The Juvenile Salmon Collection System (JSCS) aims to test a system that would improve fish passage around high-head dams by efficiently collecting and providing downstream passage for juvenile fish migrating out to the ocean. The success of the project is crucial for the reintroduction of native salmon into their historical spawning and rearing tributaries. The JSCS project will evaluate the viability of collecting juvenile salmon as they emigrate out of their historical habitat above Shasta Dam, with the goal of returning endangered Chinook salmon to their historical habitats. The project is expected to launch in September 2022 and run for 1–2 years, with testing conducted from September to November. The JSCS design and evaluation team is led by the California Department of Water Resources in collaboration with NOAA Fisheries, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Winnemem Wintu Tribe, and others.
In a tale as old as time (or at least since the 1940s), the Department of Water Resources (DWR) is making a splash with their latest project aimed at reintroducing winter-run Chinook salmon to the McCloud River. These endangered fish have been facing quite the dam dilemma, quite literally, as their migration has been blocked by dams for almost 80 years. But fear not, dear readers, for DWR and its partners are here to save the day (and the salmon) with their ingenious pilot project.
Enter the Juvenile Salmon Collection System, a floating structure designed to catch juvenile winter-run Chinook salmon as they make their way out of the upper river and before they get stuck in the not-so-vast reservoir. What makes this system so unique? Well, it’s a passive system that can be moved as river and reservoir levels change, all without the need for pricey pumps. Take that, northwest floating surface collectors!
The project, which kicked off in 2022, has been a real test of patience and perseverance. The first year saw no fishy friends caught, but fear not, it was all in the name of science. The focus was on testing the collection system to figure out the best depth, location, and methods to reel in those slippery salmon. And lo and behold, in 2023, the project expanded with the goal of actually catching some juvenile winter-run Chinook salmon. Efficiency releases were performed once a week, involving the release of 300 hatchery-raised and tagged juvenile salmon, followed by a suspenseful wait to see how many would take the bait.
But wait, there’s more! Once the salmon are caught, they undergo a thorough inspection to see how they measure up. Are they hatchery-raised or river-hatched? It’s like a fishy fashion show, but with a scientific twist. The river-hatched juveniles are then put through their paces to see how well they’ve grown compared to their hatchery-raised counterparts. It’s all in the name of proving that the historical habitat above the dams is indeed a fin-tastic place for these salmon to thrive.
And let’s not forget the cultural significance of this project to the Winnemem Wintu Tribe. For them, this is more than just a fish tale – it’s about the Nur (salmon) reclaiming their rightful place in the Winnemem Waywaket (McCloud River). It’s a long-term reintroduction that holds great meaning for both the tribe and the environment.
So why all this fuss over some fish? Well, dear readers, salmon are what scientists call an “ecological keystone species.” They’re like the VIP guests at an ecosystem party, bringing all the important nutrients from the ocean to freshwater ecosystems. Without them, it’s like forgetting to invite the life of the party. Plus, we can’t forget that these winter-run Chinook Salmon are listed as “endangered,” so it’s up to us to ensure they don’t become just another fishy tale of extinction.
And there you have it, folks! DWR and its partners are just getting started on this epic fishy adventure. The reintroduction of winter-run Chinook salmon above a rim dam is no small feat, but with their innovative collection system and a whole lot of determination, they’re making waves in the world of salmon conservation. So stay tuned, because this is one fishy tale that’s far from being all washed up.
*i used ai to help craft he story
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