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Fish Barrier Will Help Save Sacramento River Salmon

Amy Quinton / Capital Public Radio

Fish barrier at Knights Landing Outfall Gates under construction. Project is designed to prevent adult salmon from straying off their migratory path in the Sacramento River.

Amy Quinton / Capital Public Radio

Two years ago, hundreds of endangered salmon migrating up the Sacramento River were trapped in a channel that drains the entire western half of the Sacramento Valley. State, federal and local agencies are celebrating a project designed to ensure that doesn't happen again.

Construction is nearly complete on a $2.5 million fish barrier at the Knights Landing Outfall Gates. The project will block migrating salmon from straying off course as they make their way up the Sacramento River.

"We haven't made it easy for them on their migration out or their migration back home," says Chuck Bonham, director of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife." This project today fixes one of the risks we've known for over a decade exists for these fish."

Lewis Bair with Reclamation District 108 says before the project, fish would instinctively follow the flow from the gates.

"They're very athletic fish, they go right up through this gate structure and into the Colusa Basin Drain where there is no spawning habitat," says Bair.

Farmers in the reclamation district provided $400,000 through water sales for the fish barrier and managed the project. 

"We recognize that without having improvement in the fish numbers that there will be a stressor on our water supply," says Fritz Durtz, president of the district. "So we need to see the fish numbers rise in order to correct that."

State and federal agencies paid for a majority of the project. They're planning similar projects in the Yolo Bypass.