Why is Fish Passage Barrier Removal Important?


Connectivity, ecological function and climate change


The mission of the California Fish Passage Forum (Forum) is to protect and restore listed anadromous salmonid species, and other aquatic organisms, in California by promoting collaboration among public and private sectors for fish passage improvement projects and programs. This goal is to restore connectivity of freshwater habitats throughout the historic range of anadromous fish.
The Forum supports fish passage barrier removal, which enhances connectivity and restores the natural processes capable of sustaining healthy anadromous fish populations.

Addressing connectivity is a high priority, cost-effective approach to protecting and restoring anadromous fish populations. Improving connectivity can increase habitat diversity and population resilience and thus compensate for the effects of climate change-induced reductions in stream flow and increases in temperature. Removing the right barriers requires an understanding of connectivity within stream networks.

salmon russian river fishing off the coast of California

Fisheries Health

Ecosystem Function



Other Benefits

  • The provision of clean air and water
  • Flood control and the protection of property (homes, schools, businesses, roads)
  • Sediment management
  • Native fish and wildlife habitat, including providing passage for all aquatic species (e.g., amphibians and reptiles) throughout their life stages as well as establishment of migration corridors through enhanced connectivity
  • Carbon sequestration
  • Public safety—inadequate crossing structure can affect road condition (e.g., during tropical storm Irene in Vermont 1,240 road crossing structures were damaged or destroyed and 21 miles of Forest Service roads and trails required almost $7 million in repairs)
  • Groundwater benefits
  • Stormwater improvements
  • Urban water reuse
  • Non-point source pollution reduction
  • In-stream flow conditions are maintained or improved
  • For every stream mile reconnected, there is more than a $500,000 benefit to communities. For every stream mile opened to fish passage, 12 jobs are supported.
  • Every fish passage improvement structure that is completed benefits from a maintenance-free infrastructure that is likely to last 50-100 years. When aging, soon-to-fail infrastructure is replaced with new structures, significant value is added to local economies by increasing the reliability and stability of its transportation infrastructure.  

  • Many existing fish passage structures are at risk of failing.When they fail, an emergency exists, generally in a financially-strapped, rural and remote area, which creates a financial burden on the entity responsible for maintenance. Planning for high priority fish passage barrier removal provides the needed time for managers to efficiently plan and budget for replacement structures, versus having to replace the structures in crisis mode (which generally costs more).
  • Replacement of fish passage barriers with new designs developed using stream simulation technology results in significant cost savings and limited up-front investments.
  • Fish passage improvement efforts help our society modernize in a way that simultaneously improves transportation and the health and sustainability of our natural resources.
  • Watershed restoration projects generate an estimated 17 jobs for every $1 million invested, through job creation, reduced maintenance costs, and increased ecotourism and recreation.
    • Healthy watersheds increase property values.
    • Reduced costs for repairs and maintenance during the life cycle of an adequately designed structure.
    • Reduced costs for supplying and treating drinking water.