Consider Expenditure of Budgeted Funds to Conduct a Test Installation of a Sonic Fish Counting Device in the Lower Carmel River to Enumerate the Steelhead Run


Meeting Date:

March 15, 2010





Darby Fuerst,


Project Expenditures


General Manager

Line Item No.:



Prepared By:

Kevan Urquhart

Cost Estimate:



General Counsel Review:N/A

Committee Recommendation: The Administrative Committee considered this item on March 9, 2010 and recommended Board approval.

CEQA Compliance:N/A


SUMMARY:The Board will consider authorizing expenditure of budgeted funds to retain Peter Johnson, Senior Research Scientist of the firm LGL Northwest for an initial amount of $8,318 to: (a) reconnoiter the lower eight miles of the main-stem Carmel River to identify one or more installation sites for a Dual-Frequency Identification Sonar [DIDSON] device, and if the abundance of adult immigrant steelhead in the lower Carmel River is adequate to do so, (b) provide and temporarily install a DIDSON device at one site for up to four consecutive days, and (c) provide a brief memo report outlining why certain sites were optimal for the installation of a future DIDSON by the District.The report will also assess the effectiveness of any short-term installation of the device in enumerating immigrating adult steelhead, and if possible also larger emigrating juvenile steelhead. District staff selected Mr. Johnson for this work because of the consultantís familiarity with, and demonstrated success in installing and operating DIDSON devices at multiple locations in California for other government agencies, including the California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG).Mr. Johnson is also the primary vendor recommended by the hardware manufacturer as being one of the most experienced individuals utilizing their hardware on the West Coast, including the Columbia River.Based on this experience and expertise, District staff believes that Mr. Johnson will provide the most cost-effective and timely assistance in responding to these issues.

RECOMMENDATION:Staff recommends that the Board approve an expenditure of funds not-to-exceed $8,318 to contract with Mr. Peter Johnson of LGL Northwest to: conduct a test installation of a DIDSON fish counting device in the lower Carmel River.


BACKGROUND:  The District operates and maintains the fish-counting weir on the San Clemente Dam (SCD) fish ladder as an integral component of our overall environmental monitoring program.Though the Mitigation Program for the MPWMD Water Allocation Program does not specifically address this monitoring element, it is clear that data on the status of the steelhead run in the Carmel River is essential to documenting the ongoing impacts to, and recovery from California American Waterís (Cal-Am) and othersí water diversions, which the District regulates.This record of fish counts has been maintained by District staff since 1988, and was collected prior to 1988 by Cal-Am starting in 1954. The District recently participated in signing a Memorandum of Understanding among key parties participating in the effort to remove SCD.If outstanding issues are resolved, it is projected to take three years to remove the dam, during the second year of which the existing fish-counting station will be removed.Thus, it is possible that the District will no longer have a count of fish passing SCD in as little as three years from now.


In 1997, steelhead in south-central California were listed as threatened under the Federal Endangered Species Act (ESA).In 2000, the National Marine Fisheries Services (NMFS) promulgated Section 4d rules for protecting steelhead.The Districtís management of the water resources of the Carmel River and Seaside Groundwater Basins is significantly affected by restrictions intended to sustain and prevent the extinction of steelhead.Thus, it is of the utmost importance to be able to continue to document the trend in steelhead abundance.Installing a DIDSON device to count fish in concert with the remaining years that the fish counter at SCD may be in operation, may enable the District to index the two counts to each other, and thus provide a quantitative link to the trends in the historical data set.


A serious short-coming with the existing fish-counting device is that it is 18.6 miles upstream of the mouth of the river.It is roughly estimated that 40% or more of the total steelhead run never reaches San Clemente Dam.These 18.6 miles contain significant spawning habitat for adult steelhead in the main-stem of the river, as well as in five major tributaries.The quality and quantity of spawning habitat is likely increasing in the main-stem of the lower river each year, due to the ongoing habitat restoration efforts of the District and other non-profit community partners.There is evidence from redd surveys conducted annually by the District, that the number and proportion of adults spawning in the lower river may be increasing in recent years.Thus, moving the fish counting site as far downstream as possible, could demonstrate an as yet un-enumerated increase in the size of the total steelhead run, and would allow District staff to report an annual number that more accurately represents the total steelhead run size.Since the NMFS recovery goal under the ESA is based on the total run size of fish, without a counting location that enumerates the vast majority of adult immigrant steelhead, it will be uncertain whether the recovery goal has been met.


In a prior staff report to the Board on June 16, 2008 (Technical Memorandum 2008-01), staff identified the problems with attempting to install a replacement mechanical fish-counting device in the lower river, and identified that acoustic sonar technologies were likely the most feasible alternative to enumerate fish passage in the lower river.The DIDSON device is the latest generation of such technology ( than boat-towed side-scan sonar, this is the only sonar technology that actually generates low-resolution images of the actual objects being observed by the acoustic beam (see Exhibit 10-A).Older technologies provide only numeric output that must be mathematically interpreted by an algorithm to make a probability-based decision as to whether the object observed is actually a fish versus debris or some other fluid density anomaly.


A DIDSON device (Exhibit 10-B) is currently being successfully operated on an ongoing basis by NMFS on Scott Creek in Santa Cruz County.Both the Carmel River Steelhead Association and the Carmel River Watershed Conservancy are on record at the February 25, 2010 Board Meeting in support of the District acquiring and evaluating a DIDSON device.††


Changes to the rules for the CDFGís, Fisheries Restoration Grants Program (FRGP) have now allowed applications to support the costs for long-term monitoring of key anadromous fisheries populations.Since the Carmel River steelhead run is the only long-term database of steelhead abundance available south of the Russian River, and also the only one within the South Central Coast Distinct Population Segment listed under the Federal Endangered Species Act, the FRGP is likely to place a significant priority on supporting the District to continue the monitoring of this population.If the site evaluation and pilot project are successful, it will enhance our justifications for a pending grant application of approximately $90,000 - $180,000 for the purchase of one or more DIDSON devices to install in the lower Carmel River by 2012.The cost of evaluating, installing and maintaining the device, as well as reporting its data on the Districtís web pages and Annual Mitigation and Monitoring Report will be cited as matching funds for the grant application.Last year, the FRGP funded the Humboldt State University to install one DIDSON device on Redwood Creek in Northern California.Those applicants had, in advance, identified a river site for the deviceís installation.The Districtís grant application will be much more robust if we are able to show that we have already committed funds for the same purpose, by hiring an experienced and qualified consultant as soon as feasible to make the site selection for the District.


The consultant believes it is likely that he can prove the efficacy of the DIDSON device on the Carmel River in as little as four field days.The last two weeks of February and the first two weeks of March usually comprise the peak of the annual run, when it would have been best to conduct a field test of the DIDSON device.However, because Mr. Johnson is not available until May, there may no longer be enough steelhead in the river to conduct a thorough test, and staff will instead focus on selecting optimal sites for a future installation.The Senior Fisheries Biologist will consult with the General Manager in order to decide whether the consultantís scope should only be for site evaluations or also include a field test for four days.If the consultant cannot effectively complete a full field test before the steelhead run tapers off, he will select a preferred installation site, provide a site design and layout, and decide whether one or two DIDSON devices will be needed to fully scan the channel width of the Lower Carmel River.


IMPACT ON FISCAL AND STAFF RESOURCES: The funds to cover this expenditure have been reallocated from Line Item No. 2-3-2 B., Water Resource Assistants and Line Item No. 2-3-2 C., Seasonal Fish Rescue Workers during the Mid-Year Budget revision approved at the February 25, 2010 Board Meeting.This reallocation was made possible by the unusually early closure of the Sleepy Hollow Steelhead Rearing Facility this year, which reduced the need for temporary staff and operation of the facility.This reallocation still leaves a full month of staff time during June for two future Fish Rescue Workers, and two existing Water Resources Assistants, as well as part-time availability for one of the Water Resources Assistants through May of this Fiscal Year.It is anticipated that the work proposed under this contract will be completed in May 2010.†††



10-A††† Sample screen output from a DIDSON scanning for salmonids

10-B††† Photographs of an existing DIDSON set up on Scott Creek, Santa Cruz Co., CA

10-C††† Sample Fee Schedule provided by Mr. Johnson