The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) in cooperation with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) released one million state and federally listed threatened spring-run Chinook salmon into the Feather River on Monday, March 20.
These were the first fish to be released that were evacuated from the Feather River Hatchery in Oroville on Feb. 9, when the water became dangerously murky following the failure of the Oroville Dam spillway. The fish were moved to the Feather River/Thermalito Annex Hatchery and held there until conditions improved.
“Based on the weather forecast and current reservoir storage, we are anticipating high flows in the Feather River for some time,” said CDFW Senior Environmental Scientist Colin Purdy. “Releasing these fish now should allow them to imprint on Feather River water and move downstream before flows drop back down to normal levels.”
Central Valley spring-run Chinook are a state and federally listed species and their abundance has declined considerably during the recent drought. The Feather River Fish Hatchery plays a key role in the state’s efforts to propagate this unique run of Chinook salmon.
“Today’s fish release marks the success of federal and state agencies coordinating and managing valuable resources while ensuring public safety during a crisis situation,” said Howard Brown, NOAA Sacramento River Basin Branch Chief. “NOAA Fisheries remains deeply concerned with the damage of the Oroville spillways and is committed to reducing further threats to California communities and ecosystems.”
“This is another example of the extraordinary multi-agency effort to respond to this unfortunate incident,” said California Department of Water Resources Acting Director Bill Croyle. “We will continue to work closely to protect the Feather River and its fisheries.”
Of the fish that were evacuated, another million spring-run Chinook and three million fall-run Chinook remain at the Annex Hatchery. CDFW and NOAA fisheries staff will continuously evaluate the remaining salmon and begin planting them in northern California Rivers when the fish are mature enough.