Latest Report on Carmel River and Fish!

Prepared By: Beverly Chaney
Releases from Los Padres Reservoir were reduced again in July from 11.5 to 8.3 cubic-feet-per-second (cfs) to maintain storage as the inflow continued to drop to summer levels. Portions of the lower river, between Meadows Road and the middle of the Rancho Cañada reach, began to dry this month, while additional sections below Schulte bridge became transitional. Fish rescues that were started in late June were continued this month (see details below) as rearing conditions for juvenile steelhead dropped to “poor” below the narrows.  All lower valley tributaries are dry at the confluence.

Mean daily streamflow at the Sleepy Hollow Weir dropped from 13 to 7.2 cfs (monthly mean 9.49 cfs) resulting in 584 acre-feet (AF) of runoff, while mean daily streamflow at the Highway 1 gage dropped from 2.1 to 0.30 cfs (monthly mean 0.73 cfs), resulting in 45 AF of runoff.

There were 0.00 inches of rainfall in July as recorded at Cal-Am’s San Clemente gauge. The rainfall total for WY 2018 (which started on October 1, 2017) is 13.52 inches, or 64% of the long-term year-to-date average of 21.08 inches.

The lagoon mouth is now closed for the summer and the water surface level steadily dropped from ~10.2 to 6.9 feet above mean-sea-level (see graph below).   Water quality depth-profiles were conducted at five sites on July 12 while the lagoon was closed and the river inflow was only 0.73 cfs. Steelhead rearing conditions at all sites were generally “fair to poor” with salinity increasing below two meters (0.8-21 ppt), temperature ranging from 67-73 degrees F, and dissolved oxygen (DO) levels of 0.3-6 mg/l.

Tributary Steelhead Rescues – Staff conducted 14 rescue operations in five Carmel River tributaries between May 2 and June 22, 2018. A total of 2,164 fish were rescued and released back into the river, including 1,856 YOY, 295 1+, with 13 mortalities (0.6%). Additionally, 152 fish were tagged and there were 21 recaptures (in Potrero Cr.).
Mainstem Carmel River Steelhead Rescues - Staff began mainstem rescues on June 25th at the Highway 1 Bridge. In July, Staff completed 18 days of rescues up to the Meadows Road reach.
As of July 31, 1,633 fish have been rescued, including 652 YOY, 973 1+, 7 mortalities (0.4%), 1,542 fish were tagged, and there were 7 recaptures of previously tagged fish.
Tagging – Rescued fish larger than 65 mm are now being tagged with Passive Integrated Transponder (PIT) tags. District staff is currently operating four PIT tag arrays on the Carmel River in a partnership between the District and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). Data is being collected for future analysis and reporting.

SLEEPY HOLLOW STEELHEAD REARING FACILITY: General contractor Mercer-Fraser Company of Eureka, CA, has been hired for the Intake Upgrade Project and is scheduled to start construction later this fall on the $2 million project. The main features of the project include installing a new intake structure that can withstand flood and drought conditions as well as the increased bedload from the San Clemente Dam removal project two years ago, and a new Recirculating Aquaculture System (RAS) that can be operated in times of poor river water quality to keep the fish healthy.