With Dam Removal, San Joaquin Salmon Will Run Again

The Friant Dam on California’s San Joaquin River, built in the 1940’s, is slated for removal as part of today’s Congressional designation of wilderness status and federal protection to 2 million acres across nine states.


Included in Congress’ largest expansion of the wilderness system in 15 years is an ambitious river restoration effort on the San Joaquin River. The legislation authorizes the federal government to carry out an $88 million settlement won by environmentalists in 2006 after a court battle that spanned two decades.

“It’s going to initiate one of the largest river restoration projects in the nation. It’s a great day,” said Monty Schmitt of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The Friant Dam was built to divert most of the San Joaquin River’s flow into two large irrigation canals to be used for agriculture. A Chinook salmon run cited as one of the most bountiful on the West Coast was devastated by the construction of the dam over 60 years ago.

Schmitt said the goal now is to have spring chinook salmon swimming up the San Joaquin by 2012.

The river has been a major agricultural irrigation source for the San Joaquin River Valley, but with significant environmental cost. The end of the San Joaquin River has been nicknamed, “the lower colon of California” after decades of low flow and runoff and agricultural drainage. Some stretches currently have no water at all.

While there was anger about the legislation from some California Republicans and business development groups, the legislation itself was a bipartisan effort both in Washington D.C. and in California. The resolution of a decades-long battle between farmers and environmentalists gives both sides something to celebrate, initiating river restoration as well as putting funds toward making up for farmers’ irrigation losses.

The settlement “gives the agricultural community some control over their water future,” said Rep. George Radanovich, a Central Valley Republican.

“We’re ecstatic,” said Sam Goldman, California wilderness coordinator at the Wilderness Society.

As are the salmon who will be swimming there in the coming years.
Image Credit: Paradigm via Flickr under Creative Commons License

7 thoughts on “With Dam Removal, San Joaquin Salmon Will Run Again”

  1. Maybe we will lucky enough to get 10% of historical salmon numbers from 10% of historical water flows. Whether the salmon come back or not the restored river will provide some habitat for birds & other wildlife. A good way to visit the river is by boat. My river boating guide provides information about access points as well as flow, difficulty, map, weather, guidebooks, trip reports & links.

    • San Joaquin River Parkway Guide for Kayaking, Innertubing, Rafting & Canoeing.

    • The directory includes links to conservation & recreation throughout the watershed.
    San Joaquin River Watershed Directory – Conservation & Recreation.
    (Sort alphabetically. 1=kayaking, 2=rafting, 3=conservation-environment, 4=fishing, 5=camping-hiking, 6=local-information)

  2. No further comments… I guess this is a dead issue!
    BUT NOT HERE WHERE I LIVE AND EXIST (as well as many FINE other peoples.) I realize that we here do not have a huge population base…and that the water that runs through this blessed foothill area has ‘other’ business keeping California green
    (if not prospering right now), but some of this great State is very dependent upon this River, Now and into the future. The next 3 years will be above average in rainfall. The ‘drought’ is over and I cannot tell anyone which of the next 3 years will create total havoc and caos downstream from here.
    Mark my words right now: I will bet anyone that the next 3 years will be ‘Above Average’

  3. The copy got changed somewhat from my original writing…Don’t know why. I did not use italics,
    and all my parethesis wording is missing !@!

  4. Still more gaming…I live just above Millerton Lake
    and work at it’s upper reaches. There is a simple way
    to get the salmon to run up through the dams and up to
    their original spawning area. I said SIMPLE, but it will not be EASY…Everybody is gaming everybody else
    and it can’t happen until all parties agree to ‘share’
    and cooperate together. That means Farmers, The State,
    The Feds, the electrical producers and the ‘Greenies’ amounst other competing entities. The river does not actually ‘belong’ to anyone. I have worked, drank and breathed that river
    for the past 28 years at least. I have used it’s water to irrigate horse pasture on the Westside . I have backpacked and packed
    mules/horses through most of the drainages of all three major branches. Read “Cadillac Desert” by Mark
    Reisner for more insight… When you finish that
    read “Collapse, How Societies Chose To Fail Or Succeed.” by Jared Diamond .
    There is a value to the Salmon regaining their original spawning grounds. There is a value to the electricity generated by the powerhouses.
    There is a value for the water to be used for crops and people’s homes and businesses. There is a value for the damn Dams . To quote the immortal Rodney King- ” Can’t we all just get along ???”

  5. The salmon will never run anyways. If you check the “details,” the amount of water required to be released is less than 10% of annual historical flow. The Salmon ran when there was 100% of annual flow. They ain’t comin’ for 10%. This was a “don’t throw us in the briar patch” issue for the farmers, who are quietly quite happy with the “settlement.”

  6. If you check the facts, you will discover that Friant Dam is not going to be removed as a part of the Omnibus bill or any bill. It is reckless to make such a statement and gives the Ag industry ammunition to bash environmentalist.

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