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Study: 181 California Dams Key For Fish Survival


UC Davis researchers have identified "high priority" dams for fish survival in California. 

In a study, the scientists evaluated 753 large dams in the state. Researchers said 25 percent, or 181 California dams, may need to increase water flows to protect native fish downstream. 

Lead study author Ted Grantham said providing more water for fish during the drought may not be popular, but a strategy is needed to keep rivers flowing below dams. Otherwise, he said flows will be too low to sustain health fish populations for the dams on the "high priority" list. 

He said those include the Folsom Dam on the American River, the Trinity Dam on the Trinity River and the New Melones Dam on the Stanislaus River. 

A 2013 UC Davis study showed that salmon and other native freshwater fish in California will likely become extinct within the next century due to climate change if current trends continue.

Grantham said how dams are managed will determine the survival rate of many native fish species.

“It is unpopular in many circles to talk about providing more water for fish during this drought, but to the extent we care about not driving native fish to extinction, we need a strategy to keep our rivers flowing below dams,” said Grantham, a postdoctoral researcher at UC Davis during the study and currently a research scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey. “The drought will have a major impact on the aquatic environment.”   

The study received funding from the Natural Resources Defense Council, California Trout, Trout Unlimited, the S.D. Bechtel Jr. Foundation, and the California Energy Commission Public Interest Energy Research Program.


Ed Joyce

Former All Things Considered Anchor & Reporter

Ed Joyce is a former reporter and All Things Considered news anchor at Capital Public Radio. Ed is a veteran journalist with experience in a variety of news positions across all media platforms, including radio, television, web and print.   Read Full Bio 

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