Ag Today March 9, 2018

These Chinook almost went extinct during California’s drought. Can this $100 million plan save them?

BY RYAN SABALOW

rsabalow@sacbee.com March 08, 2018 03:08 PM

Updated March 08, 2018 05:32 PM

During the worst of California’s five-year drought, thousands of eggs and newly spawned salmon baked to death along a short stretch of the Sacramento River below Shasta Dam.

The winter-run Chinook, already hanging by a thread, nearly went extinct.

Hoping to avoid a repeat of that dire scenario, fisheries officials announced Thursday the launch of a plan — nearly 20 years and $100 million in the making — they say would expand the spawning range of the fish to include a cold-water stream called Battle Creek. The idea is that the stream could keep the fragile winter-run alive as California’s rivers get hotter because of a warming climate.

The stakes are high and go well beyond the fate of the fish. Concerns about this run of salmon have a major impact on how water is distributed to farms and cities across California.

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