Published June 19, 2017
REDDING, CALIFORNIA – After a seven-year campaign to get the attention of federal agencies, the Winnemem Wintu Tribe is poised to take a major step in bringing home the descendants of the McCloud River Chinook salmon from the rivers of New Zealand. With California salmon runs at risk of extinction, we’re partnering with GoFundMe this month to raise $85,000 to fund the first phase of our project before it’s too late.
At a time when climate change, dams and industrial water extraction for Big Ag threaten the future of California’s salmon, federal biologists agree with the Winnemem Wintu that salmon must return to the glacial waters of the McCloud River above Shasta Dam in order to survive.
This June, the tribe and our allies are joining forces with GoFundMe to raise $85,000. This will help fund the collection of samples of the winter-run salmon in New Zealand’s. These salmon are descendants of the same salmon that once spawned in the McCloud River. UC-Davis fish biologists will perform DNA testing on these samples to prove to the federal government that these are indeed the direct descendants of the McCloud River winter run salmon.
This will be the first phase of the Winnemem’s plan to bring home the wild chinook salmon that once ran in the millions and were the center of the tribe’s spiritual and cultural world. More than 70 years since the last salmon spawned in the McCloud River, we’re asking for good hearted people to join us in our historic efforts to return the salmon through a plan based on indigenous leadership and traditional ecological knowledge.
In the late 1800s and early 1900’s, federal fish culturists shipped winter-run salmon from the McCloud River around the world. While our salmon thrived in the Rakaia River in New Zealand, they were blocked from returning to the McCloud River in the 1940s with the construction of Shasta Dam, a project that also flooded the Winnemem homelands.
After years of meetings with the US Bureau of Reclamation and NOAA Fisheries and a successful lobbying during the 2016 Run4Salmon, the Bureau of Reclamation agreed to support the tribe’s project by setting aside partial funding for the first phase in support of the sample gathering, but an additional $85,000 is needed to ensure the samples are collected this spawning season. The tribe’s ultimate plan for the salmon’s return involves building a swimway using existing creeks around the dam to the McCloud River so the salmon can be restored to their rightful place in the natural world.
Read our plan to return the salmon here: http://www.water.ca.gov/fishpassage/docs/shasta_winnemem.pdf