We follow up with hereditary Chief Caleen Sisk about the expansive watershed of the Sacramento River from the headwaters of the Winnemem Waywayket all the way to the Bay-Delta and the Pacific Ocean. We learn about the history of this once epic fishery and what it will take to bring the Salmon back home over the Shasta rim dam, and how New Zealand can help.
The management of California's Bay Delta and its tributaries is complicated. The Sacramento and San Joaquin River watersheds and Delta have a complicated series of dams and diversions that feed the state and federal Central Valley Irrigation projects. The Shasta and Trinity dams are federal dams, while many of the other dams in the watersheds such as the Feather, Pit, and American Rivers are either primarily part of the state water project or private PGE dams. The state of California and the Federal Bureau of Reclamation manage flows, irrigation water deliveries, and operations from their dams and diversions, through water operations plans and a complicated water rights system. These operations are subject to Endangered Species Act Biological Opinions for endangered species such as winter and spring-run salmon and Delta smelt.
Recent Biological Opinions have not only estimated how much water can be diverted, without species in rivers below the diversions going extinct, but they also have called for the return of winter-run salmon to their traditional habitats upstream of these dams, such as the McCloud River. This is because spring run and winter-run salmon traditionally used the upper reaches of the cold tributaries of the Delta watersheds. Almost all of their spawning habitat has been blocked by dams. Unfortunately, these Biological Opinions have been subject to political interference by several presidents and many of the runs of endangered salmon have been killed over the last ten years and fish passage efforts have not moved forward.