Fish passage above dams “incredibly foolish?”

I asked Doug Demko, a fisheries biologist who consults for water districts, what he thought about plans to restore migratory fish above large California dams.

Demko called the idea “incredibly foolish.”

“It creates more problems than it solves, and it’s hugely expensive,” Demko said.

You’d have to either trap both incoming and outgoing fish and truck them around the dams, or build some kind of passage facility like a massive fish ladder, he said..

After all that effort, predatory nonnative fish are still going to gobble up the baby salmon and steelhead as they swim downstream toward the ocean, Demko said. (To be fair, the recovery plan unveiled earlier this week does address predator control — passage above dams is only one aspect of the broad plan.)

But an unrealistic aspect, in Demko’s opinion.

“There are so many significant issues, lower hanging fruit that need to be resolved or fixed” before discussing passage above the dams, he said.

The recovery plan recommends at least studying fish passage above Camanche, New Hogan and the Stanislaus River dams, including New Melones.

Decide for yourself; read the recovery plan. And here’s my write-up focusing on how Stockton’s little Calaveras River fits into the big picture.

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    Alex Breitler

    A native of Benicia, he lives in Stockton with his wife, Ann, who forces him to go backpacking in the Sierra Nevada or Trinity Alps at every opportunity. He has been writing mostly about natural resources since 2003, first in Redding and now in ... Read Full
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