Monday, January 21, 2013

Ranchers, farmers credited with saving Chinook salmon by cutting water use

State Department of Fish and Wildlife officials are giving ranchers and farmers along the Shasta River credit for saving thousands of Chinook salmon from dying in the river. About a half-dozen landowners and irrigation districts that get water from the river reduced the amount they divert so more could flow downstream and help migrating salmon, DFW officials said. About 29,000 salmon returned to the river this year, making it the largest run since 1962. "Irrigation districts and individual landowners stepped up and contributed water to reduce disease risks to returning salmon," said Neil Manji, DFW's regional manager. "The increased flow helped cool the river water and avert disease and a potential salmon kill." Ranchers have been cutting back on diversions to help the fish for many years, said Leo Bergeron, past president of the Siskiyou Water Users Association and a rancher in the area. "Really, that's the way it should be done. I don't think there is anybody that wants to deliberately handicap a species," Bergeron said. Last September the fish returning to spawn encountered low river flows and high temperatures in the river, DFW officials said. Large numbers of fish together in close quarters can promote the spread of two deadly diseases — columnaris and ichthyophthirius multifiliis (also called "ich"). Similar conditions in 2002 on the lower Klamath River caused an outbreak in the diseases, killing about 30,000 salmon and steelhead, the DFW said...more

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