By Ross Perry, Western Shasta Resource Conservation District
We now have funding from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to address two fish barriers in Little Cow Creek: the Cook and Butcher diversion dam and the abandoned Bella Vista pipeline.
The Cow Creek Watershed is a major tributary to the Sacramento River below Shasta/Keswick Dams and covers an area of over 430 square miles. It has five major tributaries. There is excellent riparian habitat and the water flows are important for the Upper Sacramento River, contributing one-fifth of the discharge to the Sacramento River between Shasta Dam and Red Bluff.
The Cow Creek Watershed Management Group in collaboration with the Western Shasta Resource Conservation District completed the Cow Creek Watershed Assessment in November 2001 and a Management Plan in March 2005 that discussed principal issues and management objectives to maintain and improve watershed health.
The Cook and Butcher diversion dam is the largest diversion structure on Little Cow Creek and the concrete flashboard dam has been identified as the primary barrier to upstream migration on the stream. Additionally, the unscreened diversion poses a risk to outward migrating juvenile salmon and steelhead, allowing the fish to become entrained in the off-channel ditch.
The abandoned Bella Vista Pipeline is a concrete structure that spans the width of the channel. It was constructed as a means to convey Bella Vista Water District’s water across North Cow Creek beneath the creek but became an exposed fish passage barrier over time. Water conveyance across the creek was relocated to a pipe on the nearby Swede Creek Road Bridge when it was widened in 2013, thus eliminating the need for the structure.
Upon completion of these projects fish passage will be opened upstream for over 6 miles. For now, Western Shasta has planning funds from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Planning activities will include surveys, hydrological modeling, design preparation, discussions with landowners and agencies, obtaining permits and land owner permissions, and reporting. The existing funds will provide the necessary design plans, cost estimates, environmental surveys, technical reports (section 7 consultation CEQA and NEPA documents, pursuant to the Endangered Species Act for listed fish species), and required regulatory permits from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and Regional Water Quality Control Board to construct the proposed project.