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Kern River Hatchery volunteers planting trout in the Kern River.
KERN RIVER FISH STOCKING ISSUE UPDATE
At 11am, Wednesday, February 10th, California Department of Fish & Game volunteer, Mike Mencarini, released several of the 1,050 pounds of rainbow trout into the Kern River, along with retired DFG employee, Ted Panos, right. Many volunteers, residents and business owners were out at Kernville’s Riverside Park to witness the event that is making residents, tourists and business owners thankful after they have not stocked the river with fish in 15 months.
Bakersfield Californian 2-11-2010: Trout in river bring cheers from nearby businesses, lawsuit from environmental group & CORRECTION by Noah Greenwald of the Center for Biological Diversity
Statement on Kern Stocking from Noah Greenwald, Center for Biological Diversity
On 2/12/2010 8:17 AM, Noah Greenwald wrote:
We are challenging the EIR/EIS over impacts to Native Species. According to Dr. Peter Moyle, the Hardhead Minnow, which is the only known species of concern in the Kern below SCE Fairview Dam, is apparently doing okay in the presence of extensive stocking. There is thus currently a low likelihood of harm to native species in this reach. We are not planning to seek an injunction to stop stocking the Kern River at this time.
Noah Greenwald, M.S.
Endangered Species Program Director
Center for Biological Diversity
PO Box 11374
Portland, OR 97211
Assemblymember Jean Fuller arranged for a meeting with Governor Schwarzennegger’s Chief Deputy Legislative Affairs Secretary John J. Moffatt (who grew up in the Kern Valley) and DFG Director John McCamman and other DFG top management staff to discuss the resumption of stocking the Kern River with a contingent representing the Kern River Valley on Wednesday, February 10th. DFG resumed stocking the Kern River exactly 1 hour before the meeting.
Left to Right at the Governor's office at the State Capitol 2-10-2010: Retired District Ranger Dave Freeland, Assistant to Supervisor McQuiston Judy Hyatt, former Friends of the Kern River Hatchery president Jim Hunt, Kernville's Chris Brayman, Assemblymember Jean Fuller, KRV Chamber president Rex Emerson, Kernville Chamber president Jill Thurman, Kern River Valley Revitalization representative Richard Rowe.
SF Chronicle 2-11-2010: Watchdog's suit says hatchery fish hurt natives
2-10-2010: Lawsuit Filed to Protect Native Fish and Amphibians from Hatchery Fish Stocking by the California Department of Fish and Game
The Final DFG Hatchery Operations EIR/EIS was released on January 11, 2010.
What happens when an EIR is completed?
Key sections of the Final EIR/EIS:
Appendix K - Mitigation Strategies for Effects of Fish Stocking [8 page 2995 kb PDF file ]
Appendix M - Responses to Comments [1,256 page 6.2 mb PDF file]
More information & FAQs about DFG's hatchery programs, related studies & the EIR/EIS
Plaintiff's press release following release of final EIR/EIS
Center for Biological Diversity 1-18-2010:
California Fish & Game Releases Flawed Report on Fish-stocking Impacts, Fails to Propose Measures to Protect Native Fish
Example letter to Judge Patrick Marlette
Jim Hunt, past president of Friends of the Hatchery, asks a pointed question
about the proposed mitigations included in Alternative 2, the DFG’s preferred
alternative that recommends continued stocking of trout in the Kern River.
Also at issue, at the Oct. 28 meeting in Bakersfield, was DFG’s lack of
analysis of the economic impact the court-ordered prohibition is having on the valley.
VIDEO: CDFG Meeting in Lake Isabella Oct 13
Produced by former Friends of the Hatchery president Jim Hunt (off camera speaker)
with uniformed DFG’s DFG's James Starr, who is Program Manager for the
Hatchery EIR/EIS responding. Left of Starr is Assemblymember Jean Fuller
& Dr. Jeffrey R. Single DFG Regional Manager.
See more details here Kern River Fish Stocking Issue (updated frequently)
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Maria Rivas with a hatchery-raised Rainbow Trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) which had been planted in the N fork of the Kern River by the Kern River Hatchery. Riverside Park, Kernville with the Long Beach Casting Club on 11-4-06. Photo: Guy Jeans.
KRVR posts the following information to inform residents of the Kern River Valley about this issue. KRVR has not taken a formal position on this issue as yet.
The situation as we understand it:
- In 2006, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Pacific Rivers Council filed a lawsuit against California Department of Fish & Game (DFG) claiming that DFG's fish stocking operation did not comply with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
- In May 2007 the Sacramento Superior Court ruled in favor of the Center for Biological Diversity and the Pacific Rivers Council against the DFG that stocking hatchery fish has a “significant environmental impact on native species of fish amphibians and insects”.
- The DFG was ordered to conduct an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) by the end of 2008. In October, 2008, the DFG told the court that they would not be able to complete the EIR until January 2010. In response, the Court ordered DFG to work Center for Biological Diversity and the Pacific Rivers Council to negotiate an agreement by November 24, 2008 where stocking can take place until DFG’s completion of the required EIR.
- As of November 24, 2008, the DFG was temporarily ordered to stop stocking hatchery trout in 175 streams, lakes and reservoirs across California, including most of Kern River (see map & list at the bottom of this article). See Sacramento Superior Court's Tentative Ruling PACIFIC RIVERS COUNCIL, et al., v. CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND GAME, Case No. 06 CS 01451
- The plaintiffs had a list of 25 species (below) which, if present, they would not agree to allow stocking of trout. This was the basis for the list of waters that were allowed or not allowed to be stocked.
List of 25 species
- There are exceptions. Stocking will be allowed in reservoirs larger than 1,000 acres, which includes Isabella reservoir (surface area: 11,000+ acres), and smaller lakes or ponds not connected to rivers or streams including Ming Lake, Truxtun Lake and River Walk Lake in Bakersfield, Woollomes Lake near Delano & Hume Lake in Tulare County. This may change over time. Current information on the lists of waters and new developments are available on the DFG website: www.dfg.ca.gov including Fish Stocking Program Will Continue Following Court Order & Bodies of Water that will be stocked by DFG 11/24/2008 thru1/1/2010.
- The Kern River is currently not allowed to be planted because it contains one of the 25 sensitive species on the list, the Hardhead Minnow (Mylopharodon conocephalus). The Kern River above Kernville and below Isabella to the mouth of the Canyon also contains hardhead, and the court order for not stocking also includes that entire portion of the river.
- Dr. Peter Moyle of UC Davis is recognized as the foremost authority on inland fishes in California. He supports taking the Hardhead Minnow off the list of species that are negatively impacted by trout stocking. He is working with DFG representatives in negotiations with the plaintiffs in this case. Dr. Moyle researched & wrote CalTrout’s excellent report SOS: California's Native Fish Crisis, released 11-18-2008. Formed in 1970, CalTrout is the nation's 1st statewide conservation group supported by trout fishermen with an altruistic goal: to protect & restore trout and the beautiful places where they live.
- DFG has plans to raise the Kern River Rainbow (Oncorhynchus mykiss gilberti) at the Kern River Hatchery. They would be allowed to plant that fish, if it were available now. BUT, that program is 3 to 5 years away from happening. The fish currently being planted by DFG are generic hatchery raised Rainbow Trout.
- The DFG is still fighting to get the Kern River back on the list of waters to be stocked.
- If the N. Fork of the Kern River is not restocked, it will be ‘fished out ’ very quickly according to DFG fish biologists & local KRV fishing experts.
- A local Kern River Valley ad hoc committee on the Fish Stocking Issue is headed by Jim Hunt of the Friends of the Hatchery, PO Box 901. Kernville, CA 93238-0901. Jim can be reached at
or (760) 376-2895.
Click on image for a larger view.
, owner of Kernville’s River View Lodge
, speaking to Assemblymember Fuller; DFG Staff Fisheries Biologist Jim Starr
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Staff Fisheries Biologist Jim Starr
standing, Assemblymember Jean Fuller
seated; KRV resident
On Friday, April 17, Assemblymember Jean Fuller, (R-Bakersfield) hosted a public forum to discuss fish stocking of the Kern River by Department of Fish and Game. Many people spoke, including
, President Friends of the Hatchery,Sherian van Matre, and John Davis, owner of Kernville’s River View Lodge, who stated that his business is down 30% due to the impacts of the fish stocking ban in the Kern River. As a direct result of the meeting
Kern Valley Sun 4-21-09: Fish & Game tagged, 'disingenuous'/
At the 5-6-09 KRVR Community Meeting
made an update & gave out this 17 page detailed handout, including e-mails with plaintiffs.
5-14-09 Press Release: DFG Announces Changes to List of Water Bodies to b Stocked Kern River No good news: South Fork (Kennedy Meadow in Tulare County) added to the list of waters that will NOT be stocked. No change on N Fork of the Kern River (still not being stocked).
DFG is currently developing a joint EIR/EIS that is anticipated to be finalized by January 2010. Check DFG Hatchery Operations EIR/EIS Page for information. DFG staff indicates that a Draft EIR/EIS is scheduled to be available in
early June 2009 [ now early August 2009]. You can e-mail DFG’s Fisheries Branch Sacramento James A. Starr
to ask to be notified about the Hatchery EIR/EIS process.
KBAK-TV 29 6-2-09: Kern River Valley fights to resume trout releases
Communities in the Kern River Valley say they're being hit hard by a ruling that stopped the stocking of Rainbow Trout in the Kern River. Businesses say it is keeping tourists away. Fishing groups say the ban makes no sense.
6-29-09 Letter from Friends of the Hatcher President Jim Hunt to California Secretary for Natural Resources Mike Chrisman on the Kern River Fish Stocking Issue.
7-31-09 Response from California Secretary for Natural Resources Mike Chrisman to Friends of the Hatchery President Jim Hunt to on the Kern River Fish Stocking Issue.
7-3-09 Letter from Friends of the Hatcher President Jim Hunt to California DFG Director Donald Koch on the Kern River Fish Stocking Issue
7-29-09 Response from California DFG Director Donald Koch to Friends of the Hatchery President Jim Hunt to on the Kern River Fish Stocking Issue
8-14-09 E-mail response to Jim Hunt from Center for Biological Diversity
UPDATE: DFG Hatchery Operations Draft EIR/EIS release delayed again.
CA DFG: Draft EIR/EIS is anticipated to be released for Public review in Late-September 2009. These documents will be available on this Web page.
9-21-09: DFG Invites Comment on Draft EIR/EIS on Hatchery and Stocking Program
The draft report will be released Friday, Sept. 25 and comments will be accepted for 45 days.
9-24-09: DFG Grants Fuller’s Request for Local Meetings
Assemblymember Jean Fuller, (R-Bakersfield), announced today that the Department of Fish and Game will host two meetings in the 32nd Assembly District to hear public comment on the Draft EIR/EIS on Hatchery and Stocking Programs. One in Lake Isabella (Oct 13) & the other in Bakersfield (Oct 28).
9-25-09: Fish Hatchery & Stocking Program draft EIR/EIS is available for review
The DFG/USFWS Fish Hatchery & Stocking Program joint draft EIR/EIS is now available for review. Please see the Notice of Availability for more details. Go to Draft DFG Hatchery EIR/EIS PDF downloads. A copy of the DFG draft Fish Hatchery & Stocking Program EIR/EIS can be viewed at the Kern River Hatchery (Planting Base), 14400 North Sierra Way, Kernville.
Best overview of the fish stocking ban:
BY BRETT WILKISON
Visalia Times-Delta 12-6-08
Critics fear State Stocking Program will lead to extinction of serveral native species.
A back-room deal quietly put a lid on 100 years of California fishing history two weeks ago.
As part of a 2006 lawsuit by 2 environmental groups, the California Department of Fish and Game agreed to stop stocking — or planting — fish in 175 streams, lakes and reservoirs across the state.
The interim agreement, which took effect immediately, covers almost 10 percent of the 2,000 waterways the agency stocks, some since early last century.
It includes stretches of the Sacramento, American and Yuba rivers, angler destinations such as Lake Amador and the Truckee River, and locally the Kaweah River and Kern River, one of the state's most popular trout fisheries. Lake Kaweah and Lake Isabella will still be stocked, as will all privately run trout ponds.
The deal is intended to protect 25 rare native fish and frog species, which some scientists say are threatened by fish stocking, while the department completes a broad study of its stocking program. The study is due to be released in early 2010.
Reaction to the deal from anglers and outfitters, however, has been loud and critical.
The temporary ban will hurt communities dependent on fishing dollars such as Kernville, above Lake Isabella, opponents say.
The town on the banks of the Kern River gets much of its summer business from anglers, who come for the dependable trout fishing.
Stop the stocking and that business will go elsewhere, said John Strange, sporting goods manager at James Sierra Gateway Market in Kernville.
"I shudder to think at what this will do to us," Strange said.Groups: Science shows stocking's effect
The groups behind the lawsuit, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Pacific Rivers Council, say a comprehensive study of Fish and Game's stocking program is long overdue.
The groups convinced Sacramento Superior Court Judge Patrick Marlette that until the agency finishes its environmental impact report — ordered by the judge as part of the 2006 lawsuit and originally due out this year — stocking should be halted in areas where any of 16 native fish or 9 native frog species occur, or in areas where no recent surveys have been done.
"This lawsuit is not about fishing. We don't oppose fishing," said Noah Greenwald, a program director for the Center for Biological Diversity. "Our intent is to make sure that the stocking doesn't contribute to the extinction of those fish and frog species."
That concern is well-placed and the science behind the groups' legal claim is sound, two noted biologists said this week.
In the High Sierra, where with the exception of the Kern River drainage trout did not historically live above 7,000 feet, the mountain yellow-legged frog was once the most common vertebrate, found in most of the range's 4,000 lakes. The frog now occupies only a fraction of those lakes.
Disease and pesticides are partly to blame for that decline, but planted trout are an equal if not larger factor, said Roland Knapp, a veteran research biologist at University of California, Santa Barbara's Sierra Nevada Research Laboratory in Mammoth Lakes.
The fish feed on frog tadpoles and adults, Knapp said, and all recent studies, some even by Fish and Game, have found the same thing, according to Knapp: Where there are introduced trout there are likely no frogs.
Same goes for native fish, which are often eaten, out-competed or, in the case of native trout, interbreed with the introduced fish, reducing their chance of survival, according to University of California, Davis, fish biologist Peter Moyle, an expert on the state's native freshwater fish species.
Most stocking in California over the last century has been "willy-nilly," ignorant of those effects, Moyle said.
Among the fish that have been harmed are the California golden trout and Little Kern River golden trout. Partly because of ill-advised stocking, those and other native trout face a 65 percent chance of extinction within the next century, Moyle said.
"We are at the point where we need to take drastic steps to save these species," he said.Fish and Game responds
Fish and Game officials said they have been put in a tight spot. They say that while part of their job is to protect species, another part is providing fishing to the masses, and barring stocking makes that difficult.
The agency has overhauled its stocking operations in recent years out of concern for native fish and frogs. Non-native trout are no longer planted in water bodies with primarily wild, native trout, and in the High Sierra the department has removed hundreds of lakes, most of them seldom visited, from the stocking program to give frogs back their habitat.
That is partly why so few waters from the Sierra or the south Central Valley — none outside of the Kaweah and Kern — landed on the no-stock list this time around, one local official said. They had already been taken off years ago.
Yet, while a comprehensive study of the stocking program will ultimately be a good thing, officials said, the selective ban could still be excessive and unwarranted on certain waters, including the Kern and Kaweah.Studies on Kaweah, Kern
The Kern was placed on the list out of environmentalists' concerns that a type of minnow called the hardhead was imperiled by planted trout.
The hardhead, however, are abundant in the Kern and have coexisted with introduced fish for years, said Dale Mitchell, a Fish and Game environmental manager based in Fresno.
The Kaweah landed on the list because no recent surveys have been done for sensitive species. But Mitchell said he's almost certain that no rare species exist in the Kaweah.
"We don't like having those waters on [that list]," he said, referring to both the Kern and Kaweah.
The completed study should support reinstating stocking on the two rivers in 2010, he said.
Until then, both rivers should still prove worthwhile destinations for anglers, he said.
"The catch per hour will go down," he said. "But it's not going to be a [situation] where people are going up there and there's not going to be any fish."
But going beyond 2010 without stocking could result in a major decline in the trout population, Mitchell added.
That situation could be grounds for lowering the catch limit, currently five on stretches of the Kaweah and Kern, or for an expansion of catch-and-release regulations, both of which would have to be approved by the state Fish and Game Commission, he said.
Neither step has been seriously discussed yet, he said.Anglers, communities, wild trout caught in middle
Still, local outfitters and fishermen say that environmentalists and state managers are overlooking the impact that even an interim stocking ban could have on fishing-dependent communities and on wild, native trout.
Anglers rack up 100,000 fishing days on the Kern every year and around 140,000 trout had been planted annually in the river to support that use. The Kaweah receives about a fifth as many angler days and was last stocked in 2005 with 1,000 trout, according to Fish and Game records.
Without stocking, anglers, including families that often fish the stocked stretches, could get skunked and decide to take their business out of the area, outfitters say.
That could cost a community such as Kernville millions in license fees, hotel bookings, shopping revenue and fishing services, said Guy Jeans, owner of Kern River Fly Shop in Kernville.
"It's a big blow and a lot of people are pretty upset," Jeans said.
An estimated 70 people packed a room at the Kernville Community Center this week, [the 12-3-8 KRVR Community Meeting] where the discussion turned on trying to get the Kern River removed from the no-stock list through a letter-writing and petition campaign that draws on Fish and Game's latest science on hardhead minnow populations.
"We're fighting for the sportsmen and for our fishing heritage," said Strange, the Kernville sporting goods manager.Future of fishing
Meanwhile, local fishermen, many of who say they've supported previous reforms of the stocking program, are weighing in about a potential double whammy effect of the stocking ban on wild, native trout.
Fishing license fees pay for game wardens. Fewer stocked water bodies could result in fewer license purchases, driving game warden funding down and decreasing fishing patrol, fishermen said.
A Fish and Game spokeswoman said the agency doesn't expect the ban will lead to decreased enforcement.
Nevertheless, anglers are worried that with fewer stocked fish, water bodies that are designated catch-and release refuges for native, wild trout, such as the Kern River above Johnsondale Bridge, will see more fishermen and more illegal take of wild fish.
"I'm a fisherman, but I'm also a conservationist," said Fred Naylor, president of Kaweah Flyfishers in Visalia. "Stocking allows for the survival of those native, wild fish."
But the lawsuit didn't take that into consideration, in the eyes of local fishermen.
"The problem is lawsuits tend to be draconian," said Mark Cave, a Visalia fly fisherman who fishes mostly for wild trout. "We need to have a balance. I recognize that there needs to be a place for people to take their kids to fish. And no one is against frogs. I think we can do both."
Background on the Fish Stocking Issue:
What the plaintiffs say:
Articles about the Fish Stocking Issue:
Kern River Valley Bulletin Board – Fishing Topics
Make your comments known Recreational facilities along the N fork of the Kern River, showing the part of the Kern River now closed to restocking.
According to DFG Fish Biologist Christy McGuire, the sections of the Kern River that are NOT TO BE PLANTED (essentially all of them) are sections 0-4 in Kern County and 5-6 in Tulare County. The stocking sections are listed below. The only sections in the lower river that were planted prior to the court order are sections 1 & 2.
- Section 0 - Below Kern River No. 1 Powerhouse (KR1)
- Section 1 - KR1 Powerhouse to Democrat Dam
- Section 2 - Democrat Dam to Sandy Flat
- Section 3 - Keyesville Bridge to Main Dam
- Section 4 - Riverside Park, Kernville to Kern River No. 3 Powerhouse (KR3)
- Section 5 - KR3 Powerhouse to Fairview Dam
- Section 6 - Fairview Dam to Johnsondale Bridge
Click on image for a larger view
N fork Kern River at Bull Run Creek 2¼ miles N of Kernville. Webcam maintained by Roberta Piazza-Gordon of Kernville’s Pine Cone Inn.