Endangered Species:

Federal Actions to Protect Sacramento River Salmon

RCED-94-243: Published: Aug 15, 1994. Publicly Released: Sep 15, 1994.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the National Marine Fisheries Service's (NMFS) efforts to protect Sacramento River chinook salmon, focusing on how NMFS actions have affected: (1) the Central Valley Project (CVP); and (2) two nonfederal irrigation districts that divert water from the river.

GAO found that: (1) in 1992, NMFS advised the Bureau of Reclamation of needed changes in its CVP operations to minimize the project's impact on salmon; (2) CVP changes included setting requirements for storing cold water in upriver reservoirs, managing the water temperature in salmon spawning areas, removing barriers to the salmon's upstream passage, and adjusting operations to reduce the diversion of juvenile salmon into inappropriate waterways; (3) because of unforeseen problems and unclear guidance, NMFS revised its requirements and clarified operational changes that were needed for 1993 operations; (4) NMFS has enforced the Endangered Species Act's prohibiton on the taking of salmon against two California irrigation districts; (5) NMFS obtained an injunction against one district to prohibit it from pumping water during salmon migration because its fish screens were ineffective in diverting salmon from its pumps; (6) NMFS fined the other district $50,000 because it failed to install a fish screen; (7) both districts have reached agreement with NMFS on actions needed to prevent further infractions; and (8) in 1992, NMFS fined two private fishermen for illegally taking salmon from the river.

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