MANTON – Michael L. Connor, Commissioner of the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation, today (Oct. 16) toured the Battle Creek Habitat Restoration project that is in the process of restoring 48 miles of streams and tributaries for salmon and steelhead habitat.
The habitat restoration project involves modifying the Battle Creek Hydroelectric Project, owned and operated by PG&E. Connor was accompanied by PG&E’s Vice President of Power Generation Randy Livingston and Reclamation’s Deputy Commissioner for Operations David Murillo.
Restoration is being accomplished primarily through the removal of five diversion dams, placement of screens and ladders on three other diversion dams, and increasing instream flows.
Despite the loss of nearly one-third of the hydroelectric output at its Battle Creek hydro facility, PG&E was an early and eager supporter of the project as the company recognized the tremendous environmental benefit the project would have for the anadramous fish (fish that begin life in freshwater creeks and live part of their lives in the ocean).
“This is an example of Reclamation’s and PG&E’s commitment to river restoration. The work at Battle Creek underscores the significance of how a broad partnership among numerous interests can make possible these dramatic improvements to one of the most important anadromous fish spawning streams in the Sacramento Valley,” said Connor.
Improved numbers of spawning salmon
The project is already realizing benefits of improved numbers of spawning salmon in an area that had previously been very difficult for salmon to access. Late last year, biologists with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service identified a large number of redds – or salmon nests – upstream from where the Wildcat Diversion Dam once stood on North Fork Battle Creek.
Battle Creek and its tributaries provide optimal spawning habitat as it is fed by cold water springs from large aquifers that provide ideal temperatures and year-round flows, even in drier years. (Click here to read a Currents story and see a video on this project.)
“PG&E is proud to have partnered with so many parties all working toward the common goal of improving habitat for these endangered fish,” said Livingston. “The environmental benefits of the project are clear, and PG&E can maintain a viable hydropower facility that coexists with native fish and habitat.”
Battle Creek, a tributary to the Sacramento River, is being restored through the Battle Creek Salmon and Steelhead Restoration Project. The project is a proactive, cooperative effort to increase threatened and endangered Chinook salmon and Central Valley steelhead trout populations by restoring approximately 42 miles of habitat in Battle Creek and an additional six miles of habitat in its tributaries, while maintaining renewable energy production at the Battle Creek Hydroelectric Project, owned and operated by PG&E.
Battle Creek and its tributaries provide optimal spawning habitat as it is fed by cold water springs from large aquifers that provide ideal temperatures and year-round flows, even in drier years.
Project due to be completed in 2015
In 1999, a Memorandum of Understanding between PG&E, the Bureau of Reclamation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Marine Fisheries Service and the California Department of Fish and Game was signed committing each to the restoration project. In addition, numerous stakeholders, including the Greater Battle Creek Watershed Working Group and Battle Creek Watershed Conservancy, as well as landowners and funding contributors, have played an important role in moving this project forward.
Project construction began in 2009, and in August 2010, Wildcat Diversion Dam was removed on North Fork Battle Creek, restoring approximately 15 miles of stream habitat.
Also on the North Fork, substantial fish screen and ladder construction has occurred upstream at North Battle Creek Feeder and Eagle Canyon Diversion Dams and is anticipated to be fully completed in 2015. On South Fork Battle Creek, construction of an Inskip Powerhouse bypass and tailrace connector to Coleman Canal (to prevent mixing of north fork and south fork waters) has been proceeding and is anticipated to be completed at the end of 2012.
The remainder of the project includes the construction of a fish barrier weir on Baldwin Creek, construction of a fish screen and ladder on Inskip Diversion Dam, construction of a tailrace connector from South Powerhouse to Inskip Canal, and the removal of Lower Ripley Creek Feeder, Soap Creek Feeder, and South and Coleman Diversion Dams. This construction is anticipated to begin in mid-2014 and be completed in late 2015.