARTED WITH SEEDS
10:00am to 3:30pm (lecture 10:00am-1:00pm; hands-on 1:30pm-3:30pm) Each year as the days grow longer the garden offers opportunity for renewal. We start fresh with new seeds and all of the observations from years past to help guide us to success. In this class, we will discuss planning strategies for a successful home vegetable garden, and how to propagate and care for vegetable seedlings. This is the first class in a four part learning series offering hands-on, brains-on training with MCBG Lead Gardener Jaime Jensen. These classes will teach you the essential skills to develop a strong vegetable garden for years to come. Course workshops will demonstrate starting with seeds, composting, creating a thriving ecosystem in your own back yard, and fall vegetable gardening. Each class will have a reading and lecture component as well as hands-on training - be prepared to get dirty! Classes cost $35 each (non-refundable), call The Garden Store at 707-964-4352 ext 16 to sign up! For more details about the learning series please visit www.gardenbythesea.org
MENDOCINO LAND TRUST EARNS NATIONAL RECOGNITION
Strong Commitment to Public Trust and Conservation Excellence
Fort Bragg, CA (February 22, 2017)
At a time of political change, one thing is clear and consistent: Americans strongly support saving the open spaces they love. Since 1976, Mendocino Land Trust has been doing just that for the people who love Mendocino County. Today, Mendocino Land Trust has announced it has achieved national recognition – joining a network of only 372 accredited land trusts across the nation that have demonstrated their commitment to professional excellence and to maintaining the public’s trust in their work.
“Achieving national recognition is an honor for our Mendocino County community, and we are an even stronger organization for having gone through the exacting accreditation process,” said Ann Cole, MLT’s executive director. “Land Trust accreditation assures our donors, our partners and the public that we are trusted to permanently protect our beautiful part of the world and to make it an even better place for our residents, our visitors and their families. This comes just as we are taking on some of our most ambitious conservation projects ever.”
Mendocino Land Trust (MLT) had to provide extensive documentation and undergo a comprehensive, independent review as part of its accreditation application. The Land Trust Accreditation Commission awarded accreditation, signifying MLT’s demonstrated commitment to excellence and confidence that Mendocino Land Trust’s lands will be protected forever. MLT is the first land trust based in Mendocino County to earn the accreditation seal.
MLT is a countywide nonprofit land conservation group that has protected more than 14,000 acres of land all across Mendocino County. MLT played a vital role in the protection of signature lands that are now part of the state park system including the Big River Estuary, Glass Beach and Caspar Beach. With growing community support, MLT has permanently protected 16 family farms, preserves and forests and has designed and built numerous trails that provide public access along the coast. The Land Trust has five beautiful coastal preserves under permanent stewardship: Pelican Bluffs Preserve in Point Arena, Navarro Point in Albion, and Hare Creek Beach, Seaside Beach and the Ten Mile River Estuary in the Fort Bragg area. The Land Trust also owns and stewards the Noyo River Redwoods Preserve in the Willits area.
“It is exciting to recognize Mendocino Land Trust with this distinction,” said Tammara Van Ryn, executive director of the Commission. “Accredited land trusts are united behind strong ethical standards ensuring the places people love will be conserved forever. Accreditation recognizes Mendocino Land Trust has demonstrated sound finances, ethical conduct, responsible governance, and lasting stewardship.” The process is rigorous and strengthens land trusts so they can help landowners and communities achieve their goals. Almost 20 million acres of farms, forests and natural areas vital to healthy communities are now permanently conserved by an accredited land trust.
MLT is one of 1,363 land trusts across the United States, according to the most recent National Land Trust Census, released on December 1, 2016 by the Land Trust Alliance. This comprehensive report also shows that accredited land trusts have made significant achievements.
A complete list of accredited land trusts and more information about the process and benefits are detailed at www.landtrustaccreditation.org.
About the Land Trust Accreditation Commission
The Commission is an independent program of the Land Trust Alliance, a national land conservation organization. The Commission recognizes conservation excellence by awarding the accreditation seal. More information about land trust accreditation can be found here.
About the Land Trust Alliance
Founded in 1982, the Land Trust Alliance is a national organization that works to save the places people need and love by strengthening land conservation across America. Based in Washington, D.C., and with several regional offices, the Alliance represents about 1,000 member land trusts nationwide.
The Alliance’s leadership serves the entire land trust community — its work in the nation’s capital represents the policy priorities of land conservationists from every state; its education programs improve and empower land trusts from Maine to Alaska; and its comprehensive vision for the future of land conservation includes new partners, new programs and new priorities.
Connect online at www.landtrustalliance.org.
LITTLE DOG SAYS, “Yeah, I'm kinda down lately. My friend Rex's boat the San Juan sank and his dog Olive died. I knew her a little. Nice girl. I'm gonna miss her and Rex's boat.”
THERE ARE TOWNS like Jonestown, Mississippi, that in their shocking poverty make one gasp. Weathered, sagging and unpainted houses, boarded-up windows, others covered with plastic, yards full of dismantled rusty cars, their parts scattered about amid all kinds of other junk and trash, are everywhere. Idle people of all ages lounge on collapsing porches or stand on street corners waiting for something to do. In the countryside with its fertile dark soil, soybeans have become the chief crop, poultry farms are a major business, and there are nine gambling casinos in the next county. All that has increased per capita income in the region, but there was no evidence of it among the blacks I saw.
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
Apparently, someone, somewhere, asked Camus what he preferred, theater or sport, he said he preferred football (soccer).
He is also quoted as saying, “After many years during which I saw many things, what I know most surely about morality and the duty of man I owe to sport”.
Schopenhauer aspired to sublimation in music. Surely, there is sublimation in sport. In fact, I’m willing to argue that the true sport enthusiast respects sport for its ability to focus man’s instincts, transmogrify them, and put them on full harmless display. To showcase humanity’s deeper instincts, its base instincts and attributes as entertainment, as art, as exhibition.
Men and women chasing inflatable balls shows more about a person’s character, free from pretense and illusion, than any art, than any word. That’s why people belittle sport… man reduced to fetching a ball. Man in his natural element.
CDFW CONDUCTS AMERICAN RIVER STEELHEAD STUDY
by Dan Bacher
Three separate strains of fish – the Eel River strain of American River steelhead, the Coleman Hatchery steelhead strain and Central Valley hatchery steelhead of undetermined origin – are returning to the American River this year, as evidenced in a trip that I made to the Nimbus Fish Hatchery on January 30.
The hatchery staff sorted through the fish as I watched them and took photos. The only fish the staff spawned during the season or put in the holding ponds for spawning over the next couple of weeks were the Eel River strain fish, characterized by their big silvery sides and slender bullet shapes.
The staff released both Eel River strain and the Central Valley fish back into the river. Meanwhile, they killed the Coleman strain fish, obtained from Battle Creek at Coleman National Fish hatchery, as part of a study to see how the fish fare in the American.
The reason for the current study of the Coleman fish goes back to 2008, when NOAA Fisheries issued a biological opinion requiring that fishery managers look at appropriate local Central Valley stocks for possible introduction into the American River, in order to reduce straying
The biological opinion also urged fishery managers to explore reintroducing steelhead and salmon above rim dams into the headwaters where the fish used to spawn, including on the American River below Nimbus.
Before Folsom Dam, salmon and steelhead ascended into North, Middle and South Forks of the American to spawn. As late as 1944, 1945 and 1946, the Department documented spring run Chinook salmon ascending the fish ladder at the old Folsom Powerhouse, according to Dr. Robert Titus, fishery scientist, in a presentation for the Save the American River Association in December 2013.
Jay Rowan, Acting Senior Hatchery Supervisor for CDFW's North Central Region, emphasized, “We have NO plans to get rid of the current Eel River steelhead strain. This is an exploratory phase only, since they may not come back to the river in numbers anyway (or otherwise be appropriate) for the system. For now, we will continue spawn and rear the Eel River strain. “
According to studies done on the projected impacts of the dam before it built, officials determined that an annual production of 430,000 steelhead yearlings and 4 million fall Chinook salmon smolts would be needed to mitigate for the dam.
However, after just hundreds of the river’s steelhead returned to Nimbus Fish Hatchery in the first few years after Folsom Lake was completed, the CDFW decided to introduce Eel River-strain steelhead to the hatchery, boosting annual steelhead returns to the hatchery in the thousands in the good years.
Limited analyses conducted since then indicate steelhead from both the hatchery and the river are genetically more similar to Eel River steelhead than other Central Valley steelhead stocks.
Since the first stock that they decided to study was the Coleman-strain of fish, brought 3 years ago as eyed eggs from the Coleman National Fish hatchery. The CDFW released 170,000 Coleman Fish Hatchery eggs in 2014, the worst year for steelhead returns on American since Folsom Dam was built. The fish are marked with coded wire tag to indicate they part of the study.
“These fish began to come back this season, earlier than the Eel River strain,” said Rowan. “We wanted to see if these fish survived, went to the ocean and would come back to the hatchery.”
However, as it turned out, the Coleman fish studied so far had bacteria present that could potentially cause a fish disease, bacterial kidney disease.
“Once the disease is in the fish hatchery, it’s difficult to get it out,” said Rowan, “so it is not known whether we will put release more Coleman fish to study in future years. “Planting the fish again this year is definitely out.”
Acoustic tags track the fish on the ocean. When the fish are taken at the hatchery, the scientists study the otoliths (ear bones) chemical signatures and scales to see if they have been to the ocean. To do this, the fish must be killed, so unlike Eel River and other Central Valley fish, they are not returned to the river alive.
The next area the CDFW plants to explore is seeing if it is possible to develop a hatchery brood stock from the wild rainbows that inhabit the river forks above Folsom Dam. There are currently 2 to 3 pound rainbows, landlocked steelhead, that appear to be the same genetic strain of fish that used to ascend the river below Folsom Dam was built, according to Rowan.
“Our next step after the Coleman study will be looking upstream for the genetic brood stock of those fish. There are clearly remnants of trout that historically steelhead in the river system. The question is: Do they still have the genes that make them want to express their anadromy? If they are running down to the lake and using it like they would the ocean, maybe it would work” he said.
Another challenge in reintroducing the steelhead to the lower river below the dam would be acquiring enough wild trout to even create a brood stock, since these fish scatter throughout the forks and tributaries, noted Rowan.
When I was a kid in the sixties, during the winter there was a landlocked steelhead fishery at Folsom Lake. Anglers would drive their cars and trucks down to the water, sit in their vehicles and wait until they got a bite. You would see stringers in the water with bright landlocked steelhead ranging from 16 to 22 inches long.
Meanwhile, the Eel River strain continues to provide a prized trophy steelhead fishery right in the heart of a major metropolitan area. During the spawning session I attended, one female weighing an estimated 17 to 18 pounds was spawned, along with a male weighing an estimated 14 pounds.
In fact it was the best day of the year so far for American River fish, as evidenced by the 161 adult Eel strain steelhead that hatchery staff sorted, spawned or returned to the river. They also returned another 75 “green” fish – those not yet ready for spawning – back to the river, according to Gary Novak, hatchery manager.
These steelhead are apparently two-year-old fish – fish that have spent one year in salt – or four-year-old fish – fish that have spent three years in salt. Missing from the hatchery returns are the three-year-old fish that normally make up the bulk of the river fishery.
This is because the lowest number of fish that ever returned to the hatchery, just 154, returned in 2014. To make matters worse, because of temperature problems at the hatchery, they had a choice of keeping the fish in the hatchery, where they would likely die, or release early into the river, where they might have a chance of survival.
They were released at 188 to the pound. However, only two of the fish that were released early in April and May of 2014 have returned.
Hatchery staff also killed 12 Coleman fish, all adults, and put them on ice in a bucket while I was there. A total of 194 Coleman fish have returned to the facility this winter, noted Novak. These fish were smaller, fatter and more brightly colored than the Eel River fish.
They also returned 6 Central Valley strain back into the river for anglers to hook. So far this season, they have trapped and released 261 Central Valley steelhead.
The thing that surprised me most was the large number of late run Chinooks that are showing this winter. The hatchery workers took fifteen salmon into the hatchery, including two that appeared to be in the 30 to 40 lb range.
“Normally we don’t see any salmon this time of year,” Novak said. “Last week we saw 70 salmon at the hatchery.”
Novak also noted that the river water temperature has been 45 degrees, the coldest it’s been in fifteen years. Forty-eight degrees is normal for this time of year, and the water gets progressively warmer, into the fifties, as the winter proceeds.
The hatchery has received just 200,000 eggs so far this season to meet its production goal of 425,000 smolts, but hopefully will get more fish to reach its goal.
“We will continue to spawn this winter as long as we receive viable number of fish,” said Novak.
Meanwhile, rain and snow continues to pummel the American River watershed and northern California. The Bureau of Reclamation increased releases into the American River below Nimbus Dam from 55,000 cfs to 70,000 cfs on February 9 to accommodate runoff from the latest storms.
Greg Ferguson, CDFW Fish & Wildlife Technician, displays a big, beautiful Eel River-strain steelhead at Nimbus Fish Hatchery