Effort by Conservation Groups to Shut Down Carnegie Is Resulting In a Promising Recovery of Chinook Salmon in the Delta

First a little history: The California Sport Fishing Alliance (CSFA) and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) filed a lawsuit in September 2009 alleging that soil erosion caused by off road riding at Carnegie compromised Corral Hollow Creek, which feeds into the San Joaquin River and San Joaquin River Delta where they fish and pursue other recreational activities. In other words we were killing fish and destroying their sport.

Although the judge’s order to shut down Carnegie pursuant to an Alternative Writ of Mandate was overturned on appeal, all riding in Corral Hollow Canyon was banned. The creek trickles through the canyon a few days or a few weeks a year.

The Alternative Writ of Mandate was supported by Declarations from Mark Connolly, Bill Jennings and Karen Schamback.

A Declaration filed by their “independent” environmental consultant, Steven Bond, stated that he took water samples from the creek and concluded that off road riding caused turbidity readings to go up and also caused abnormally high heavy metal concentrations. He based his conclusions on the fact that turbidity readings and heavy metal concentrations were higher on the weekends when there was more off road activity in the hills above the creek than during the week when there was little off road activity.

It was argued that these heavy metal concentrations were flowing into the San Joaquin River and Delta, where they adversely impact the quantity of Salmon which use these waters to spawn.

Now it appears that merely shutting down the canyon has resulted in the resurgence of Chinook salmon.

The resurgence of Chinook salmon has California Fishermen “polishing up their boats” according to an article in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Although at the time this article was published on March 10, 2011, the creek was not flowing through the canyon, the fishing industry experienced a resurgence not seen since 2006.

According to the article, “Nobody knows for sure why the salmon population is rebounding, but experts have cited several possibilities, including the fishing bans, improved ocean conditions, abundant precipitation and limits on water diversions.”

Is it possible that the experts were not aware of the threat posed by Carnegie and how one courageous judge closed down the canyon to save the fish? Someone ought to write a letter to the editor and let everybody know what happened. It has only been about a year since the canyon was closed. Most of the time the creek was dry, but the salmon are back.

In an effort to understand how the “independent” environmental consultant “arrived at his conclusions, new water samples were taken from the creek. Results from turbidity testing show that the water leaving Carnegie is clearer than the water entering the park. Further results of the analysis will be published as soon as they are received. See: Dave Duffin’s Post in called “The Water That Closed Carnegie Creek”.

Maybe the original testing was flawed. Or perhaps not… See Dan Amador’s blog (BRC) about the closing of nearby Clear Creek entitled: “New CA OHV Division Asbestos Study Shows Clear Creek Closure is Bogus”.

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