7. CARMEL RIVER FISHERY REPORT
Meeting Date: October 20, 2003 Budgeted: N/A
Program/Line Item No.: Aquatic Staff
Committee Recommendation: N/A
CEQA Compliance: N/A
Note: This report provides information for a two-month period, covering August and September 2003.
AQUATIC HABITAT AND FLOW CONDITIONS: During August and September 2003, Carmel River streamflow conditions were critical or lethal for rearing juvenile steelhead in the lower river and good for rearing fish upstream of Robinson Canyon. In August 2003, mean daily streamflow recorded at the District’s Carmel River Sleepy Hollow Weir gaging station averaged 12 cubic feet-per-second (cfs) and ranged from 9.3 to 14 cfs, and in September it averaged 9.7 cfs and ranged from 8.8 to 11 cfs.
In August 2003, 0.01 inches of rainfall was recorded by Cal-Am at San Clemente Dam (SCD) and no rainfall was recorded in September. The long-term monthly average at this site is 0.04 inches in August and 0.16 inches in September.
The Carmel River Lagoon has been closed since July 2, 2003. Lagoon water quality was good to fair for steelhead during August and September, but the water depth continued to decline throughout the two-month period. Streamflow at the District’s Highway One Bridge declined to zero on July 27 and the riverfront receded upstream throughout August, ultimately stabilizing at point approximately 0.5 mile downstream of Schulte Road Bridge by September 5, 2003.
SUMMER STEELHEAD RESCUES: Staff started the 2003 summer steelhead rescues on June 30, 2003 as flows neared 10 cfs at the Highway 1 bridge. By September 5, 2003 a total of 55,287 fish had been rescued including 39,553 by MPWMD staff and 15,287 by volunteers from the Carmel River Steelhead Association (CRSA). Most notable was the abundance of juvenile steelhead rescued throughout the reach above Via Mallorca Road, where weekly totals exceeded 5,000 fish during four out of ten weekly periods (See inset chart below). The combined rescue totals for MPWMD and CRSA set a ten-year record for the number of fish rescued, exceeding the previous record of 38,995 in 2001 by approximately 16,000 fish. This year’s record numbers are probably a reflection of improved substrate conditions, increased numbers of returning adult steelhead due to past rescues of juvenile steelhead in this reach, and high reproductive success due to low, but adequate flows for spawning, embryo incubation, and fry emergence. In addition, the increased turbidity below San Clemente Dam, resulting from California-American Water Company’s drawdown project, may have increased dispersal of fish from rearing areas upstream of the Narrows to the lower river.
SLEEPY HOLLOW STEELHEAD REARING FACILITY: Currently, the Facility is in production mode, with all pumps functioning normally and the cooling tower running. By September 5, 2003, when fish rescues effectively ended, staff had stocked 28,327 fish at the Facility, or approximately one-half of the total number rescued from the lower river. As of September 30, a total of 21,041 fish were on hand with overall survival estimated at 75%, including the 286 fish that have voluntarily migrated out of the Facility.
At the request of District staff, the California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG) conducted an annual health check at the Facility on Thursday, September 4, 2003. CDFG’s fish pathologist examined 14 moribund or dead fish and confirmed the presence of disease causing bacteria. The fish had no external parasites and appeared to be lean, but not malnourished. This was confirmed by the presence of internal body fat covering approximately 25% of the intestinal cecae i.e., (internal fatty appendages where fish store excess body fat). Due to the presence of internal bacteria, CDFG recommended changing the existing quarantine protocol by treating the incoming fish with an antibiotic bath, prior to the existing formalin treatment. In addition, CDFG recommended supplemental Vitamin C and E as an added immune system boost for stressful situations. CDFG is continuing to analyze several tissue samples for the presence of bacterial kidney disease and whirling disease.
Pump Failure: On Sunday evening, September 14, at 09:30 P.M., staff was alerted by an alarm call from Sleepy Hollow. Investigation that evening showed that Pump No. 5 had failed and the Pumps 3 and 4 were operating, as programmed, to supply water from the cold well to the rearing channel and tanks. After further testing and pulling the pump on Monday, staff concluded that Pump No. 5 had failed, due to a primary seal. The pump was transported to Alsop Pump Inc. on Monday and a new seal was ordered that same day. The seal did not arrive until Friday morning, September 19 and was installed in the pump by noon that same day. Due to the importance of this pump, staff decided to immediately reinstall the pump and completed the reinstall by COB on Friday, September 19. Due to the critical nature of this pump, staff recommended to the General Manager that the District purchase an additional pump to act as a backup for Pump No. 5, in case of future failures. This way, a back pump could be installed at the same time the malfunctioning pump is removed, thereby reducing downtime from as much as one week to less than eight hours. The General Manager concurred with the recommendation and a new pump was ordered.
Turbidity Levels: Throughout this year’s rearing season, the turbidity of water at the intake to the Facility has been elevated due to continuing operations at San Clement Dam, where Cal-Am has been required to lower the water surface elevation for the Interim Drawdown Project (IDP). The purpose of the IDP is to reduce the safety risk to downstream lives, following a seismic failure of San Clemente Dam. One environmental consequence of the IDP has been elevated turbidity of water released through the dam. During the IDP, turbidity levels in the reservoir have ranged from approximately 7 to 28 Nephelometric Units (NTUs), representing a 10- to 100-fold increase compared to typical pre-project levels (See inset chart below). At the Facility intake, levels are somewhat lower, but still significantly above pre-project levels and in a range that can affect fish health. While the increased turbidity has not apparently caused direct mortality to fish in the Facility, levels in the 15+ ranges appear to interfere with feeding, especially in rearing tanks, where particles tend to remain in suspension. In the upper end of the rearing channel, turbidity is equal to river levels, but some of the suspended material settles out in the channel; equaling ~ 50% of the upstream levels at the midway station.
Early Release of Fish from Facility: On Wednesday, October 1, 2003, District staff attended a conference call at the request of California-American Water Company (Cal-Am). The conference call included representatives from the Department of Water Resources, Division of Safety of Dams, Cal-Am, CDFG, NOAA-Fisheries and the District. The purpose of the call was to coordinate near- term activities at San Clemente Dam, as Cal-Am prepares to enter a transition period from the interim drawdown condition back to full pool at the reservoir. The group discussed several features of the plan operation including the timing of when the water would be allowed to fill the reservoir, means to reduce impacts of entrained sediment, and how the operations would affect the District’s plan to release fish from the Facility. Based on current plans, District staff has decided to begin releasing fish from the Facility on November 1 with a goal of releasing all fish by November 15, 2003. While there is some risk associated with releasing the fish earlier, before the lower river has advanced to the lagoon, staff believes the risk of holding fish while increased sediment is mobilized during early storm events is far greater.
10/7/2003 1:06:33 PM
 Source of Data: Preliminary data from Entrix Inc. (San Clemente Reservoir) and MPWMD (Sleepy Hollow Weir/San Clemente Ford