Chinook salmon returning to Battle Creek
Larger numbers of threatened Chinook salmon have returned to spawn upstream in newly restored habitat on North Fork Battle Creek near Manton, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and its partners in the Battle Creek Salmon and Steelhead Restoration Project announced.
The bureau credits the salmon increase to the removal of the Wildcat Diversion Dam.
Battle Creek, a tributary to the Sacramento River, is being restored through the Battle Creek Salmon and Steelhead Restoration Project, a proactive, cooperative effort to increase threatened and endangered Chinook salmon and Central Valley steelhead trout populations by restoring approximately 42 miles of habitat in Battle Creek and an additional 6 miles of habitat in its tributaries, while maintaining energy production at the Battle Creek Hydroelectric Project, owned and operated by Pacific Gas & Electric.
Restoration is being accomplished primarily through the removal of five diversion dams, placement of screens and ladders on three other diversion dams and increasing instream flows.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been performing fish monitoring for many years in Battle Creek. This fall, over four times the number of spring-run Chinook salmon redds (nests built by fish) were seen further upstream in North Fork Battle Creek, above where the Wildcat Diversion Dam once stood, than in previous years.
In the past 10 years, on average, only about 7 percent of the redds were upstream of the dam. This year, 33 percent of the redds are located upstream of the former dam site, the wildlife service reported.
Located in both Tehama and Shasta counties, the restoration project construction began in 2009, and in August 2010, Wildcat Diversion Dam was removed on North Fork Battle Creek, restoring approximately 15 miles of stream habitat.
It is the improved passage upstream into the restored area, where stream conditions are better for nesting and survival that is helping the populations. This signifies that the project goal of increasing populations of anadromous fish is already under way, while project construction continues.
Also, to help protect these salmon eggs when flows began a seasonal decline, the wildlife services asked PG&E if it could modify operations on its hydroelctric facility to increase flows in North Fork Battle Creek. The electric company responded by voluntarily diverting less water for hydroelectric generation and has agreed to maintain increased flows throughout the spawning season.