Cedar Creek Dam Removal Provides South Fork Eel River Salmon With New Passages

It may not be as a big of a victory as the much overdue anticipation of four Klamath River dams soon set to begin coming down, but California Trout has the details on a project that will benefit South Fork Eel River salmon and steelhead. Here’s more from CalTrout:

CalTrout photo

Steelhead across California are in desperate need of refuge from rising water temperatures, falling water levels, and predation by invasive species. In the South Fork Eel River watershed, a recent dam removal project on Cedar Creek now offers these fish access to nine miles of renewed hope for escaping such threats.

“[Dam removal] will help more adult steelhead get into Cedar Creek, but it will also help juveniles from elsewhere get into Cedar Creek and have a better chance at living through the summer,” CalTrout North Coast Project Manager Matt Metheny said.

Cedar Creek is an important cold-water tributary to the South Fork Eel River, but since the late 1940s an old hatchery dam blocked fish access up the creek. CalTrout and our partners recently completed a project to remove this dam, opening up a cold-water refuge where steelhead can thrive throughout the summer.

The creek runs through Leggett, California, a small town nestled in the redwoods of northern Mendocino County. While Leggett is small, travelers may have passed through the town on their way under its giant drive through redwood tree.

The now removed dam was constructed in the 1940s to supply water for a CDFW hatchery and its rearing ponds. In the 1950s, the dam was damaged by a flood, and in 1964, another flood led CDFW to completely abandon hatchery operations. For 60 years, the dam remained.

While traveling upstream was possible for adult salmon and steelhead, the dam made migration challenging. Adult fish were able to jump over the dam only during a narrow time window. “If flows were too high, the water was rushing too fast, and if flows were too low then there was not enough water for fish to build up speed for a jump,” Metheny said.