The Kings River Fisheries Management Program
Kings River Water Association
Kings River Conservation District
California Department of Fish and Game
The Kings River Fisheries Management Program and its enabling agreements are the culmination of an exciting and potentially trend-setting partnership between three agencies and the members of the public they serve. The Kings River Water Association (KRWA), Kings River Conservation District (KRCD) and California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG) for the past year have begun implementing the voluntary Program. The Program will enhance the river’s habitat and environment through willing dedication by the Kings River’s water users of some of their assets. Here are some of the Program’s most important benefits.
The Program identifies desired future fishery conditions for different Kings River segments but makes it clear that these are neither requirements nor standards, but rather general guides for programmatic decisions. Adaptive management is guiding the Program, adjusting to changing needs, opportunities and constraints.
The Program is considering natural variations in water availability when establishing flow, temperature and reservoir carryover storage targets. Good science is being used. All parties have agreed to balance fishery needs with other beneficial uses, keeping established water rights in focus. Maximum advantage is being made of conjunctive or sequential water uses. Consensus and Public Based Decisions and technical efforts are conducted by consensus among members of the program’s Executive Policy Committee (ExCom) and Technical Steering Committee, upon which each agency is represented. Opportunities for public participation and involvement in program development are encouraged. A public advisory group has been created. Its members are extremely active in the process. All ExCom meetings are open to the public.
Temperature Control Pool
KRWA member units immediately modified operations to maintain Pine Flat Reservoir storage of not less than 100,000 acre-feet, subject to conditions beyond reasonable control of the KRWA and its 28 member units in Fresno, Kings and Tulare counties. This will help maintain a pool of cool water for use in reservoir and downstream fisheries. Enhanced Flows KRWA members are providing enhanced minimum flows of at least 100 cubic feet per second at Piedra (in the foothills downstream from Pine Flat Dam). That amount is twice the current requirement (under the 1964 KRWA-CDFG agreement, which was superceded) in most years. These enhanced flows, typically in late summer and fall months, maintain water temperatures and habitat from Pine Flat Dam to Fresno Weir (about eight miles downstream) that are suitable for trout. Flows of between 35-45 c.f.s. (depending upon the time of year) over Fresno Weir and into the lower river are required.
Funding and Improvement Projects
KRWA and KRCD are collectively providing $100,000 annually (in cash and/or in-kind services) during a 10- year period to install, operate and maintain Kings River physical improvements to enhance fish and wildlife resources. The CDFG agreed to seek appropriations, grants and other funding sources of at least $1 million during the same period. In 2000, Governor Davis signed the Legislature’s first $100,000 appropriation, as well as $700,000 to be used in constructing a turbine bypass at the base of Pine Flat Dam (to provide new water-release temperature controls). During the winter and spring of 2000, the Program’s first major improvement project - the Thorburn Spawning Channel near Piedra - was constructed and became operational.
To Help the Fishery
CDFG will consult with the public and the KRWA and KRCD in examining the need for new fishing regulations. A supplemental Kings River trout stocking program will be established. Improved public river fishing access is planned. Criteria are being developed with the help of anglers and experts to assess fishery health and status. Monitoring of program elements and flow requirements is to be undertaken. The parties are working cooperatively toward development of a future final program.
Support For Corps’ Efforts
Support for U.S. Army Corps of Engineers continuing Kings River and Pine Flat Dam fishery improvement program studies and possible projects is continuing and will be maintained