In California, severe drought has imperiled millions of juvenile salmon who now face waterways too dry to let them make their usual migration to the Pacific Ocean. So state and federal officials are giving millions of salmon a lift — in tanker trucks.
Over the next two-and-a-half months, some 30 million Chinook salmon will be trucked from five hatcheries in the state’s Central Valley to waters where they can make their way to the ocean.
The trucking experiment formally kicked off Tuesday, when some 400,000 smolt — juvenile salmon about 3 to 4 inches long — hitched a ride on climate-controlled tankers from the Coleman National hatchery near Red Bluff to the Sacramento River, in the delta town of Rio Vista. A roughly 100-foot-long pipe then funneled the fish from the truck into a series of floating holding pens in the water.
The salmon usually make the 270-mile trip on their own. But they wouldn’t have been able to survive the swim in this drought, says Bob Clarke, fisheries program supervisor for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.