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Helping Fish Swim over Major Dam in the Russian River


Soon, we will break ground on a project addressing one of the worst fish passage barriers in the Russian River watershed. The barrier is on Mill Creek, which has some of the best rearing habitat for endangered California Central Coast salmon in the watershed. But for several decades, these fish haven’t been able to swim past a dam on the creek to reach that habitat.

According to NOAA’s recovery plan, removing this dam is the highest priority for improving coho salmon and steelhead trout populations. Monitoring by University of California Sea Grant over the last six years has shown this barrier to almost completely block fish from swimming past. More than 113 coho salmon and steelhead spawning nests were seen downstream, but only 13 were found upstream.

Working with Trout Unlimited and other partners, we will eliminate the barrier. Rather than removing the dam, we will build a 20-foot-wide channel on the side of the river with a less steep slope up to the dam. This will open access to more than 11 miles of spawning and rearing habitat.

The Russian River watershed is one of NOAA Habitat Blueprint’s Habitat Focus Areas. An earlier restoration project on Dry Creek, another tributary, helped improve fish populations and reduce flooding.

Posted June 27, 2016.



Deep-Sea Coral
Mill Creek before restoration