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2020 Projects

Applying FISHPass in the Smith River

Applying FISHPass in the Smith River

Project Lead:   Ross Taylor and Associates

Location of Project:  Smith River watershed in Del Norte County, California. (41.79558, 124.05775 at South Fork confluence.)

Description of Project:  

The Forum has invested considerable time and resources in the development of FISHPass, an optimization model to assist in prioritizing the treatment of migration barriers. This project leverages the effort already invested in FISHPass and applies it to a real world example to develop an optimized list of barrier removals in one of California's most important watersheds for the conservation of wild anadromous fish, the Smith River. The primary objective of this project is to develop an application of FISHPass in the Smith River resulting in a list of priority barriers to remove in the watershed at variable levels of effort. Beyond the primary objective this project will provide the opportunity to learn about FISHPass,  provide additional input data and potentially gain insights on how to improve it. Additional benefits of this project include an assessment of the performance of the FISHPass model, updates to input data (e.g. California Passage Assessment Database (PAD) records) and will potentially identify approaches that could be used to strengthen the model for future applications within the Smith River, and in other drainages in California. Ross Taylor and Associates (RTA) will work closely with the Forum's FISHPass Working Group and Science & Data Committee. 

First steps include:

  • Reviewing all the PAD entries for the Smith River and conducting field reconnaissance of locations listed as either "unassessed" or "status unknown" and an identification of areas where barriers are likely to occur that are not yet included in the PAD.

  • A first-pass level of passability would be made at each site during the field reconnaissance to provide scores to enter into FISHPass

  • Site visits, in coordination with USFWS,  to conduct cursory evaluations of upstream habitat and assist in strengthening assumptions made in using remove sensing techniques of determining habitat suitability.

  • Working with USFWS and PSMFC to use this information to update relevant data inputs in FISHPass and evaluate the results.

    • RTA ​proposes that all FISHPass runs are made with two scenarios:

      1. prioritize sites with current 2019-2020 status of all sites​

      2. prioritize sites with barrier status as if no recent (post-1998) sites were remediated. 

Project partners include U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission, and other member organizations of the California Fish Passage Forum. Outreach meetings will be used to gather information to support this effort and will be conducted with organizations that own barriers or land where barriers exist.

Santa Margarita River Fish Passage & Bridge Replacement Project 

Santa Margarita River Project (FY20)

Project Lead: CalTrout

Location of Project: 33.413908N, -117.241300W

Description of Project:

This fish passage project on the Santa Margarita River in San Diego County addresses a principal threat to endangered Southern California steelhead by removing a low-flow river crossing that is a fish passage barrier, replacing it with a new bridge.

The Santa Margarita River is a high priority river designated in the NMFS (2012) Southern Steelhead Recovery Plan; and fish passage barrier removal is one of the highest priority tasks for recovery. Bridge replacement at Sandia Creek Drive near Fallbrook, CA will open 12 miles of upstream prime spawning and rearing habitat. It will leverage recently completed downstream fish passage work on Camp Pendelton that remediated the only other barrier on the mainstem of the river. Replacement of Sandia Creek Drive bridge will provide unimpeded passage for steelhead to historic habitat to the current limit of anadromy 30 miles inland at the headwaters.

Goals of the project include:

  1. Provide fish passage to endangered steelhead

  2. Restore riverine ecosystem processes by building a bridge that restores natural river hydrology and improves >1 acre of riparian habitat for multiple species including endangered least bell's vireo, southwestern willow flycatcher and arroyo toad.

  3. Increase resiliency to climate change by protecting the public from the hazardous flood impacts of the existing bridge and enhancing a regionally important wildlife migration corridor

  4. provide educational and recreational opportunities through improved access to the Santa Margarita Trail Preserve. 

Building off of significant investments from California Department of Fish & Wildlife and the State Coastal Conservancy in support of the development of 65% designs and geotechnical borings analysis, Forum funding for this project will be coupled with CalTrout and agency cost share to support engineering structural design to 100% level for the final bridge design. Deliverables are interim and final structural design for the bridge. The total project cost for design is $1,176,060 and for construction is $16M including 30% contingency. The finalized 65% design, CEQA permitting and early civil and structural 100% design are either currently funded or will be covered by cost share from other organizations. Construction is expected to begin fall 2021.

Partners include State Coastal Conservancy, San Diego County, the Wildlands Conservancy, California Department of Fish & Wildlife, USFWS, Fallbrook Public Utility District, Fallbrook Trails Council, CalTrout, and Trout Unlimited. 


Strawberry Creek at Clam Beach Fish Passage Remediation Project

Strawberry Creek at Clam Beach

Project Lead: Trout Unlimited

Location of Project:  40.993609, -124.113184

Description of Project:

The goal of this project is to provide fish passage through the existing concrete channel upstream and adjacent to the Highway 101 culvert on Strawberry Creek. The project will retrofit the existing structure by installing 13 angled concrete baffles to create a fishway through the grade control channel. The baffles will create 100% passable conditions to adult and juvenile salmonids and lamprey species to restore access to five miles of upstream spawning and rearing habitat. 

Strawberry Creek is a small coastal drainage located near McKinleyville, CA. The watershed currently supports coastal cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii clarkii), steelhead trout (O.mykiss), and Western brook lamprey (Lampetra richardsoni). The watershed also historically supported Coho Salmon (O. kisutch) and is suspected of supporting a population of Pacific Lamprey (Entosphenus tridentatus). The fish passage condition of the existing channel and culvert were assessed in 2014 by Ross Taylor and Associates. The existing culvert was identified as passable, but the concrete channel was characterized as a total barrier to all life stages of salmonids. Adult and juvenile salmonids reside year-round downstream of the concrete channel. 

The USFWS has retained Michael Love and Associates (MLA) to develop fish passage designs for the Highway 101 crossing on Strawberry Creek. In March 2017, MLA completed a Basis of Design Technical Memorandum and Design Plans for the site at the 70% level.

The project intends to provide fish passage through the concrete channel while avoiding any discernible increases in inundation of adjacent Central Avenue. Specific design objectives for the site are to increase water depth and decrease velocity within the concrete channel to meet fish passage criteria while avoiding flood impacts to the adjacent roadway and avoiding an increase in inspection and maintenance requirements.

Funding from the California Fish Passage Forum will support implementation/construction costs. Most project costs have been secured by the USFWS, however, since the initial request for implementation funds, some costs associated with dewatering and onsite water management have increased. Forum funds will aid with the reimbursement of these additional costs. 

Project partners include US Fish & Wildlife Service, Michael Love and Associates, GHD Inc, and California Department of Transportation.

Montague-Granada Weir Retrofit & Barrier Removal

Montague-Granada Weir Retrofit & Barrier Removal

Project Lead: Shasta Valley Resource Conservation District


Location of Project: -122.538155, 41.709014


Description of Project:

The Montague-Grenada Weir (sometimes called the Watermaster's Weir or the USGS Weir) is an important Shasta River flow measuring structure at river mile 14.6. The weir, built in 1980, is a concrete structure that spans the open channel to improve flow measurements. It is currently managed in a cooperative manner by several local agencies including U.S. Geological Society (USGS), the Scott-Shasta Watermaster District (SSWD) and the Shasta Valley Resource Conservation District (SVRCD). Funds from the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) allows USGS to measure and provide accurate, realtime data to local irrigation districts and water users. These agencies seek to work together to improve ecosystem health in the Shasta River. 

The project as two coequal goals:

  1. Preserve the integrity of open channel flow characteristics for SSWD and USGS services

  2. Improve fish passage for all life stages of salmon species, particularly juvenile salmon

The engineered weir modification design will meet both goals by the addition of a fishway to the weir, which will allow juvenile salmon to pass upstream to cooler refugia during low flows and when temperatures are sub-lethal in the mainstem Shasta. All permits have been secured, and 100% design issues have been resolved. The SVRCD has taken on the responsibility for maintenance and mangement of the weir for five years.

West Tule Creek Diversion Fish Passage Project

West Tule Creek Diversion Fish Passage Project

Project Lead: Water Resource and Training Center

Location of Project: 40.52537093, -123.23820333 


Description of Project:

The Water Resource and Training Center (WRTC) in coordination with project partners propose to address fish passage limitations and environmental compliance standards at the Evans Range diversion located on West Tule Creek, a tributary to Hayfork Creek. Fish passage barriers are prolific throughout the Hayfork Basin, consisting of irrigation diversions, culvert crossings, and concrete sills (NOAA 2014). These barriers restricting 1.5 miles of anadromous habitat during various salmonid life stages, and often times do not meet state and federal fish passage requirements. The Evans Ranch Diversion is located on USFS land approximately 1.67 miles upstream from the confluence with Hayfork Creek. The diversion consists of a channel spanning flash-board dam set on a concrete sill that diverts flow through a box-set fish-screen and into a piped conveyance system. This diversion structure creates an approximate 18" high full passage barrier during low flow conditions and the screen can impinge juvenile salmonids due to a lack of hydraulic function.


Completion of this project will result in immediate benefits to all life stages of salmonid species, as it will allow for volitional access to rearing and spawning habitat on Tule Creek above river mile 1.67. Long term measurable benefits to salmonids will be demonstrated by the extent of habitat occupied and utilized above the point of diversion, and the effectiveness of the fish protection measures. 

The Forum's funding will be utilized to create 100% design for improved fish passage, diversion method, and screening. The Nature Conservancy has provided matching contributions for initial concept development, project coordination, and landowner outreach. An additional component of this project includes in-stream flow improvements via on farm efficiencies, which are currently under development. The landowners are committed to this project and will contribute matching funds for upgrading the plumbing on their system including labor, parts, and heavy equipment use. 

Specific funding outcomes and deliverables include: 

  • Final designs for improved diversion method

  • Final designs for environmental compliant fish-screen

  • Continued project coordination and outreach

Project partners include California Department of Fish & Wildlife, Scott River Water Trust, Samantha Chilcote Consluting, Cascade Stream Solutions, and the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS).

Lamprey Passage Design for Priority Obstacles in the Sacramento Basin (Phase 2)

Lamprey Passage Sac Basin

Project Leads: Western Fishes & US Fish & Wildlife Service

Location of Project: 39.7004 N  121.94237 W - Sacramento Valley below impassable dams

Description of Project 

Obstructed passage is the primary threat to anadromous Pacific Lamprey in California, as determined by the Pacific Lamprey Conservation Initiative (PLCI) threat assessment and regional implementation plans. Recent projects supported by the California Fish Passage Forum have included: 

  1. Revision of the First Pass Barrier Assessment to include Pacific Lamprey needs

  2. Development of Historical and Current Distribution GIS layer for the CDFW Biogeographic Information and Observation System (BIOS)

  3. Development of and recommendations for Pacific Lamprey - specific fields in the Passage Assessment Database (PAD).

The proposed lamprey passage design project builds on these recent products, strategically applying them as management tools for barrier assessment and optimization of remediation strategies for Pacific Lamprey, using 3rd order and higher streams in the Sacramento Basin (upstream of Delta & below large impassable dams) as a test case. This project will result in five passage project conceptual designs for top priority barriers and will pave the way to help reconnect Pacific Lamprey with their historical habitats in California. 

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