Barriers to fish passage

Every now and then, something really good is done for our river and for our fish. Please take a few minutes to watch this fantastic video about recent improvement to the lower Calaveras River: features FLCR’s two hardest working volunteers: Donnie Ratcliff of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Jim Marsh, naturalist/artist/educator extraordinaire. Share this link with anyone who would like a little good news about our environment!


Here’s an interesting article published in the Stockton Record in 2005 about a fish kill at Bellota Weir…. it begs the question whether any progress has been made improving the fish ladder cine then. To be sure, one of the things holding up any improvements is the lack of a Habitat Conservation Plan that is WAY overdue! – Jeremy


Water flow, ladder problems keep some fish from making it upstream

Last month, high water flows and a troublesome fish ladder along the Calaveras River prevented many salmon and protected steelhead from getting upstream to spawn.

Now it seems a temporary solution couldn’t save all the fish. Biologists counted at least 280 salmon carcasses below the Bellota weir after a 2-foot dam at the weir collapsed Thanksgiving weekend.

The California Fisheries Foundation surveyed the Calaveras River after the incident and found the dead fish, biologist Trevor Kennedy said. The group plans to survey the river above the Bellota weir next to see how many fish made it upstream.

Kennedy called the incident “a wasted opportunity,” since the Calaveras had an unusually healthy amount of water this year.

“We did get some fish in the system, but we could have had a pretty sizable run,” he said.

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Alex Breitler, Record

In the fall, the Calaveras River hosted hundreds of Chinook salmon, which swam upstream through Stockton for the first time since 2006.

But the offspring of those fish will be lucky to get out of the river alive.

Virtually dry conditions in Mormon Slough and the Stockton Diverting Canal have left more than 100 salmon “redds,” or nests, without the water that the fertilized eggs need to survive, a biologist says.

One activist blames the sad ending of this success story on the perpetual delay of a plan to improve conditions for Calaveras fish.

“The tragedy of this is that everybody’s celebrating the fact that there’s fish on the river, but we don’t have things set up properly to steer them up where they can spawn,” said Jeremy Terhune, head of the environmental group Friends of the Calaveras River. “It’s the greatest irony of all.”

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Baby steelhead swimming down the San Joaquin River might have a better chance of reaching the ocean this spring, after state and federal agencies agreed to install a rock barrier at the head of Old River, near Lathrop.

Typically, fish heading down the San Joaquin toward Stockton make a left turn into Old River, which draws them into the south Delta and perilously close to enormous pumps that send water to distant reaches of California.

The rock barrier will keep those fish in the San Joaquin, hopefully steering them away from the pumps.


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This update just in from Donnie Ratcliff, FWS AFRP:

One of the highest priority barriers to fish passage in the Lower Calaveras River has been modified just in time to provide open passage for this fall’s returning Chinook salmon and threatened Central Valley steelhead.

Budiselich Flashboard Dam is a relatively small diversion dam that has historically created a large problem for migratory fish trying to move in and out of the Calaveras River.

Fish Passage was improved by implementing a series of boulder weirs and a rock ramp fishway that will allow fish and other aquatic organisms to easily scale the five to seven foot drop created by the concrete dam base. The project was implemented by the Stockton East Water District (SEWD) and was collaboratively funded by SEWD, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Anadromous Fish Restoration and National Fish Passage Programs, and the California Department of Fish and Game.

Additional partners that have provided in-kind assistance and support for the project include the California Department of Water Resources (DWR), NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, University of the Pacific, the Fishery Foundation of California, and the Friends of the Lower Calaveras River.  (more…)