A $100 million project removing dams and helping fish route around others is returning a badly endangered salmon to spring-fed waters in northernmost California, giving cold-loving native fish a life-saving place to chill as scientists say climate change, drought and human diversions warm the waters.
State and federal officials, in a years-long project with dam-owner Pacific Gas & Electric Co., plan to release 200,000 young, endangered winter-run Chinook salmon over the next two months into the north fork of Battle Creek, where melted snow percolating through volcanic rock provides ideal habitat for native salmon and steelhead that thrive in cold mountain water.
Dam-building for electrical generation and water storage from the 1930s blocked winter-run Chinook from upstream waterways, cutting their numbers from nearly a million to a few thousand barely getting by in warm downstream stretches of the Sacramento River, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife says.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ranks winter-run Chinook as one of eight marine species most at risk of extinction.
Because of Battle Creek’s spring-fed cold water, and the difficulty of keeping the Sacramento River cool enough for the winter-run Chinook, state and federal agencies made a priority of making Battle Creek accessible to winter-run Chinook again.