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Open Access Publications from the University of California


SFEWS provides credible scientific information on California's complex water issues, linking new science to policy with great effect. SFEWS retains a regional focus on the San Francisco Bay and the Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta, also known as the Bay–Delta watershed. At the heart of open access from the California Digital Library, SFEWS's scholarly output ranks #1 for the UC Davis Institute  of the Environment and ranks #3 campus wide.

Volume 12, Issue 4, 2014

Issue cover

Research Article

Dispersion Mechanisms of a Tidal River Junction in the Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta, California

In branching channel networks, such as in the Sacramento–San Joaquin River Delta, junction flow dynamics contribute to dispersion of ecologically important entities such as fish, pollutants, nutrients, salt, sediment, and phytoplankton. Flow transport through a junction largely arises from velocity phasing in the form of divergent flow between junction channels for a portion of the tidal cycle. Field observations in the Georgiana Slough junction, which is composed of the North and South Mokelumne rivers, Georgiana Slough, and the Mokelumne River, show that flow phasing differences between these rivers arise from operational, riverine, and tidal forcing. A combination of Acoustic Doppler Current Profile (ADCP) boat transecting and moored ADCPs over a spring–neap tidal cycle (May to  June 2012) monitored the variability of spatial and temporal velocity, respectively. Two complementary drifter studies enabled assessment of local transport through the junction to identify small-scale intrajunction dynamics. We supplemented field results with numerical simulations using the SUNTANS model to demonstrate the importance of phasing offsets for junction transport and dispersion. Different phasing of inflows to the junction resulted in scalar patchiness that is characteristic of MacVean and Stacey’s (2011) advective tidal trapping. Furthermore, we observed small-scale junction flow features including a recirculation zone and shear layer, which play an important role in intra-junction mixing over time scales shorter than the tidal cycle (i.e., super-tidal time scales). The study period spanned open- and closed-gate operations at the Delta Cross Channel. Synthesis of field observations and modeling efforts suggest that management operations related to the Delta Cross Channel can strongly affect transport in the Delta by modifying the relative contributions of tidal and riverine flows, thereby changing the junction flow phasing.


Physically Based Modeling of Delta Island Consumptive Use: Fabian Tract and Staten Island, California

Water use estimation is central to managing most water problems. To better understand water use in California’s Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta, a collaborative, integrated approach was used to predict Delta island diversion, consumption, and return of water on a more detailed temporal and spatial resolution. Fabian Tract and Staten Island were selected for this pilot study based on available data and island accessibility. Historical diversion and return location data, water rights claims, LiDAR digital elevation model data, and Google Earth were used to predict island diversion and return locations, which were tested and improved through ground-truthing. Soil and land-use characteristics as well as weather data were incorporated with the Integrated Water Flow Model Demand Calculator to estimate water use and runoff returns from input agricultural lands. For modeling, the islands were divided into grid cells forming subregions, representing fields, levees, ditches, and roads. The subregions were joined hydrographically to form diversion and return watersheds related to return and diversion locations. Diversions and returns were limited by physical capacities. Differences between initial model and measured results point to the importance of seepage into deeply subsided islands. The capabilities of the models presented far exceeded current knowledge of agricultural practices within the Delta, demonstrating the need for more data collection to enable improvements upon current Delta Island Consumptive Use estimates.

An Evaluation of Otolith Thermal Marking at the Feather River Hatchery, California

California’s Feather River Hatchery (FRH) propagates two runs of Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha): spring run and fall run. Loss of spawning habitat and historical hatchery practices have led to introgression of these runs. Recent efforts to reform hatchery operations at the FRH are focused on reducing introgression and increasing the proportion of natural-origin spawners in the broodstock. Implementing these reforms, however, requires a means of distinguishing FRH fish from natural-origin fish, and FRH spring-run fish from FRH fall-run fish. Coded-wire tagging and parentage-based genetic tagging can be used for this purpose, but are labor-intensive and expensive. Otolith thermal marking (OTM) is a 100% marking technique widely used in the Pacific Northwest, Alaska, and Russia that can be effective and relatively inexpensive. We initiated an OTM program at the FRH in 2005 to determine its viability as a 100% marking tool for a hatchery with an annual production goal of 10 million smolts. Our analysis of otoliths collected from returning adults at the FRH demonstrated that OTM could be successfully applied to identify the origin (FRH or natural) and, for FRH fish, the run type (spring run or fall run). Otoliths collected between 2009 and 2011 show run-type mixing between 12% to 20% in both spring-run and fall-run FRH broodstock. Additionally, results suggest natural-spawner contribution to hatchery broodstock is very low (<1% to 10%). OTM may provide another way to reduce the rate of introgression between FRH spring-run and fall-run Chinook salmon, and increasing the proportion of natural origin spawners in hatchery broodstock, both of which should improve the long-term viability of FRH spring-run and fall-run Chinook salmon.