Wednesday, 30 November 2022

Regional

Dungeness crabs on fishing vessel. Photo courtesy of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Wildlife officers from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife Marine Enforcement Division have noticed an uptick in the number of commercial Dungeness crab cases in North Coast waters since December 2021.

Since Dec. 9, 2021, there have been five cases out of Crescent City and two out of Eureka regarding possession of undersize crabs by commercial crab fishermen.

The most common violation during this period has been commercial harvest of undersized crabs.

Commercial Dungeness crab fishermen are expected to measure their entire catch and keep only crabs that are equal to or greater than 6 ¼ inches, which is slightly more than the required 5 ¾ width required of recreational crabbers. There is a provision in the law to authorize possession of no more than one percent of the catch to be undersize.

In all seven cases, citations were written, the loads were seized and the proceeds from the sales of the crab were directed to the Wildlife Preservation Fund until the cases can be adjudicated in court.

Collectively in the seven cases, there were 575 undersized crab discovered during inspections in the past few months.

The illegal loads seized have ranged from 8 to 24 percent undersized, making them gross violations of the one percent undersized Dungeness crab allowance.

During the investigations, wildlife officers discovered evidence that some boat crews had attempted to avoid wildlife officers at the dock and had possibly dumped a load of short crabs. One of the cited violators had been recently warned by wildlife officers for possession of short crabs.

A slightly different type of Dungeness crab violation also occurred in December 2021 involving an anonymous citizen tip that a commercial passenger fishing vessel would be using 120 recreational traps in addition to their commercial traps to fish for commercial Dungeness crab outside of San Francisco Bay.

Their investigation revealed that the suspect fisherman was illegally using recreational traps prior to the commercial season opener to enhance his commercial landings. In total, 8,322 pounds of crab were seized.

“Wildlife officers hope word will spread through the commercial crab fishing industry that Dungeness crab violations will result in citations and possible permit suspensions or revocations,” said David Bess, CDFW Deputy Director and Chief of the Law Enforcement Division. “California’s commercial crab fishing industry has historically been a viable commercial fishery that contributes much to California dinner tables and the economy. The majority of commercial crab fishermen remain compliant. Our end goal is to simply reduce the violations of a few to zero.”

Both commercial and recreational crabbers are required to have a measuring device to ensure all Dungeness crab meet the minimum size limit of 6 ¼ inches for commercial harvest and 5 ¾ inches for recreational harvest, measured by the shortest distance through the body from edge of shell to edge of shell directly in front of and excluding the points (lateral spines).

While there has been an observed uptick in the number of commercial crab violations, CDFW commends the broader majority of the commercial Dungeness crab fleet for their compliance with the rules governing the fishery and their significant efforts to reduce the risk of whale and sea turtle entanglements.

A close-up view of the head and front section of a Chinook salmon.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife on Thursday announced that the Department of Water Resources, or DWR, will receive $1.5 million in funding for the Juvenile Salmonid Collection System Pilot Project in the McCloud Arm of Shasta reservoir.

This project is the first test of a collection system that would be an integral part of reintroducing endangered winter-run Chinook salmon and other runs of salmon to their historical habitat.

“The time for action is now; winter-run Chinook salmon need access to their historical spawning habitat,” said CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham. “Recent droughts have decimated winter-run Chinook salmon populations in the Sacramento River below Shasta Dam. Climate change is expected to repeat this situation with increasing regularity. With our state, federal and tribal partners, we can help this iconic run of Chinook salmon and increase the flexibility of California’s limited water supplies. We acknowledge and thank DWR for their initiative on this project. It would not have been possible without DWR’s leadership.”

The pilot project is designed to solve what may be the biggest challenge in reintroducing winter-run Chinook salmon to the cold McCloud River. Biologists and engineers need to collect juvenile salmon once they hatch in the river but before they swim into Shasta reservoir, where they are at risk of predators and other threats.

The collection system just downstream from where the river enters the reservoir would funnel colder water — and the young fish — to a collection point. The fish would then be transported around Shasta Dam and released into the Sacramento River to continue their migration to the ocean.

CDFW is leveraging funding from the Wildlife Conservation Board to reduce the impacts of drought on fish and wildlife. The grant awarded to DWR totals $1.5 million for this first year of testing the collection system.

“DWR is thankful for this funding and the ongoing coordination with our partners that will allow this important work to continue,” said DWR Director Karla Nemeth. “Drought and climate change have exacerbated the challenges posed to Californians, as well as our ecosystems and native species. This pilot project is just one of many efforts being implemented to address these challenges head on as we navigate unprecedented dry conditions.”

The collection system consists of a debris boom, guidance net, fish trap and temperature curtain, which will be tested in the McCloud Arm of Shasta reservoir from mid-September to mid-November, after recreational activities wind down for the season.

Biologists and engineers from DWR, CDFW and NOAA Fisheries will test the collection system but will not yet release winter-run Chinook salmon into Shasta reservoir yet — this will occur once the collector is fully tested and its operation is successful.

“We have a window of time to recover California’s most endangered salmon, but that time is running out,” said Barry Thom, regional administrator of NOAA Fisheries West Coast Region. “Saving these native fish will take science, ingenuity and lots of collaboration by all of us who want to see winter-run Chinook swim in their original habitat once again.”

In the 1940s, construction of Shasta and Keswick dams blocked winter-run Chinook salmon from reaching their original spawning grounds in the McCloud River. They began spawning instead in the Sacramento River below the dams, where they are exposed to the summer heat.

Water managers release water from Shasta reservoir to lower river temperatures to improve survival of the eggs of this single remaining population. Drought and climate change will make that increasingly difficult and ultimately impossible.

This project will further state and federal fisheries recovery plans by laying the foundation for reintroduction of salmon into the McCloud River and advancing a more resilient and sustainably managed water resources system that can better withstand drought conditions.

This project furthers the goals of California’s Water Resilience Portfolio and CDFW’s State Wildlife Action Plan, as well as addressing limiting factors specified in state and federal recovery plans.

NORTH COAST, Calif. — On Tuesday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed Rep. Mike Thompson (CA-05)’s H.R. 735, a bill to rename the Cotati Post Office in honor of Arturo L. Ibleto, the Pasta King.

The city of Cotati passed a resolution requesting that Congressman Thompson introduce this bill to honor Art’s life and legacy.

“Art Ibleto was the embodiment of the American Dream. Born in Italy, Art immigrated to Sonoma County after World War II where he met his wife, Vicki, and created a successful local restaurant and catering business,” said Thompson. “The Spaghetti Palace became an institutional landmark and local residents affectionately started to refer to him as the Pasta King. He raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for charitable causes and his philanthropy knew no bounds. I was honored to know him and call him my friend — and it was my immense pleasure to make this tribute possible with my bill.”

The bill now heads to the Senate where it will be considered and then it will be sent to President Joe Biden’s desk for his signature.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife, or CDFW, is issuing a statewide fleet advisory for the commercial Dungeness crab fishery due to a recent humpback whale entanglement, approximately 5 miles west of Cypress Point near Monterey Bay (Fishing Zone 4).

The entanglement was first reported in late January involving heavy line from unknown fishing gear and CDFW is encouraging the commercial fleet and all mariners to be on the lookout for any entangled whale in this area and across California waters.

If anyone sights an entangled whale, do not approach, or attempt to disentangle, but please immediately report it to the U.S. Coast Guard or call the Entanglement Reporting Hotline at 877-SOS-WHAL or 877-767-9425.

Based on recent surveys and historic migration patterns, overall entanglement risk remains low across California waters. CDFW is however issuing this Fleet Advisory for all fishing zones and reminds all in the commercial and recreational fisheries to implement best practices, as described in the Best Practices Guide. California is leading the way on the West Coast in its efforts to minimize risk of entanglement in our commercial fisheries.

“These efforts are supported by a strong collaboration with the fishing community, partner agencies and scientific advisors,” said CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham. “We appreciate this ongoing collaboration and are committed to protecting our natural heritage while providing fishing opportunities to the citizens of California.”

For a map of all fishing zones, see here. For more information related to the risk assessment process, please visit CDFW’s Whale Safe Fisheries page or more information on the Dungeness crab fishery, please visit CDFW’s Crab page, including FAQs for the 2021-22 season of the commercial fishery and FAQs for the new recreational crab trap regulations.

At its Feb. 8 board meeting, Turlock Irrigation District, or TID, announced Project Nexus, a pilot project to build solar panel canopies over a portion of TID’s existing canals to operate and research a truly innovative, multi-benefit, water-energy nexus project that can further California’s push toward water and climate resiliency.

Project Nexus, a public-private-academic partnership among TID, the Department of Water Resources, Solar AquaGrid, and the University of California, Merced, could contribute to a more water resilient future for California and position the State to meet its ambitious clean energy goals.

The first-ever solar panel over canal development in the United States, the Project will assess reduction of water evaporation resulting from midday shade and wind mitigation; improvements to water quality through reduced vegetative growth; reduction in canal maintenance through reduced vegetative growth; and generation of renewable electricity.

Groundbreaking on Project Nexus is scheduled for this fall, with project completion expected in 2024 at multiple locations throughout the TID service territory in California’s Central Valley.

The project will use existing TID infrastructure on already-disturbed land to keep costs low and efficiency high while supporting the region’s sustainable farming tradition.

Additionally, energy storage will be installed to study how storage facilities can support the local electric grid when solar generation is suboptimal due to cloud cover.

The $20 million project is funded by the state of California.

“In our 135-year history, we’ve always pursued innovative projects that benefit TID water and power customers,” said TID Board President Michael Frantz. “There will always be reasons to say ‘no’ to projects like this, but as the first public irrigation district in California, we aren’t afraid to chart a new path with pilot projects that have potential to meet our water and energy sustainability goals.”

While Project Nexus, especially if expanded beyond a demonstration project, offers benefits to TID, the project is seen as a template with potential to be replicated elsewhere in the state to help California achieve its water and energy goals. The inspiration for Project Nexus comes from the concept presented in a recent University of California study, published last March in the journal Nature Sustainability.

The UC study illustrated that covering all of the approximately 4,000 miles of California canals could show a savings of 63 billion gallons of water annually, comparable to the amount needed to irrigate 50,000 acres of farmland or meet the residential water needs of more than 2 million people.

According to the study, the 13 gigawatts of solar power the solar panels would generate each year would equal about one sixth of the state’s current installed capacity.

“The Solar AquaGrid model provides a combined, integrated response to addressing our water-energy nexus,” said UC Merced Professor Roger Bales. “It helps address California’s underlying vulnerabilities while meeting both state and federal level commitments to produce renewable energy, preserve natural lands, lower greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate climate change.”

DWR will oversee administration of the project, will provide technical assistance, as well as serve as a research partner.

“We are excited to explore new efforts to advance the integration of renewable energy into our water supply delivery system,” said Karla Nemeth, director of DWR. “The project offers great potential, and we look forward to collaborating with our local and academic partners to advance these types of multi-benefit projects.”

Turlock Irrigation District has retained Bay Area development firm Solar AquaGrid as project developers and program managers for TID and Project Nexus. The two agencies have been collaborating since the project’s inception.

Solar AquaGrid originated the project after commissioning the UC Merced Study in 2015 and has facilitated collaboration among the various parties to bring Project Nexus to fruition.

“Research and common sense tell us that in an age of intensifying drought, it’s time to put a lid on evaporation,” said Jordan Harris, CEO of Solar AquaGrid. “We are excited to partner with Turlock Irrigation District, DWR, and UC Merced to develop this first-in-the-nation pilot project and bring needed innovation to the Central Valley. Our initial study revealed mounting solar panels over open canals can result in significant water, energy, and cost savings when compared to ground-mounted solar systems, including added efficiency resulting from an exponential shading/cooling effect. Now is the chance to put that learning to the test.”

The California Transportation Commission, or CTC, this week allocated $589 million for projects to repair and improve transportation infrastructure throughout the state.

Senate Bill 1, the Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017, accounts for $302 million – more than half of the funding.

“This investment follows our ‘fix-it-first’ commitment to repair California’s aging infrastructure, while at the same time increasing transit and active transportation options,” said Caltrans Director Toks Omishakin. “These projects will make our transportation system safer and more convenient for all users and create thousands of good paying jobs in the process.”

Projects approved this week include:

• Approximately $1.3 million toward pavement, guardrail, and retaining wall upgrades on U.S. 101 near Crescent City in Humboldt County.
• Approximately $11.7 million toward improvements at Pudding Creek Bridge No.10-0158 on Route 1 in Mendocino County.
• Approximately $1.1 million toward pavement, and guardrail upgrades on Route 1 from Philo Greenwood Road to north of Little Lake Road near Mendocino.
• Approximately $859,000 toward pavement and guardrail upgrades on Route 1 from north of Rockport Street to U.S. 101 near Leggett in Mendocino County.
• Approximately $4.1 million toward a multipurpose paved trail along Route 162 in Covelo in Mendocino County.

Caltrans also presented the CTC with the draft 2022 State Highway Operation and Protection Program, or SHOPP, at this week’s meeting.

Aimed at preserving the condition of the highway system, the draft 2022 SHOPP accounts for $17.3 billion in funding over a four-year period and includes projects for safety, restoration, road and bridge preservation, and other highway-related facilities.

The CTC will host a public hearing in February to receive comments on the draft SHOPP. All the comments will be considered in the final version that goes before the CTC for adoption at its March meeting.

All 2022 SHOPP projects are available on the Caltrans’ Ten-Year Project Book website.

SB 1 provides $5 billion in transportation funding annually split between the state and local agencies. Road projects progress through construction phases more quickly based on the availability of SB 1 funds, including projects that are partially funded by SB 1.

For more information about transportation projects funded by SB 1, visit www.RebuildingCA.ca.gov.

Upcoming Calendar

1Dec
12.01.2022 7:30 am - 8:30 am
Rotary Club of Middletown
1Dec
12.01.2022 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Clearlake City Council
3Dec
12.03.2022 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
3Dec
12.03.2022 11:00 am - 1:00 pm
Weekly writing workshop
6Dec
12.06.2022 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
Rotary Club of Clear Lake
8Dec
12.08.2022 7:30 am - 8:30 am
Rotary Club of Middletown
8Dec
12.08.2022 10:00 am - 3:00 pm
Adult Literacy Program in-person tutor training
9Dec
12.09.2022 4:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Hometown Christmas in Lower Lake
10Dec
12.10.2022 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
10Dec
12.10.2022 10:00 am - 12:00 pm
Ladies of the Lake Quilt Guild

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