Red Bluff Diversion Dam Fish Passage Improvement

Sacramento Valley Region

Red Bluff Diversion Dam Fish Passage Improvement

  • Location: Sacramento River at Red Bluff
  • Project Sponsor: Reclamation, TCCA
  • Time Frame: 2010–2012
  • Cost: $220 million (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Reclamation, TCCA)
  • Project Objectives:
    • Improve reliability to safely pass anadromous fish and other species of concern
    • Improve reliability and reduce cost of water diversion to TCCA district users

Completed in 1964, the Red Bluff Diversion Dam is located on the Sacramento River at Red Bluff and features a series of 11 gates that, when lowered, provide for gravity diversion of irrigation water from the Sacramento River into the Tehama-Colusa and Corning Canals. The Red Bluff Diversion Dam has been a serious impediment to upstream and downstream fish migration, and a significant portion of the Sacramento River spawning habitat for endangered salmon and steelhead occurs upstream of the dam. Adult fish moving upstream have difficulty finding and using the ladders for passage over the dam, and juveniles migrating downstream through the dam become disoriented by the turbulence resulting, in significant mortality from predator fish. The main species of concern are winter- and spring-run Chinook salmon, Central Valley steelhead, and green sturgeon.

The National Marine Fisheries Service’s 2009 Biological Opinion for operation of the Central Valley Project mandated a Reasonable and Prudent Alternative for Red Bluff Diversion Dam that required the gates to be raised year-round by 2012. The Fish Passage Improvement Project is the culmination of more than 40 years of efforts by various entities to find a balanced solution that improves fish passage and the reliability of irrigation water deliveries. Highlights include:

  • A pumping plant and flat-plate fish screen near the existing canal headworks that will deliver up to 2,500 cfs into the Tehama-Colusa and Corning Canals.
  • An Environmental Impact Report, certified by TCCA in June 2008 and a Record of Decision signed by Reclamation in July 2008.
  • Construction that began in spring 2010 following a groundbreaking event attended by Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Governor Schwarzenegger.

An adaptive management program to evaluate project performance will include a Policy Review Board with representation from agencies and interest groups (Reclamation, TCCA, City of Red Bluff, Sacramento River sport fishing groups, commercial fishing representatives).

Reclamation will seek measures to reduce the potential impacts of the project on local recreation and economic interests, such as providing a short gates-in period to accommodate the Memorial Day boat races held annually on Lake Red Bluff. As stated by TCCA Manager Jeff Sutton at the groundbreaking in March 2010, ìThis is the first step. What we really look forward to is being back here in 2 years for a ribbon cutting.î