The public comment period on the environmental review for the entire state Fish and Game Hatchery program is now open.
The Department of Fish and Game had been sued by Stanford law students and the Center for Biological Diversity over the impacts of the state hatchery system on native species, like mountain yellow legged frogs, red legged frogs, steelhead and golden trout.
The result of the lawsuit is that Fish and Game has to run the existing hatchery program through the California Environmental Quality Act Process. With federal money that goes toward some hatcheries, the entire hatchery program is being run through the National Environmental Protection Act process simultaneously.
Before stocking started in the 1880s, very few Sierra lakes contained trout. Scientists who have studied the decline of the Mountain Yellow Legged frog have listed introduced trout as a major factor in the decline of these amphibians. While there are issues with the Mountain Yellow Legged Frog here in the Eastern Sierra, for the most part stocking has continued as usual. Gary Williams with Fish and Game expects stocking to continue regardless of the outcome of this environmental process. Williams explained that many of the issues raised in the environmental document pertain to Northern California.
So far, here in the Eastern Sierra, Sotcher Lake near Reds Meadow and Pine Creek were not stocked this year due to a court order that limited stocking to waters that had already been surveyed. Williams expects that even these two waters will be stocked again when this environmental document is done.
The document states that trout have been removed from over 20 waters in the Inyo, Humbolt, Toiyabe, El Dorado, and Sierra National Forest. Under the new document Fish and Game Staff would have to evaluate each lake and stream prior to stocking to determine if it would affect the yellow legged frog. This could lead staff not to stock or re-evaluate the stocking. Williams says that Fish and Game already does this for our area.
According to the draft EIR/EIS, the groundwater pumping at the Black Rock Hatchery, which is said to be altering the local landscape by dropping the water table and threatening a flower called the Inyo County Star Tulip, could be reduced from 12,000 acre feet per year, to 8,000 acre feet per year. This water flows through the Hatchery, but ends up in the L.A. aqueduct.
The public comment period for the Hatchery EIR/EIS ends November 10th. The entire document is on the Department of Fish and Game website.