Department of Water Resources Research Project 1

Sturgeon Distribution and Habitat Use in the Lower Feather River

This study was initiated to help identify how operation of the Oroville Facilities may impact sturgeon, particularly green sturgeon, in the lower Feather River through its effects on flow, temperature and habitat.  Oroville Dam and its associated facilities provide an absolute barrier to upstream sturgeon migration.  The flow regime resulting from project operations may have an important influence on the migratory and spawning behavior of sturgeon. Additionally, low flows may impede upstream migration at locations with a step change in gradient (e.g. Shanghai Bench, Sunset Pumps).  The use of the collaborative multi-agency hydroacoustic telemetry array will allow us to increase our knowledge of sturgeon migratory behavior on a much larger scale to areas beyond the Feather River.  This project will provide valuable information to evaluate and determine the needs of sturgeon for future management decision-making processes.

T1) Determine if there are adult migration barriers below Oroville Dam;
2) Identify distribution and habitat preferences; and

3) Provide CDWR, FERC, NOAA Fisheries and CDFG with data to make management decisions concerning future monitoring programs, operational changes of the facilities and/or habitat enhancement within the lower Feather River.

Field activities for sturgeon (both A. transmontanus and A. medirostris) occur in the Feather River and associated tributaries from the Fish Barrier Dam downstream to the confluence of the Sacramento River. Sampling may occur year round to capture adult green and white sturgeon.  We would like to tag approximately 30 adult and 10 juvenile sturgeon annually.  VEMCO acoustic tags (V16s with a 10-year life span) and PIT tags will be surgically implanted into the peritoneal cavity of sturgeon.  Tagged fish will be released in the vicinity of their capture site and observed until they swim away.  Photos will be taken of each sturgeon at the time of tagging to verify identification.  In addition, genetic material will be collected and sent to the Genomic Lab archive at the University of California, Davis.

We have deployed 22 monitors from Fish Barrier Dam to the mouth of the Feather River.  While angling began in March, no sturgeon have been tagged at this time.  However, a green sturgeon that was originally tagged in Washington had been detected on one of our receivers in May. Receivers are being downloaded on a monthly basis.