With the completion of phase one of California Water Service Company’s (Cal Water) fish passage initiative at its Bear Gulch diversion facility, the company remains committed to finding wildlife conservation solutions.

Previously, steelhead trout, listed as threatened under the Federal Endangered Species Act, were unable to migrate and spawn in Bear Gulch Creek due to the industry-standard water pumping system. Working with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the National Marine Fisheries Service, Cal Water developed an operations plan that includes minimum bypass flow requirements to protect the fish.

“As the steelhead trout population started to diminish on the West Coast, we felt a responsibility to do what we could do protect this endangered population and help them thrive,” said Cal Water’s Bear Gulch Local Manager Dawn Smithson. “We realized we needed a creative solution, and this fish passage project is an important first step.”

In 2007, a cone fish screen was installed at the water intake, and Cal Water recently installed a concrete weir at the diversion point to accurately measure and monitor bypass flows to maintain sufficient water in the creek for fish to migrate upstream.

Cal Water also is developing a fish ladder in Bear Gulch to maintain minimum bypass flow and allow the trout to migrate upstream and downstream of the intake diversion. The project will include a series of ascending pools allowing the fish to move from pool to pool until they can swim beyond the ladder.

“What we have accomplished through the construction of the screen and weir, and what we hope to achieve through the ladder, is a clear path for migration of these fish to the bay and ocean,” said Smithson. “As a company, we remain committed to environmental conservation and look forward to watching the steelhead trout repopulate.”

(Photo: Concrete Weir on Bear Gulch Creek)

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