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Side Channels For Salmon

An effort by Northern California Water Association (NCWA), Natural Resource Scientists, Inc. (NRS) and local government to increase salmon spawning in the Sacramento River made the front page of the Redding Record Searchlight. You can see a video about the Sacramento Valley Salmon Recovery Program by going to This is part of an effort to help salmon populations that have been reduced by both drought and changes to the river system. In a report done by Dave Vogel, with NRS for NCWA and Sacramento Valley Water Users was to pinpoint why fisheries are not recovering despite millions of dollars and efforts over the past several decades. Vogel highlights several issues that have been successful and those that still need improvement to bring back fish in the system. That report can be seen at

The side channel project is an effort to give small fish a place to hide from both heat and other predators while they make their way up and down the Sacramento River. One effort also being tried is the use of harvested rice fields to hatch and raise salmon called the Nigiri Concept.

Partners in this effort include:

• The California Department of Water Resources

• The California Department of Fish and Wildlife

• The UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences

• Cal Marsh and Farm Ventures, LLC

• Knaggs Ranch, LLC

• California Trout

• The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

• The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – Southwest Fisheries

Along with the efforts of these groups is the ongoing efforts by Family Water Alliance, Inc. (FWA). Since 1996, FWA has been the program manager in cooperation with several state and federal agencies, and private contributors, in spearheading research, development and installation of fish screens on small agricultural diversions.  This good-faith effort has been of key importance in obtaining a common sense application of the Endangered Species Act with regard to Sacramento-San Joaquin Rivers and Delta Diversions.  FWA has a proven track record regarding the installation of small fish screens.  To date, has installed 40 successful fish screens projects using the most innovative screen technology, cumulating in over 1400 cubic feet per second of California Water. This fish screening effort by FWA has resulted in over 84,000 acres of productive agricultural lands that are now fish friendly.


FWA, through their Sacramento-Central Valley Fish Screen Program, has raised over $18 million in funds to support fish screening efforts.  Based on the cfs screened, the cost per cfs is approximately $9,700 per cfs.  This cost includes, design, construction and installation, engineering, permits, monitoring, post-installation adjustments, education and outreach, and overall project management (fund accounting and reporting).

The overall success of the program is directly related to the fact that the lead partner, FWA, is project driven, not study driven. FWA has maximized the funds it has received thus far by prudent management and economies of scale.

For more information on the fish screen program:

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