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Rafters will be gushing over the Trinity River
Wednesday, February 16, 2005
The Trinity River will be transformed into one of the West's top rafting rivers this spring when water flows are projected to increase by five to 10 times of past years.
Instead of running at a typical 600 to 1,000 cubic feet per second (CFS), a Clinton-era plan will be implemented that jumps river flows to 4,000 to 6, 000 CFS, on the average, this spring and early summer. The high flows are expected to jump-start increased runs of salmon and steelhead later this year, help reconfigure the river bottom and increase spawning gravels.
"For rafters, the Trinity River will become to Northern California what the Stanislaus is to the Sierra Nevada and the Grand Canyon is to the Colorado River," said Bob Warren, the general manager of the Shasta Cascade Wonderland Association in Redding.
The Trinity River is created from the drops of melting snow in the Trinity Alps northwest of Redding. It flows into Trinity Lake and Lewiston Lake, and then runs along Highway 299 until it joins with the Klamath River at Weitchpec to form one of the West's most significant waterways.
But in the past 40 years, up to 90 percent of the Trinity's water has been diverted and sent to points south, mainly to the San Joaquin Valley.
In the process, fish runs on the Trinity were devastated. In the drought of 1976-77, only 13 steelhead returned to the state's fish hatchery on the river. Yet last year, with an increase in flows, 4,500 steelhead made the trip.
Water managers are expected to announce this year's flow regime for the Trinity in late April, when they can better assess the water content in the snowpack in the Trinity Alps. On Feb. 1, the water content of the snowpack in the Trinity River Basin was 130 percent of normal for the date, and more rain and snow is expected all week there.
One of the side effects of 40 years of low, steady flows has been the channelization of the river bed, Warren noted. In rivers where there are fluctuating and high flows, rock, boulders and gravels are constantly shifting and transforming the contour of the river bottom and creating fish habitat.
"That hasn't happened on the Trinity," Warren said. "We're going to see if it can be reversed."
A key to the new program moving forward is that the Westlands Water District southwest of Fresno, which has taken as much water as the Trinity River supplied, did not appeal a court decision last summer won by the Hoopa Valley Indian Tribe. The tribe won a judgment from the 9th Circuit of Appeals that the water diversions (and lost spawning habitat) on the Trinity River caused an 80 percent loss to salmon and steelhead runs.
Wilderness bill: The Northern California Costal Wild Heritage Act, that is, the proposal to create more wilderness lands, is back again. The latest version proposes to create a 42,000-acre wilderness in the King Range on the Lost Coast in Humboldt County, a new 5,740-acre wilderness in Six Rivers National Forest in the northwestern corner of the state, and enlarge existing wilderness in the Trinity Alps, Yolla Bollys in Mendocino National Forest, and the Siskiyou Wilderness near Oregon.
Numbers are in: The 2004 salmon run on the Sacramento River numbered 352, 500 fish -- not great, not bad. This is the run that supplies the Bay Area and Golden Gate Fleet with its salmon. Record high: 840,000 salmon in 2002. Record low: 86,700 salmon in 1990.
No pain: In Norway, scientists reported a study they say proves that worms feel no pain when hooked and used for bait -- same with crabs and lobsters when they are plopped into boiling water and cooked.
E-mail Tom Stienstra at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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