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Millions of salmon trucked downstream due to drought

By Shay Arthur
Published On: Mar 25 2014 11:37:59 AM CDT
Updated On: Mar 25 2014 08:57:24 PM CDT
ANDERSON, Calif. -

Tuesday crews began trucking hundreds of thousands of salmon from Shasta County to the Bay Area.  

The process started at the Coleman National Fish Hatchery in Anderson at 5:30 a.m.

The Department of Fish and Wildlife said extreme drought conditions are forcing them to take action to protect the salmon.

Scott Hamelberg, project manager with the fish hatchery said it's the first time an operation this big has happened in some 23 years and it's costing half a million dollars.

In the quiet of the morning some 420,000 Chinook salmon were loaded into three tanker trucks embarking on a four hour journey to the West Delta in Rio Vista.

Hamelberg said they're shaving off about 300 miles the fish usually swim to the Pacific Ocean.

"We're just getting them closer to the ocean for their release," Hamelberg said.

California's drought has created low water levels, a situation the Department of Fish and Wildlife believes could be detrimental to the millions of migrating salmon who will be subject to predators.

So they're getting a ride.

"In hopes they'll survive better, contribute to the ocean fishery better, and live for three years as opposed to having poor survival had we released them on station," explained Hamelberg.

The hope is to have them eventually contribute to the large, lucrative fishing business.

Tuesday's haul is part of a bigger process.

For the next two months, federal and state hatcheries will transport more than 30 million Chinook salmon from hatcheries to downriver locations.

"There's 12 million that will come from our facility and an additional 18 million that will come from four other state facilities," Hamelberg said.