Letter: Thoughts on Napa County’s salmon population

Water Audit California wishes to comment on the Brent Randol article in the Napa Register highlighting “salmon making their way up Putah Creek,” which outlined the admirable success from Solano County efforts at reestablishing salmonid populations. A similar project is just about to make its much-needed public launch in Napa County.

Two statistics are representative of the cumulative effect from neglect of Napa watercourses. Seventy-five years ago, about 6,000 to 8,000 salmonids returned annually to spawn in the Napa River. Now only about 80 fish return each year. California freshwater shrimp are believed to have lived in the Napa Valley since the Jurassic period – for more than 25 million years – but they are now believed rendered extinct for lack of a trickle of water.

Environmental remediation projects are by their nature complex undertakings, rendering half-measures largely a waste of time and money. As an incomplete illustration, if salmonids do not have access to suitable spawning gravels with sufficient cold water, they cannot reproduce. Barriers obstructing passage to spawning gravels are as destructive to sustaining fish populations as drying the waterways.

We should use this brief break in water woes to establish collaborative, co-operative, county and department wide environmental best practices and adaptive management. The same skills and resources that have made Napa a globally enviable agricultural powerhouse can simultaneously revitalize its environment.

In March 2023, Water Audit and Save Napa Valley Foundation will cohost the 2023 Napa Water Forum – The Refugia Project to share our findings and proposals with the public. There will be an example of a state-of-the-art comprehensive monitoring system that addresses both consumptive and environmental concerns; agencies will introduce their diverse initiatives for a comprehensive fish passage plan for rehabilitating the Napa Valley stream system; and presenters will offer their ideas for adding redundancy and capacity to the Napa consumptive water system, while simultaneously remediating much of the environmental harm caused to date.

There will be limited seating, so please reserve tickets early at WaterAuditCA.org.

~ The Directors of Water Audit California

Published in the Napa Valley Register on Jan 28, 2023 Letter: Thoughts on Napa County’s salmon population.