Above left: The Red Bluff dam with the gates open; an artist's rendering of the proposed water pumping station.
A dam spanning the Sacramento River at Red Bluff, about 100 miles south of the Oregon state line, provides irrigation but also stops endangered fish from going upstream. When the dam’s gates are closed, the river flows back into canals that irrigate 150,000 acres of cropland. But the closed gates also block endangered salmon, steelhead trout, green sturgeon, and other fish from reaching their spawning grounds upriver. Local authorities have tried limiting the amount of time the gates are closed, but crops suffer.
The Department of the Interior’s (DOI) Bureau of Reclamation has awarded $118.8 million in Recovery funds for a permanent pumping plant that will divert river water into the canals providing irrigation for the crops and allowing the dam’s gates to remain open so the fish can go upriver. Screening on the plant’s intakes will prevent fish from being sucked into the pumps. The award – the largest that DOI has made – covers most of the cost of the project – $220 million.
Project officials say the plant will result in the unimpeded migration of approximately 42,000 endangered Chinook salmon, 255 threatened steelhead trout, and 100 threatened green sturgeon. Additional expected benefit: Saving approximately 820,000 juvenile endangered salmon and steelhead trout that are currently killed by predators when the gates are closed.
In addition to the Recovery funds, the California state government is providing $5.5 million toward the project, with the balance coming from non-Recovery-related federal funding. The Tehama Colusa Canal Authority, West Bay Builders, Balfour Beatty Inc., and Moving Water Industries – all located in California – are working on the project, which is expected to be completed in 2012.
Photographs provided by: Department of the Interior
Heavy equipment preparing foundation for
the pumping station.
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