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http://www.siskiyoudaily.com/articles/2004/02/06/news/news1.txt

State OKs coho plan

 
Updated: Friday, February 6, 2004 2:55 PM PST
 
 

YREKA - The listing of the coho salmon as a California Endangered Species became law on Wednesday to the disappointment of Siskiyou County's grassroots Save Our Shasta and Scott Valley communities (SOSS) organization that has worked for years to prevent it from happening.

In a press release issued by the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG), the California Fish and Game Commission approved the Department of Fish and Game's Coho Salmon Recovery Strategy at a special session in Sacramento on Wednesday and then proceeded with the process for listing coho salmon as an endangered species in California.

Don Howell of Fort Jones, who served both on the SOSS and local recovery strategy group, said those who have worked long and hard to prevent this listing are very disappointed.

"At the meeting in Sacramento our biologist, Dr. Chuck Hanson, presented a 5-inch binder of new scientific data that he said the Department of Fish and Game needed to review," Howell said. "The new data puts in question the data the Department of Fish and Game used to list the coho."

 

Howell said DFG admitted that they have not considered any new information since the original finding in 2002.

"They believe there is no current updated information to change their decision," Howell said.

In late August 2002, the Commission made the finding that populations of coho salmon from San Francisco to Punta Gorda in Humboldt County warranted listing as an endangered species under the California Endangered Species Act.

In addition, the Commission found that the populations of coho salmon from Punta Gorda north to the Oregon border warranted listing as a threatened species.

At that time, the Commission directed DFG to prepare a recovery strategy for coho salmon, and delayed the regulatory action by which coho would be added to the endangered species list while DFG prepared the recovery strategy. Siskiyou County was allowed to help prepare its own recovery strategy.

"The Coho Salmon Recovery Strategy provides a blueprint for the recovery of coho salmon in California, helping to revive struggling coho populations and restore their habitat," the DFG press release states. "Ultimately, the implementation of the Recovery Strategy will lead to the removal of coho salmon from the California Endangered Species list as well as lead to the restoration of tribal, commercial, and recreational coho salmon fisheries."

DFG Director Ryan Broddrick said "the success of this recovery strategy depends on the long-term commitment of us all."

The Recovery Strategy is complex and lengthy, containing 13 chapters in over 700 pages of text encompassing more than 750 recommendations with more than 1,000 recovery tasks.

DFG worked with two recovery teams for its development - a statewide team and a local team focusing on agricultural water and land uses in the Shasta and Scott river valleys in Siskiyou County.

"These teams are composed of representatives of a variety of interests including landowners, environmental organizations, commercial and recreational fishing, and tribal, federal, state, and local governments," Broddrick said.

Howell said the recovery team from Siskiyou County is very disappointed with this listing, feeling that it should have been postponed.

"The information they used does not substantiate this listing," Howell said. "Our local recovery team is concerned because we had not given final approval to the recommendations and some of them were rushed through."

Howell said he feels that the coho listing was driven by the legal Fish and Game code rather than what is happening in the real world.

The listing also places small landowners who use surface water for irrigation at great risk.

Howell said that "diverters" will need to protect themselves with an Incidental Take Permit (ITP). Otherwise, they will be subject to large fines of up to $10,000 for each fish they accidentally kill in an irrigation project.

"We are not talking about large fish, we are talking about fry," Howell said. "With the operation of an irrigation system there is always a potential for harming or killing fish."

It is the incidental take issue that Howell said the local recovery committee has been struggling with for the last two months. He said the DFG draft document was unacceptable but the listing went ahead anyway.

"The very stringent mitigations to protect the fish are very difficult for landowners to comply with," he said. "Until this issue is resolved, irrigation in the Scott Valley could be in question this summer."

Howell said the problem with the coho listing is that it is basically a recovery strategy without an enforcement component. "It looks like the DFG intends to use the Incidental Take Permits as the leverage to force compliance with the strategy."

Howell said many groups worked together trying to stop the listing and will now try to reverse it.

"We believe there are some interpretations of the code DFG did not follow but it is hard to convince a judge about that," Howell said. "We are drafting a letter stating they made a mistake and the listing needs to be reversed because there is not enough information to justify it and elements in the code were not addressed." - SDN story by John Diehm

 


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