By Jon Munger
In our latest effort to ensure that our water management and farming practices both protect and enhance environmental benefits in our area, Garden Highway Mutual Water Company (Garden Highway) recently completed a project to screen its diversion on the Feather River. This project allows us to protect Chinook salmon and other fish species from entrainment while diverting water year-round to irrigate crops and to provide Pacific Flyway habitat during the fall and winter months. The project was a cooperative effort between Garden Highway, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Bureau of Reclamation U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Family Water Alliance.
A fish screen like ours creates a barrier between the fish in the river and the pumps used to divert water. Screens are constructed with gaps small enough (not much larger than the thickness of a penny) that not even the egg of an endangered or threatened species of fish could make it through – this ensures that water moving through a screen does so no faster than one foot every three seconds, thereby creating no chance that even the smallest juvenile salmon would be impinged on a screen or even have its equilibrium disturbed if it is swimming by a diversion that is pumping at maximum capacity.
This project contributes to a larger effort to promote salmon recovery in the region – the Sacramento Valley Salmon Recovery Program. This collaborative partnership of local water management entities, conservation organizations and state and federal fisheries and water management agencies was formed in 2014 to complete projects like this fish screen and improve science to promote recovery of salmon and other species of fish in the region. These actions are implementing both the National Marine Fisheries Service’s Recovery Plan for the Sacramento River and the California Natural Resources Agency’s Sacramento Valley Salmon Resiliency Strategy. This project joins more than 155 projects that have been completed in the Sacramento Valley to benefit salmon since 2000.
The Garden Highway Fish Screen project is designed to prevent the entrainment of threatened fish species within the Feather River system (including federally and state listed salmonids and federally listed green sturgeon). This is just one of many invaluable efforts to revitalize the salmon population in the Sacramento Valley.