Help for fish ordered on Yuba River

Russ Steele

Matt Weiser has the story in the Sac Bee

Federal wildlife officials have ordered the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to ensure that salmon, steelhead and green sturgeon are able to surmount its two dams on the Yuba River.

The National Marine Fisheries Service, in a biological opinion released late Wednesday, concludes that Daguerre Point and Englebright dams threaten the survival of the fish species. The order does not require dam removal, but that is one potential outcome.

“This is a big step forward for Yuba salmon recovery,” said Steve Rothert, California director of American Rivers, a group that has been involved in salmon restoration efforts on the river. “The idea of getting fish past Englebright Dam opens up many possibilities.”

The two dams provide no water supply or flood control benefits. Their primary purpose is a historical one: to store erosion and other debris washed downstream by long-ceased gold mining practices.

You can read the rest of the story HERE.

Having studied the salmon issues when writing my Cobalt book, there are some issues that need to be addressed.  On the Columbia river there are fish ladders to allow the salmon and steelhead to pass, but the real problem is when the fry are returning to the sea.  The small fry use the current to tell them which direction swim back to the ocean.  The dams inhibit the current flow, thus only about 2% actually return to the sea according to a Forest Service expert.

Now that this ruling is in place the pressure will increase for dam removal to provide the needed current.  While that would be best for the fish, it raises some other questions for the people who currently use the river for recreation and live on the banks of the river.

If the dams are removed in the next couple of years, what happens to the 75 years of the debris that has collected in the dams including lots of mercury? Will this turn the Yuba in to a Super Fund Clean Up site restricting people access to the river.

What will be the local economic impact, as the lakes are now used for recreation that will be taken away if the dams are removed. While fishing will improve over the years, attracting more fishing visitors to the community, but this will take a long time. The communities that are now relying on the recreation revenue will have to wait, can they survive in the mean time?

If the dams are not taken down, what will be the cost of the capture and transport option, and how effective will it be, given the lack of current to guide the fry returning to the sea?  How will the fry be captured in the lake for the return.

I would like to hear your views and insights on solving the above problems.

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About Russ Steele
Freelance writer and climate change blogger. Russ spent twenty years in the Air Force as a navigator specializing in electronics warfare and digital systems. After his service he was employed for sixteen years as concept developer for TRW, an aerospace and automotive company, and then was CEO of a non-profit Internet provider for 18 months. Russ's articles have appeared in Comstock's Business, Capitol Journal, Trailer Life, Monitoring Times, and Idaho Magazine.

7 Responses to Help for fish ordered on Yuba River

  1. RL Crabb says:

    I would be interested to know how much debris has accumulated in Englebright in the 70 years of its existance. As much as I have enjoyed houseboating there, it does seem that it has outlived any real usefulness, and the longer it stands, the more gunk to remove.
    It also raises the question of what happens after the dam is gone. How will the salmon runs affect recreation on the middle and south forks? (The north fork will still be blocked by Bullards Bar.) Will it require more precious water to be released from the mountains to ensure the proper flows and water temperature?

  2. D. King says:

    Yes, let’s remove all dams.
    I mean, why were they so stupid to put them in, in the first place.
    Just blow them up.
    Fish?
    We don’t need no stinking reasons!

  3. Todd Juvinall says:

    I guess all the folks living around the dam should have been told they were temporary. The millions in property values and taxes are uneeded and the fish should be the most important thing. All 300 salmon could get a limo ride each for the money? I wonder how all those salmon runs on the thousands of creeks up through Alaska and over to the Kamchatka are doing?

  4. Dixon Cruickshank says:

    Typical busy work – gotta fix it – then ooops we gotta fix it back

    sounds like the everglades

  5. Barry Pruett says:

    I know for a fact that there is a full keg at the bottom…

  6. Russ says:

    Barry,

    That keg should be well aged by now. I wonder what else they will find at the bottom of the lake. Stuff has been falling in for 70+ plus years. It could be a real treasure hunt! Legal question, who owns the stuff at the bottom of the lake after so many years?

  7. Barry Pruett says:

    Legal answer…it depends. LOL.

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