Meeting Date:

April 16, 2007





David A. Berger,




General Manager

Line Item No.:




Prepared By:

Beverly Chaney

Cost Estimate:



General Counsel Approval:  N/A

Committee Recommendation:  N/A

CEQA Compliance:  N/A

AQUATIC HABITAT AND FLOW CONDITIONS:  During March 2007, Carmel River streamflow conditions were good for juvenile steelhead rearing. Streamflow conditions ranged from good to poor for upstream and downstream migration, with continuous, but low flow to the Carmel River Lagoon, and discontinuous flow to the ocean. 


During March 2007, the mean daily streamflow recorded at the District’s Carmel River Sleepy Hollow Weir gaging station averaged 46.6 cubic feet per second (cfs) and ranged from 24 to 142 cfs.  There were 1.36 inches of measurable rainfall in March as recorded by California American Water at San Clemente Dam, compared to the long-term March average of 3.36 inches at this site.  The rainfall total for Water Year 2007 to date (October – March) is 10.26 inches, 54% of the long term average of 19.02 inches through March. 


Based on the current river conditions, the Carmel River watershed is experiencing a “critically dry” year (total annual runoff less than 14,900 AF).  Based on the “above Los Padres” (ALP) measurement, baseflow conditions at this time i.e., (16 cfs on April 2, 2007) are lower than in 1994, the last critically dry year, when 19.6 cfs was measured at ALP on April 5, 1994.  For perspective, in 1994 the minimum release at the Sleepy Hollow Weir was 3.5-4.0 cfs in late summer, Los Padres Reservoir was drawn down to 999 feet elevation (40 feet below spill), flow at the Don Juan Bridge fell to 1 cfs, and the river dried back to about Robinson Canyon Bridge.  Note that the storage in Los Padres Reservoir is now significantly less that the 1994 capacity, which means less water available to enhance dry season flows below the reservoir.


CARMEL RIVER LAGOON:  The Carmel River reached the lagoon on January 13, 2007, and the lagoon began to slowly fill.  The WSE reached 8.0 feet above mean sea-level by the end of January, where it remained fairly steady until February 10, 2007.   The barrier sandbar at the south end of the lagoon was breached on February 11, 2007, by the Monterey County Department of Public Works.  Low river flows and storm surge waves caused the lagoon’s mouth to close off and reopen several times during February and early March (see graph below). 


In mid-March, the lagoon closed, and then filled to 9.0 feet before a catastrophic breech that completely drained the lagoon, stranding both juvenile and adult steelhead along the margins and in isolated, deep bedrock pockets along the beach.  On March 22, 2007, State Parks equipment operators created a southerly channel similar to last year’s channel at about 8.5 feet elevation.  The ~300-yard long channel is protected by a sand berm approximately 12 feet in height all the way to the outfall near the rocks on the southern end of the beach.  The WSE rose to approximately 8.5 feet and remained fairly stable through the end of the month.

WSE at the Carmel River Lagoon, March 2007


ADULT STEELHEAD COUNTS AT SAN CLEMENTE DAM:  The fish counter was installed in December 2006.  The first upstream migrating fish for the 2006/2007 season were counted on February 12, 2007 (see graph below).  As of March 31, 2007, 220 fish have been counted.  All fish are being digitally video taped for future analysis.  Compared to the 2005/2006 season, the start of this year’s adult migration was delayed for approximately seven weeks due to the lack of winter rains and the closed lagoon.  Accordingly, the count is significantly below last year’s end-of-March total of 321 fish.















DEC 2006


JAN 2007


FEB 2007


MAR 2007


















STEELHEAD REDDS, ADULTS, AND PASSAGE SURVEY:  During March, staff walked the Carmel River from the Highway 1 Bridge (River Mile 1.1) to San Clemente Dam (SCD) (River Mile 18.6).   The survey’s goals were to: a) quantify the number of spawning redds (nests) and adult fish (including spawning pairs, singles, kelts, and carcasses) in the main-stem river below SCD, and compare those numbers to the fish passage counts past SCD in order to make a better estimate of the river’s total steelhead run size this year; b) assess locations where adult steelhead may become stranded and need to be rescued as flows decrease; and c) to asses the relative numbers of steelhead smolts that may be remaining in the river and might need to be rescued, if the river flows decline to a point where they can’t reach the lagoon, or if the lagoon closes for the last time this year in April, with smolts still ready to emigrate to the ocean but unable to get out. 


Summary of 2007 Redd Survey:    Between Highway 1 and SCD, 210 redds, 72 adults (including seven spawning pairs, 50 “fresh” single fish, four kelts, and four carcasses), one smolt, 15 small juveniles, and no fry were observed.   Of these totals, 39 redds and 34 adults were counted downstream of the Narrows.   At 29 cfs, the reach between Highway 1 and Valley Greens Bridge had numerous shallow glides and riffles that likely had a negative impact on upstream and downstream migration of adults and smolts.  The lack of smolts may be due to the relatively early timing of the survey.  The lack of fry points to the late lagoon opening and subsequent late season spawning.  The fry simply had not emerged from the gravel yet.


JUVENILE STEELHEAD RESCUES:  March’s below average flows and low water surface levels brought reports of stranded adult steelhead in the lagoon and lower river.  Staff received permission from NMFS and CDFG to carry out adult rescues.  A small, late-month storm allowed the fish to move upstream and no rescues were performed.  Staff is preparing to begin rescues in the lower river as soon as flows at the District’s Highway 1 Gage fall below 10 cfs in early April.


SLEEPY HOLLOW STEELHEAD REARING FACILITY:  Staff has been working to get the Facility ready to hold rescued fish.  In March, eight new rearing troughs were installed and    rearing channel power-washing was started.  In early April, staff will have all the Facility’s chillers serviced, the rearing channel power-washed and the drain system checked for problems, the septic system serviced, additional plumbing and covers installed on the troughs, and the pumps, computer, and alarms systems checked.  Once setup of the Facility is completed, rescued fish will be accepted.