California Fish Passage

Throughout the west, fish passage typically hinges on two things: enough water and connected streams.

Trout Unlimited employs over 60 western staff who spend their waking hours planning for and coordinating projects to reconnect rivers so salmon and trout can easily navigate them. In California, the team reconnecting streams and securing sufficient stream flow is thirteen members strong.

Fish Only Die Once

Mary Ann King, Director of TU’s California Water Program, shows off one of a series of tanks installed on a steelhead stream used to store water for summer use. Mary Ann oversees a team of six “water for passage” TU staff in California.

In California’s coastal headwater streams, even one landowner can pump a section of stream dry while the pump is running. Even if that section only goes dry for an hour, the fish there die.

Our hydrologists, ecologists, and lawyers work with willing landowners in critical salmon and steelhead streams to build water storage projects, and legally alter the landowners’ right to dedicate the water to fish. Tanks by tank, and pond by pond — the efforts add up. On the Central Coast, for example, we will double summer flows in places like Pescadero Creek in the next few years.

Culverts and Complexity

Across the timbered North Coast of California, thousands of stream crossings — both with and without culverts to pass water — were hastily built through the heart of salmon country to extract redwood as quickly as possible. The legacy of this haste are streams that are impassable to salmon, a landscape that bleeds excessive sediment into streams, and habitat that lacks complexity.

Our North Coast team has been addressing these problems for over 20 years and have reopened 3.5 miles of spawning grounds to salmon and steelhead by replacing impassable culverts with bridges, retired dozens of miles of unused roads, and hundreds of wood structures to salmon streams to improve habitat.

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