te or federal incidental take permits

 


DELTA

Captain Steve Smith of the Bay Area "Smith" fishing clan has been fishing Alaska's Kenai Peninsula for 30 years. 800.567.1043

 

May 23, 2017    Headlines

Spring Stripers & Sturgeon

Delta Report
By Dave Hurley
This has been a most unusual year for Sacramento- Delta striped bass fishing with the high water providing cover for the linesides on their way to the upper tributaries of the Sacramento River system. As a result, trolling along the West Bank has been a bust until just recently. Sturgeon fishing is best in lower Suisun Bay, and the few anglers going are finding spectacular action for all size ranges of diamondbacks.
Shad fishing remains solid in the metropolitan Sacramento area from Freeport south, but fishermen have to use 4 ounces of lead to stay down while drop-shotting from a boat and over an ounce from the banks in front of the shad darts. The shad are moving quickly through the upper Delta, and they have appeared in both the American and Feather Rivers.
Alan Fong of the Fishermen’s Warehouse in Sacramento reported Monday 5-22, “American shad continue to be the top species as most of the striped bass are upriver in the Feather or the Sacramento near Tisdale.”
Sturgeon fishing is best in the deep water between the Benicia/Martinez and Carquinez Bridges with ghost shrimp, lamprey eel, or salmon roe. Tony Lopez of Benicia Bait said, “They are still tearing them up out there in the deep water, but only a few boats are heading out.”
Virginia Saldavor, West Coast Editor for Florida Fishing Magazine, was in Suisun Bay near the Mothball Fleet over the weekend, and she said, “W
hat a day of on-stop action! I took my cousin Remil out for a little adventure, and boy did we have a blast with 11 sturgeon hooked, landing 8 or 9, but honestly we lost count. It was his first time sturgeon fishing, and he is alre
ady spoiled.”
Jesus Reyes Silva of Hollister was trolling near Sherman Island for a limit of striped bass with his JKings Swavers and anchored for two slot-limit sturgeon released on lamprey eel.
The shorelines at Benicia at the Dillon Point State Park, 1st Street, 3rd Street, 12th Street, and 14th Street are producing limits of striped bass with anchovies, pile worms, or blood worms.
The trollers haven’t congregated for stripers on the Sacramento Delta this season, leading Mark Wilson, striper trolling expert, to state, “This has been a different year on the Sacramento River as I have been almost exclusively trolling the San Joaquin throughout the run. There were only 12 boat trailers in the parking lot at Brannan Island on Saturday, but a few keepers are starting to come out from the West Bank area.”
Dan Mathisen of Dan’s Delta Outdoors in Oakley reported stripers in the 18- to 22-inch range have been taken on shallow-running lures along the West Bank for the first real reports of striper action in some time for this section of the river.
The largemouth bass bite remains a grind with the constantly changing water conditions, but the hot spell arriving over the weekend should bring the bass back to the banks. Striped bass remain scattered, and the hot bite from a few weeks back has been dwindling down to a few fish per rod.
Largemouth bass fishing has been tough with a 16-pound limit taking Saturday’s Dan’s Delta Outdoors Event out of Big Break Marina. Tournament director, Dan Mathisen, said, “Most guys are using Senkos as the fish are moving up with the hot weather. They are hitting reaction baits in the afternoons with Trick Worms in watermelon candy, methiolate, or green pumpkin as the bluegill are also spawning at the same time. Normally, the bluegill spawn later than the largemouth bass, but this is not a normal year. The combination of bluegill and largemouth bass in the shallows should be interesting. The Trick Worm bite is as good as it has been in years. I have been using an old-school technique with the Zoom Trick Worm, but a number of anglers are scoring with Robo Worm’s Margarita Mutilator. My Fat Sack Swimjigs and Red Craw Crankbaits are working as well since five anglers who cashed checks during last week’s FLW event were using these lures. I predict the bite will be ‘wide open’ with the good weather.” The limits on the last three events on the Delta have been much smaller than normal due to the weather. Alan Fong of the Fishermen’s Warehouse in Sacramento said, “We went through a lot of fish for a 14-pound limit during the week, and the weather has affected the bite.”
Neil Simpson of Lodi worked the surface with frogs on Friday afternoon for a few spawned out largemouth bass. He said, “There is a ton of bait in the system right now, and we also picked up a few on plastics and one on a fluke chasing shad.”
H and R Bait in Stockton reported fresh shad continues to come into the shop, and there has been more interest in crappie fishing in Whiskey Slough with live minnows.


‘Lethal arrogance’? Oroville Dam crisis sprang from Pat Brown’s towering ambition

BY RYAN SABALOW, DALE KASLER AND CHRISTOPHER CADELAGO

rsabalow@sacbee.com

America’s tallest dam was built from earth, stone and concrete – and the towering ambition of Gov. Pat Brown.

Sixty years before a crisis at Oroville Dam sent thousands fleeing for their lives in February, the late governor brought an almost evangelical zeal to erecting the structure that would hold back the Feather River to deliver water to the parched southern half of the state.
Hundreds of pages of state archives, oral history interviews and other documents reveal a portrait of a man hell-bent on building Oroville and the rest of the State Water Project. Determined to leave a personal legacy, Brown misled voters about the State Water Project’s costs, ignored recommendations to delay Oroville’s construction and brushed aside allegations that substandard building materials were being used at the dam. His administration steamrolled past a land-speculation scandal, relentless labor strife and the deaths of 34 workers to get Oroville built on time.
“I didn’t want anything to stop the California Water Project,” Brown said years later, using an earlier name for the project.
Oroville Dam was an extraordinary achievement. It remains America’s highest dam, rising 770 feet from its base and 922 feet above sea level. In 1964, when it was just half built, it prevented a monstrous flood. It came through an earthquake, measuring 5.7 on the Richter scale, in 1975 with “minor superficial damage,” according to a state report. As the linchpin of the state’s water delivery network, capable of holding 3.5 million acre-feet of water, Lake Oroville has played a critical role in California’s meteoric economic and population growth since its completion in 1968.
But now Pat Brown’s son, current Gov. Jerry Brown, finds himself cleaning up a mess that engineering experts believe was caused at least in part by design and construction problems from his father’s day.
In February, a gaping canyon formed in the center of Oroville Dam’s 3,000-foot-long flood-control spillway as a major storm rolled in. The lake rose to its highest level in its 48-year history and crested over the adjacent emergency spillway – a concrete lip resting on an unlined hillside. Some 188,000 residents were told they had only hours to escape when much of the hillside washed away.
The state got a handle on the crisis, and residents returned home after two days. But full recovery will take two years and cost an estimated $550 million, including the expense of replacing the battered main spillway. That’s five times what it cost to build the spillway in the first place, when adjusted for inflation.
Nothing The Sacramento Bee found in the historical records directly foreshadowed the spillway woes, and experts say the problems that plagued construction – the strikes, the land speculation, even the worker fatalities – were on par with big dam projects of that era.
But experts also say the enormity of Pat Brown’s ambitions might well have returned to haunt his son a half-century later.
“It may come back to engineering hubris, and engineering hubris inevitably comes back to bite us in the butt in California,” said Jeffrey Mount, a geologist and water expert at the Public Policy Institute of California.
Jerry Brown’s office declined to make him available for an interview for this story. Brown initially responded sarcastically when asked at a news conference Thursday whether he felt any particular responsibility to repair Oroville Dam because of its ties to his father’s governorship.
“You mean if my father hadn’t done it, I’d say, ‘What the hell?’ I’d say, ‘So what?’ ” he said. “Look, when a dam breaks and it threatens to kill 100,000 people, everybody wants to fix it. And now you say, ‘By the way, your father was involved 40 or 50 years ago.’ That’s an interesting connection, but that doesn’t add to it, other than the fact that we’d like to make the thing work.”
Moments later, however, Brown acknowledged a greater sense of urgency to complete the repairs. He recalled, as a teenager, flying over a deadly flood on the Feather River in the mid-1950s with his father, who was then attorney general, and Democratic presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson. “It was a very impressive sight,” Brown said. “So the fact that we have flood control and a dam up there is very important; so, yes, I do have that personal interest. I want to see it get finished.”
Oroville and the State Water Project represented an audacious undertaking – “the greatest mass movement of water ever conceived by man,” according to a flier the state printed to recruit engineers in 1963. The state was a newcomer to a dam-building boom that blossomed in the 1930s and 1940s, when the federal government built Shasta, Hoover and the other great dams of the West.
The California Department of Water Resources was less than a decade old when work began at Oroville, and it had no experience with anything even close to Oroville’s scale. Then again, no state government did: At that point, major dam projects were exclusive property of the federal government, not the states.
“No other state ever attempted anything like this,” said J. David Rogers, an engineering expert and dam historian at the Missouri University of Science & Technology. “It was larger than any federal dam when it was built. … It was the largest nonfederal public works project in world history. Nothing else out there was as big and as ambitious as the California Water Project.”

‘Lethal arrogance’

Did California get in over its head?

After conducting an independent analysis of the February spillway failure, Robert Bea, of UC Berkeley’s Center for Catastrophic Risk Management, says it did. Bea concluded that numerous corners were cut during the spillway construction. Portions of the concrete chute were too thin; it had a flawed drainage system; and the structure wasn’t properly anchored to the underlying bedrock – findings that have been echoed by preliminary studies by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and a a team of forensics engineers hired by DWR at the insistence of the federal government.|
Bea said the failings showed a “lethal arrogance” on the state’s part. “It’s only a question of time until you’ve got major problems, even failures,” he said.
Rogers said the dam’s main spillway apparently didn’t get the same level of attention as the main dam.
Top engineers and consultants were brought in from all over the world to ensure the dam met the highest standards of that era, which included rigorous studies to prove the bedrock was strong enough to support the dam and withstand the test of time.
The spillways were a different story, Rogers said. They were built on much more weathered rock that easily crumbled this winter. The main spillway, built by George Farnsworth Construction and Oro Pacific Constructors, cost $96 million in today’s dollars, about one-tenth the cost of the main dam.
“I think most of the emphasis and the attention was to the dam and the underground power plant, and those things,” Rogers said. “I don’t know (whether) the spillways got the same level of attention. … There wasn’t a lot of experience in the United States on spillways of that height and that capacity.”
For California officials, building Oroville Dam was an act of redemption.
During the 1930s, California voters approved the construction of the Central Valley Project to bring Northern California water to portions of the San Joaquin Valley. But the bond market was in such desperate condition during the Depression that the state couldn’t finance the project. So state officials asked President Franklin Roosevelt’s administration to build the CVP instead.
As the 1950s drew to a close, Pat Brown was determined to expand water deliveries. The CVP only went as far as the Fresno area; Brown wanted to bring water clear to the Mexico border. His administration refused to play second fiddle to the feds. “There is no justification whatsoever for the people to expect the Great White Father in Washington to solve all their problems,” former DWR Director Harvey Banks said in an interview for an oral history project in the late 1970s at UC Berkeley’s Bancroft Library.

‘A monument to me’

Brown, who was elected governor in 1958, saw Oroville and the State Water Project as a chance to put his personal stamp on California.
“I think it’s a monument to me, and I’m very proud of it,” he told the Berkeley interviewers. The California Aqueduct, which cuts through the San Joaquin Valley to Southern California carrying Oroville’s water, was named for him. Brown campaigned relentlessly for the project, convincing the Legislature and then the voters to go along.
He cajoled Southern California officials, who were leery about costs, into providing crucial political support. His administration sweet-talked wary Butte County residents into flooding entire towns and removing tens of thousands of acres of land from county tax rolls. In exchange, he promised to make Lake Oroville a tourism mecca, a pledge that has largely gone unfulfilled.
Brown wasn’t above fudging the numbers. To get the State Water Project built, including the aqueduct and other facilities, Brown needed voters to approve a $1.75 billion bond measure ($14.3 billion in today’s dollars). Brown told the Berkeley interviewers that he and his advisers realized the project’s true cost was probably around $2.5 billion but weren’t sure voters would swallow such a number.
“We didn’t know exactly the cost of the project. We hadn’t priced it out to any exactitude,” Brown said in the Berkeley interview. Besides, the governor believed cost didn’t really matter given what was at stake. “You need water. Whatever it costs, you have to have it,” he said.
The bond measure squeaked by in November 1960 with 174,000 votes, a 3 percent margin. Yet that didn’t guarantee Oroville would get built right away. Cost became an issue almost immediately, and some advisers urged Brown to postpone Oroville for a while and concentrate on other elements of the project first.
Brown, however, wouldn’t wait. Delay would only lead to higher costs later on, he reasoned. Besides, the governor was deeply affected by the historic flood along the Feather River of 1955, which killed 20 people. This was the flood his son recounted last week.
The decision proved prescient. In late December 1964, a powerful storm sent waves of water into the Feather River watershed. State officials contemplated deliberately breaching levees in rural areas to save the region’s urban areas. Barely half finished, and standing just 400 feet high, Oroville dam proved mighty enough to hold back the the floodwaters.
“The dam was only half up, but it was up just enough to save Marysville and Yuba City,” Brown told the Berkeley interviewers. “So I was again vindicated in the decisions that I had to make.”

Construction problems

Oroville Dam’s construction took five years and had problems almost from the start. Like many projects in those days, it also took a large death toll.
Local historians say 34 men died building the dam and the surrounding infrastructure. There were fatal heat strokes, heart attacks, explosions, cave-ins and truck and tractor wrecks. The worst accident occurred in 1965 when two trains – one whose 40 cars were loaded with heavy dam-fill, the other empty – smashed head-on in a fiery collision at a tunnel entrance. Four men died.
In 1964, at least three state workers were fired in a land-speculation scandal. Officials said the workers had purchased land near the dam site knowing they’d turn a hefty profit when the state bought it. It wasn’t until a decade later that the full extent of the scandal emerged, when The Bee published an investigative series revealing that insider dealing by state employees inflated the state’s land-acquisition costs by about $6 million (nearly $50 million in today’s dollars).
Work at Oroville Dam was mired in labor problems. Workers went on strike after strike seeking higher wages and to protest what they called unsafe working conditions. During one strike, as many 1,000 workers walked off the job. At one point, tensions between workers who’d just concluded a strike and those who didn’t honor their picket line erupted in a rock-throwing fight.
The biggest controversy, though, came in January 1964, when the Oroville Mercury-Register stunned its readers with a blockbuster allegation: Substandard materials were being used to build the dam’s earthen wall as well as one of the tunnels that was being dug to release water.
The story, based on an interview with an unnamed engineer and photos the paper took inside the construction zone, triggered a swift reaction from a local state senator who called for fact-finding committees to investigate.
Brown, however, bristled. In an interview a day later, he called the story “irresponsible and erroneous.” Although he publicly welcomed an investigation, he privately urged DWR’s chief engineer Alfred Golze to demand a retraction from the paper, according to memos stored in the state archives.
Lawmakers were granted a hearing at a state Senate committee, which declined to act after hearing testimony from the state’s engineers and the paper’s publisher, who refused to divulge the name of his tipster. Golze didn’t seek the retraction, but the California Water Commission – a division of the DWR – wrote in a report released three months later that there was no evidence “that Oroville Dam was designed or is being built in an unsafe manner.”
While the main structure of the dam itself has held up, other portions of the Oroville complex have experienced problems.
In 2009, five workers were injured while working on a repair as water surged through a river outlet, blowing out a steel bulkhead. The state Occupational Safety and Health Administration slapped DWR with a $141,375 fine for safety violations. Three years later, a major fire shut down a hydroelectric power plant in nearby Thermalito for several days. It’s still not fully repaired.
Neither of those incidents compared with what happened in February. Rogers, the dam expert from Missouri, said the crisis should serve as a wake-up call. The bold infrastructure projects of the past are in dire need of upgrades.
“The lesson to be learned is, ‘America, your infrastructure is aging,’ ” he said. “You can expect more of this kind of stuff.”

Ryan Sabalow: 916-321-1264, @ryansabalow


Science is clear — twin tunnel plan will hurt the Delta

By EAST BAY TIMES EDITORIAL BOARD |

PUBLISHED: May 12, 2017 at 10:00 am | UPDATED: May 12, 2017 at 11:16 am

Gov. Jerry Brown is never more convincing than when he is blasting President Donald Trump for his failure to make policy decisions based on the best science available.
It’s too bad the governor doesn’t see the hypocrisy of his approach to the Delta Tunnels project, which has clearly stated, coequal goals of  ecosystem restoration and water supply reliability.
It is a Trumpian fallacy.
Building the tunnels will produce a more reliable source of water for California, but federal scientists have been saying for years that the massive, $17 billion project will also only make things worse for the fragile Delta, the largest estuary west of the Mississippi that is responsible for much of the state’s drinking water.
A recently released draft analysis of Brown’s Delta tunnels WaterFix project — this one by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service — adds another scientific voice saying the project not only won’t help the salmon and Delta smelt populations, it also will likely do additional damage.
Specifically, the draft report says, “using the best science available, the Fish Agencies have provided evidence that some aspects of the proposed action will have significant adverse effects on listed species and critical habitat.”
Among other issues, it is expected that Delta smelt habitat would be negatively impacted for 10 years during construction and that the project would result in killing an additional 7 percent of the Chinook salmon winter run, doing further harm to a valued endangered species. The scientists also say the proposed habitat restoration isn’t enough to offset environmental damage.
The report is undergoing review and is subject to change, but the conclusions about the detrimental impact on salmon runs and the Delta smelt are similar to previous scientific reviews.
In 2016, the Delta Independent Science Board found gaping holes in the tunnel project.
The board reviewed the project draft environmental impact review and found it contained no analysis of how the project would affect the existing Delta levee system, the impacts  of climate change or alternatives to building the tunnels.
In 2012, the prestigious National Academy of Sciences took a comprehensive look at the twin-tunnel plan and found it riddled with holes and inconsistencies, including the failure to examine the potential to reduce demand for Delta water through efficiencies and conservation.
The science on the Delta is clear. The only way to restore the Delta’s health is to get more water flowing through it, not less. And if you believe Southern California water districts are fighting for a $17 billion system that will give them not a drop more water — we’d like to sell you a nice big red bridge.


The Sacramento-Delta remains high due to water releases from Oroville Dam on the Feather River as well as Lake Shasta on the Sacramento River, and there are only a few launch ramps available in the extreme north Delta. American shad remain the top species from Freeport north, but the only locations in which boats can launch are either Clarksburg or Miller Park. Stripers continue to move rapidly through the system on their way both up and down to the Feather River or San Francisco Bay, but striper action has slowed with the high water. Sturgeon fishing has been spectacular in the Carquinez Straits in deep water between the Benicia/Martinez and Carquinez Bridges. 
Alan Fong of the Fishermen’s Warehouse in Sacramento reported Sunday 5-14, “American shad have been the top species, but those drop-shotting for them off of boats have been using up to 4 ounces to keep their shad darts down. We have been selling a lot of shad darts so I know the bite has been good. The river remains high with the only local launch out of Miller Park. From the banks, anglers are using 1 to 1.5 ounce egg sinkers on a 20-inch leader with a shad dart in order to stay on the bottom.”
Sturgeon fishing remains excellent in lower Suisun Bay with Tony Lopez of Benicia Bait saying, “They are tearing them up in the straits right now with some boats catching and releasing up to 12 sturgeon between the Benicia/Martinez and Benicia Bridges with lamprey eel. These fish are either oversized or slot-limit, and the bite is hot. The winds have been the limiting factor, but once the wind lies down, the action is outstanding. Shore fishermen are using blood worms, pile worms, or anchovies for small keeper striped bass.”
The wind has been a constant in the Delta, and the winds and dropping water temperatures have led to a change in techniques for largemouth bass fishermen. Most striped bass fishermen have been focusing on the San Joaquin side during the period of high water on the Sacramento River, but the bite has slowed down some within the past few weeks.
Captain Mike Gravert of Intimidator Sport Fishing said, “This season has been both challenging and rewarding, and it is definitely a different year with all of the water. The high water has led to a change in tactics with some new game plans for this spring, but we have seen solid limits day-in and day-out for our clients, and I don’t see any reason why this won’t continue until the end of our season on May 31st. The bass have not been in huge groups, and after this last full moon, I don’t expect to see them schooled up into the fall. We are drifting both live bluegill and golden shiners as the troll bite has just been fair. During period of slack tides or winds, we have been trolling P-Line Predators or drifting either Blade Runner or P-Line Laser Minnows spoons. The spoon bite has been limited since the big schools haven’t been present.”
Dan Mathisen of Dan’s Delta Outdoors in Oakley said, “It was tough out there during the FLW Costa Series during the week, and fishermen averaging 13 pounds per day were able to cash a check. The top baits were Roboworms in Margarita Mutilator, and we also had a top finisher use one of our Dan’s Delta swimjigs and our red craw crankbaits. Most fishermen were working at depths to 8 feet, but there was minimal site fishing due to the winds murking up the water. I am out with the Deer Valley High School team from Antioch in the FLW 2 High School State Championship Series with over 60 high school teams entered in the event.”
Hunter Schandler of Modesto took the Costa FLW Series Western Division event with a three-day total of 57 pounds, 1 ounce, and he worked the riprap along the banks inside of the weedlines with the Lucky Craft BDS4 crankbait on the incoming tide. On the flood tides, Schandler worked Senkos along the tules for a few quality largemouth bass.


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