On Tuesday, March 23, 2010, Family Water Alliance along with over 200 people attended the hour long groundbreaking ceremony for the $230 million Fish Passage Improvement Project at the Red Bluff Diversion Dam.
The Red Bluff Diversion Dam (RBDD), and the Tehama-Colusa and Corning Canals were built in the early 1960'2 by the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR), which owns the facilities. The Tehama-Colusa Canal Authority (TCCA) operates and maintains the delivery system which provides water to its 17-member water districts throughout a four-county service area (Tehama, Glenn, Colusa, Yolo), providing an economic benefit of over $1 billion to the area annually.
"This project represents almost 40 years of efforts by entities to find a blance solution that improves fish passage and sustains the reliability of agricultural water deliveries," said Bureau Commissioner Micheal Connor, a speaker at the event.
The RBDD is located on the main stem of the Sacramento River and features a series of 11 large gates that when lowered, raise the level of the River ten to twelve feet, forming Lake Red Bluff, thereby providing for gravity diversion of water from the river into the Tehama-Colusa and Corning canals for irrigation. When the RBDD gates are raised, the TCCA's ability to deliver irrigation water is limited to a series of cumbersome and undersized shortterm fixes: the Temporary Pumping Pland, Research Pumping Plant, seasonal pumps at the canal headworks and by forcing water backward through the Constant Head Orifice into the Tehama-Colusa Canal at Stony Creek from Black Butte Reservoir. The RBDD allows for the diversion of approximately 2500 cubic-feet-per-second (cfs) of water and is the second largest diversion on the Sacramento River.
The Fish Passage Improvement Project involves the construction of a state-of-the-art flat plate, positive barrier fish screen, a new pumping plant with a 2500 cfs footprint and an installed pumping capacity of 2000 cfs, and a siphon and connection infrastructure to the existing headworks. The completion of the Project will allow the TCCA to provide year-round water supply reliability without reliance on the RBDD for water diversions, thereby allowing the RBDD gates to be permanently raised. This will allow for unimpaired fish passage to and from prime spawning habitat for several listed fish species, including: Winter Run Chinook Salmon, Spring Run Chinook Salmon, Central Valley Steelhead, and Green Sturgeon. Nearly half of the $230 million project will be funded by federal stimulus funds, which will create an estimated 1,200 construction jobs. The Project will also preserve well over 10,000 jobs directly tied to securing year-round water supply reliability for this important 150,000 acre service area, over half of which is planted in permanent crops.
Jeff Sutton, the TCCA General Manager, shared Master of Ceremonies duties at the groundbreaking ceremony, with Brian Person, USBR Northern California Area Office Manager. His remarks focused on expressing appreciation to the long list of Project partners and supporters, including FWA: "We are here today because a diverse coalition of interests - water districts, agricultural organizations, the power industry, fisherman, environmental groups, business interests, and local, state and federal agencies - all came together to support a common goal, making this important Project a reality; a Project that truly epitomizes the concepts of both environmental responsibility and economic sustainability."
TCCA and the BOR are partners on this historic project. Construction is set to begin in April 2010, with a targeted date of completion of May 2012. The schedule for completion of the Fish Passage Improvement Project is mandated by the National Marine Fisheries Service's 2009 Bilogical Opinion for the Operating Criteria and Plan (OCAP) of the Central Valley Project. The "Reasonable and Prudent Alternative" for operation of the RBDD requires the gates to be raised year-round after 2011 requiring the new facilities be operational by spring of 2012.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar were among the speakers at the historic groundbreaking ceremony. Although, Governor Schwarzenneger spoke elequently abouth the project, he also took the opportunity to urge Californians to support the water bond proposal appearing on the November ballot, which includes $60 million in funding needed to complete the Project.
Secretary Salazar's comments focused on the importance of preserving Northern California agriculture, basically vocalizing everyone's reason for attending and supporting the Project by stating, "We know at the end of the day, water is the lifeblood of agriculture, and agriculture is the lifeblood for these communities in Northern California."
For more information on the TCCA's Fish Passage Improvement Project at the Red Bluff Diversion Dam visit http://www.tccanal.com/fishpassage.php.