Shots of passing fish from the camera that was pulled from the Cosumnes River. (Click photo for larger image.)
Vandalism at the Cosumnes River fish ladder, probably Rancho Murieta’s signature environmental presence, has forced the Fishery Foundation of California to remove a $50,000 fish-counting camera from the river and to address concerns about whether the camera will return.
Trevor Kennedy, a biologist who is the foundation’s president and executive director, said the camera has been on Granlees Dam on the north side of the river for the last three or four years.
“Up until this year, there was never any problem,” he said. “This year we had a pretty substantial vandalism issue, where somebody – I’m not sure who – obviously threw large boulders at our camera and hit it and dented it up pretty good.”
Trevor Kennedy of the Fishery Foundation of California said he plans to propose using a security camera to record anyone in the area of the dam.
The expensive camera inside the housing wasn’t broken, but Kennedy said he pulled it from the river a few weeks earlier than planned this year, interrupting the year-to-year data they’ve been collecting on the late-fall chinook and steelhead salmon runs.
The camera was a loaner from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Kennedy said he has some concern about whether the government will loan it again, given the vandalism. To address that, Kennedy said he will propose mounting a security camera nearby, so there would be a photographic record of anyone in the area.
Before being pulled, the camera caught 190 fish swimming past its lens on their way back to spawn in this year’s run, Kennedy said. He estimated this year’s total run at between 600 and 700 – a respectable number on a river where the best year might top 1,000, he said, and the worst, with no river flow at all, is zero.
The Fishery Foundation, a non-profit that works to improve fisheries resources in the state, rebuilt the fish ladders on the south and north sides of the dam, finishing the south in 2002 and the north in 2011, giving the salmon access to seven miles of quality spawning habitat upstream of Granlees Dam.
Watching salmon climb the Cosumnes River fish ladders is a rare environmental pleasure granted to Murietans. (File photo)