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Related Categories: East Bay | Environment & Forest Defense
Steelhead Get Helping Hand Up Alameda Creek
by Dan Bacher
Tuesday Feb 26th, 2008 4:17 PM
Two adult steelhead trout migrating through lower Alameda Creek in Fremont were netted and moved from below the BART weir, an impassable fish barrier, and moved upstream into Niles Canyon, according to this report from Jeff Miller of the Alameda Creek Alliance
STEELHEAD TROUT GET ANNUAL HELPING HAND UP ALAMEDA CREEK

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 26, 2008

CONTACT: Jeff Miller, Alameda Creek Alliance, (510) 499-9185

Fremont, CA – Two adult steelhead trout migrating through lower Alameda Creek in Fremont were netted and moved from below the BART weir, an impassable fish barrier, and moved upstream into Niles Canyon. This is the 11th consecutive winter the Alameda Creek Alliance has documented ocean-run steelhead in lower Alameda Creek. Alameda County has pledged to construct a fish ladder at the BART weir by 2010, so that steelhead and salmon can migrate past the barrier to more suitable cold water spawning and rearing habitat upstream.

The 6-8 pound steelhead rescued today were initially observed in the flood control channel yesterday, attempting to jump the BART weir. Alameda Creek Alliance volunteers, East Bay Regional Park District biologists, and Alameda County staff operating under state and federal permits captured the steelhead, fitted them with radio tags before moving them upstream for release.

Steelhead trout were listed as a federally threatened species in 1997 and the Alameda Creek Alliance has been advocating since then for dam removals and construction of fish ladders to allow migratory fish to reach spawning habitat in and above the Sunol Valley and Sunol Regional Park. There are 15 local, state, and federal agencies cooperating on fish passage projects in Alameda Creek, including dam removals and construction of fish ladders and fish screens. These restoration projects will make up to 20 miles of Alameda Creek and its tributaries accessible to ocean-run fish for the first time in over half a century.

Until fish passage projects are completed, fisheries biologists and volunteers have been given annual permits by the California Department of Fish and Game and the federal agency National Marine Fisheries Service to move blocked or stranded fish from the Alameda Creek flood control channel to suitable habitat upstream, and to track them with radio transmitters to learn more about their migration and habitat needs. The Alameda County Water District (ACWD) and Alameda County Flood Control District are moving forward with four fish passage projects in the lower creek, including a fish ladder that will allow fish to bypass the BART weir and middle ACWD rubber dam, removing ACWD’s lower rubber dam, and installing fish screens at several water diversions.

The Alameda Creek watershed covers an area of 633 square miles and once supported populations of steelhead trout and salmon. Steelhead and salmon are anadromous fish, living out their adult lives in the ocean and migrating up fresh water streams and rivers to spawn and rear their young. Construction of dams, water diversions, modifications to the Alameda Creek streambed, and urbanization made it impossible for steelhead to migrate upstream and eliminated access to suitable spawning areas. As a result, steelhead have been absent from Alameda Creek and its tributaries for several decades.

Seventeen public agencies and nonprofit organizations signed an agreement in 2006 to collaborate on studies of stream flows and fish habitat needed for Alameda Creek steelhead restoration. The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) recently began environmental review for capital improvement projects to the San Francisco water supply system, including nine projects along Alameda Creek in the Sunol Valley. The largest is the Calaveras Dam Replacement Project, to rebuild the seismically vulnerable Calaveras Dam. The Alameda Creek Alliance is pushing for the project to include minimum flow releases from Calaveras Reservoir to help spawning, rearing and migration of steelhead in Alameda Creek below the dam, and the removal of the Alameda Diversion Dam from upper Alameda Creek. Unfortunately, the SFPUC so far has dismissed consideration of the impacts of their three dams on steelhead trout in Alameda Creek in their programmatic environmental review for the retrofits to San Francisco’s water system. The draft Environmental Impact Report for the dam replacement project is due out this summer. The SFPUC is also proposing other water supply projects in the Sunol Valley that could further harm fish and wildlife in Alameda Creek. The SFPUC’s failure to include Alameda Creek stream restoration as part of the Calaveras Dam rebuild and controversial SFPUC proposals to divert more water from Alameda Creek could unnecessarily jeopardize the schedule for water system upgrades.

The non-profit Alameda Creek Alliance last year celebrated ten years of working to restore Alameda Creek and its native fish populations. The Alliance formed in August 1997 after steelhead trout in the Central California Coast were listed as a threatened species. The Alliance has grown to an organization of 1,500 members.


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Jeff Miller
Director
Alameda Creek Alliance
P.O. Box 192
Canyon, CA 94516
(510) 499-9185
Fax (415) 436-9683
Web site http://www.alamedacreek.org