San Jacinto Wildlife Area management plan and environment document finally released


By JIM MATTHEWS

www.OutdoorNewsService.com

After more than a decade of waiting, the San Jacinto Wildlife Area management plan and accompanying environmental impact document was released for public review by the Department of Fish and Wildlife Dec. 15. The new plan includes the management program for the Potrero Unit of the wildlife area and its opening to the public.

For over a decade, the DFW said it lacked staff time to compile both documents. So approximately $480,000 in grant money was authorized in 2007 and 2010, and the environmental consulting firm of DUDEK was contracted to create both documents -- the management plan and environmental impact report. Both have been essentially done since at least 2013, but the DFW staff has been dragging its feet on releasing the documents for public review.

What do you get for $480,000? You get 2,351 pages of comprehensive information. The basic management plan is 522 pages, while the EIR is 1,132 pages, and the appendices to the EIR are another 697 pages. There is a three-page list of what the acronyms used in the EIR mean.

Hunting, one of the primary public uses of the wildlife area currently, is discussed in just 11 pages in the management plan. It has almost no data on historic hunting use and hunter success information during waterfowl season. It doesn’t have any data on upland bird hunting. It does talk about potential expansion of waterfowl hunting on additional wetland areas, outlining where they would be placed. There is also a short segment on the opening of limited upland bird hunting initially at the Potrero Unit of the wildlife area, and potential to expand this program to nearly the entire 9,000-plus acre unit. It also suggests the DFW would like to repair and add to the number of existing small game drinkers (guzzlers) on the Davis Unit (main wildlife area).

In the environmental document, the preferred alternative is for expanding hunting – both waterfowl and upland bird and small game – on both units. However, there were four other alternatives evaluated, and two of those involve hunting restrictions. Alternative 3 would allow no expansion of hunting on the Davis Unit and Alternative 4 would allow no hunting at all on the Potrero unit.

The final draft management plan and EIR is available on the DFW’s website at this address: https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/Lands/Planning/San-Jacinto-Valley-WA. The 45-day comment period for the management plan began Dec. 15 and comments will be accepted until Jan. 29, 2018. Comments may be submitted by mail or via e-mail. Hunters and hunting groups should be vigilant about submitting comments encouraging the DFW to adopt the new management plan and preferred alternative EIR (with an expanded hunting and wetland program).

DFW reveals depth of trout

hatchery problems in SoCal

Both of the Department of Fish and Wildlife trout production facilities have been largely out of commission for the past month, and it will be until at least mid-January before rainbow trout will again be resupplied from trout reared at these two hatcheries.

The Mojave River Hatchery has been shut down since June of this year for extensive maintenance and upgrades to the facilities. Originally scheduled to be completed by September, the upgrades took two months longer than anticipated, and water was turned back on in the facility late last week, and fingerling and subcatchable trout from northern California were expected to be delivered to the hatchery on Monday. The first of these trout will reach plantable size in late January or early February.

The Fillmore Hatchery was supposed to take up the slack during the maintenance of the Mojave River Hatchery. However, the Fillmore Hatchery experienced a significant loss of rainbow trout, perhaps as many as 200,000 fish, from gas bubble disease earlier this fall. Gas bubble disease occurs when well water is pumped from a deep aquifer and becomes supersaturated with various gases. When trout breathe the supersaturated water, they develop embolisms and can die.

While the Fillmore Hatchery is equipped to aerate this water and make it suitable for trout, an unknown variable overwhelmed the DFW equipment at the hatchery. To reduce fish losses from gas bubble disease, catchable fish were stocked from Fillmore to appropriate waters, and some fish were transferred to other hatcheries. Ultimately, the gas bubble disease at Fillmore resulted in a loss of about 50 percent of its inventory. While emergency measures taken by Fillmore staff and CDFW fish pathologists resulted in better conditions and lower gas super-saturation, the process of removing all rainbow trout from the hatchery began. This will allow hatchery staff and scientists to increase the gas diffusion capability of aeration towers at Fillmore in order to handle supersaturated well water for the short and long term. The brown trout in the hatchery were not impacted by the disease and will continue to be stocked out in the region where they are approved for planting.

The DFW said the repairs to the Fillmore Hatchery will be made early next year, but there was no firm estimate on how long it would be out of commission or operating at a its reduced capacity.

The Mojave River Hatchery normally raises about 700,000-plus fish per year, while Fillmore’s production is around 400,000 trout each season. Most of those trout are planted during the late fall and winter months in urban lakes and reservoirs.

The DFW said that plants to Southern California waters would be made from central and northern California hatcheries until these two facilities were back at full capacity. The weekly trout stocking reports from the state’s website show that very few waters in the southern part of the state have been planted since the end of October, and plants from outside the region have been few and far between and announced the week after the waters were planted instead of the week the plants were made.

Water for Wildlife

sets schedule for

2018 work projects

There will be four Water for Wildlife work projects in 2018, according to Cliff McDonald, president and work coordinator of the group. Three projects will be in the east Mojave Desert north of Interstate 15 between Halloran Spring and Mountain Pass, and the fourth project will be in the Eastern Sierra Nevada near Independence. All will be on Bureau of Land Management lands.

Project dates are Feb. 8-11, March 8-11, April 5-8, and May 3-8. The plans are to provide routine maintenance and repairs to 12 to 14 wildlife drinkers in these two areas.

“I wanted to get the dates out there early to give our volunteers plenty of time to plan,” said McDonald.

For more information on volunteering for these projects or donating funds for materials and supplies, contact McDonald at 760-449-4820 or at bigmc@citlink.net.

Quote of the Week

How good is the bluefin tuna fishing right now?

“If we could transport ourselves back into a Zane Grey book, this is how good the fishing would be,” said Terrence Berg, owner of 976-Tuna.com, the fishing report website that tracks local ocean fishing throughout the year. “The last three or four years have been better than what was documented in books like Gray’s 100 years ago [off Southern California], and this is just unheard of bluefin tuna fishing.”

END

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