SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – California authorities will once again move millions of young salmon raised in hatcheries in the state’s Central Valley agricultural region to the Pacific Ocean as projected river conditions indicate the waterways through which the fish will travel downstream drive, will be historically low and warm due to increasing drought.

Officials announced the massive trucking operation on Wednesday, saying efforts are aimed at “ensuring the highest level of survival for young salmon on their dangerous journey to the Pacific”.

“Transporting young salmon to downstream release sites has proven to be one of the best ways to improve ocean survival in arid conditions,” said Jason Julienne, Hatchery Supervisor for the North Central region, in a statement.

California is in its second year of drought after a winter with little rainfall, and is the fourth driest year in the state, especially in the northern two-thirds of the state, according to the California Department of Water Resources.

Governor Gavin Newsom announced a regional drought emergency for the Russian river watershed in Sonoma and Mendocino counties last week to illustrate the state’s risk of drought.

More than 16.8 million young salmon from four hatcheries in the Central Valley are transported to coastal locations around the bays of San Pablo, San Francisco, Half Moon and Monterey.

Approximately 146 truckloads are required to move the fish

To move the fish, about 146 truckloads will have to be brought into the Pacific Ocean from four state hatcheries, and federal officials will do the same from one hatchery, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

California’s legendary native Chinook salmon needs cold water to survive, but dams have blocked their historic retreats to the cool upper reaches of the Sacramento River’s tributaries in northern California.

The fishing industry and farmers in the Central Valley are constantly struggling for the same river water to make a living. The supporters of the fish advocate higher river water levels and the farmers against so that they can obtain water to irrigate the plants.

John McManus, president of the Golden State Salmon Association, which campaigns for fishermen, told The Chronicle he appreciated the extra effort to save the fall-led Chinook amid the drought.

However, the underlying problem for salmon is that state and federal water agencies have taken too much water from rivers and streams for agricultural irrigation.

“These river conditions are made worse by decisions made by salmon last,” he told the San Francisco Chronicle.

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