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GGSA Welcomes Closure of Delta Cross Channel Gates



by Dan Bacher

The Bureau of Reclamation announced Friday that it will close both gates on the Delta Cross Channel on Monday, June 4 for a period of 10 to 14 days to make repairs, a move welcomed by the Golden Gate Salmon Association (GGSA) and other salmon advocates.

 Pete Lucero, Bureau spokesman, said the closure was necessary to repair a mechanical problem that occurred when operators attempted to close the gates on May 29.

“Engineers will close the gates beginning at about 5 p.m. on Monday,” said Lucero. “The public is being asked to avoid the gate area, located in Walnut Grove, California, during the closure process that may take longer than usual. Reclamation will provide information on the status of the repair and gate operations as the information becomes available.”

Golden Gate Salmon Association President Victor Gonella responded to the closure by stating, “The GGSA is glad the Cross Channel Gates will be closed for 10 to 14 days because baby fall run king salmon are currently migrating from the Sacramento River to the ocean.”

“When the gates are open, these baby salmon are sucked off their natural migration course and most die,” said Gonella. “State and federal authorities should give serious consideration to keeping these gates closed until mid-June every year to rebuild the commercially valuable fall run salmon.”

In 2011, GGSA convinced the Bureau of Reclamation to close the Delta cross channel gates for ten days to allow adult salmon to reach the Mokelumne River spawning areas and the hatchery. The gates closed in October of 2011 and the returns were an all time record.

A total of 18,596 Chinook salmon were recorded passing Woodbridge Irrigation District Dam between August 1, 2011 and January 21, 2012. “The 2011 escapement estimate continues three years of increased returns to the Mokelumne River and projected returns for 2012 are expected to be even better,” according to the East Bay Municipal Utility District.

The Delta Cross Channel, a feature of Reclamation’s Central Valley Project Delta Division, is used to divert Sacramento River water into a branch of the Mokelumne River.

“The gates are normally raised on weekends for passage of boats but the closure is expected to affect only the weekend of June 9-10,” said Lucero.

Central Valley fall Chinook salmon populations crashed to record low levels in 2008 and 2009, due to a combination of poor ocean conditions, record water exports out of the California to corporate agribusiness and southern California and other factors.

However, both hatchery and naturally spawning populations of fall run Chinooks have rebounded since then, due to a combination of improved ocean conditions, higher flows down the rivers, improved salmon trucking and hatchery release practices and the ten day closure of the Cross Channel gates in October 2011.

Meanwhile, the Brown administration is fast-tracking the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) to build the peripheral canal or tunnel to increased water exports to subsidized agribusiness on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley. If constructed, the canal will hasten the extinction of Central Valley salmon, Delta smelt, longfin smelt and other fish species.

For additional information on the channel, please visit Reclamation’s Central Valley Operation Office website at http://www.usbr.gov/mp/cvo.






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