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US Army Corps of Engineers Ordered to get Salmon past Yuba River Dams

Last month the National Marine Fisheries Service released a formal decision finding two Army Corps of Engineers dams related to water diversions on the Yuba River are likely to jeopardize the survival of three species of endangered fish: spring-run Chinook salmon, steelhead, and green sturgeon.   The dams are at Daguerre Point and Englebright on the Yuba River.  The decision follows a lawsuit filed by the South Yuba River Citizen’s League. SYRCL Executive Director Caleb Dardick cites a 99 percent reduction in spring run Chinook salmon from historical levels in the Yuba River .

“One of the main reasons that we focus on wild salmon is because they are an indicator species. If they’re thriving then the river is thriving. And that’s what SYRCL and its 3,500 members are focused on doing.”

 Army Corps of Engineers Chief of Public Affairs DeDe Cordell says the Corps has already begun restoration of the spawning habitat on sites of the Yuba River.

“We’ve been working with Dr. Greg Pasternak, a hydrology professor at UC Davis, developing a program specifically on improving spawning habit by injecting gravel  below Englebright, and it’s been working. Surveys by the Marine fisheries Service show the salmon are actually using that gravel to spawn.”                  

Cordell says the Army Corps of Engineers is  limited to what they can do dependent on funding and authorization from Congress.  The legal decision will now require the Corps to make annual additions of spawning gravel below Englebright dam, to provide fish passage past the dams by 2020, and to remove rock debris left over from  the construction of Englebright dam more than 70 years ago.

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