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San Joaquin Fish Habitat Improvement
Salmon restoration in the San Joaquin River drainage has faced more
than its share of problems. With completion of Friant Dam in 1944
blocking passage to upstream spawning areas, as well as dewatering
the river for many miles downstream from the dam, and with no salmon
hatchery to mitigate the dams effects, salmon spawning in
the San Joaquin River came to an end. Runs of chinook salmon did,
however, continue in three tributary streams, the Stanislaus, Tuolumne,
and Merced Rivers. With the exception of a dedicated few stationed
in the San Joaquin Valley, fisheries managers in government by and
large had concluded that efforts to restore salmon in the San Joaquin
River drainage would be futile, and believed that limited restoration
dollars would be better spent in drainages with greater potential
for success. The Stamp Committee did not share this belief.
The Stamp Committee, led by the vision of member Dave Danbom, took
on restoration of San Joaquin Valley salmon, beginning in the 1980s.
Initial support for work in the drainage focused on Merced River
hatchery operations. Later, in the 1990s, funding recommendations
expanded to include habitat restoration projects, and equipment
to help with work taken on by the fledgling DFG fish habitat restoration
crew stationed in Fresno. Having the restoration crew headquartered
in Fresno while most of their work was on the Merced, Tuolumne,
and Stanislaus rivers to the north was not an efficient situation.
Too much crew time was spent in travel to and from work sites, time
that could better be spent on projects. A solution was needed.
DFG staff in the San Joaquin Valley, working cooperatively with
other agencies, had secured land on the Tuolumne River near LaGrange.
The parcel was intended eventually to be home not only to a new
habitat improvement shop, but to a small supplementation hatchery
for San Joaquin basin anadromous fishes, as well as an educational
and interpretive center. Construction of the rearing facility was
put on hold because of concerns by a few vocal environmental groups
and scientists over possible genetic problems that might result
from releasing hatchery- reared fish into the system. Construction
of the educational and interpretive center also continues to be
on hold. However, the only impediment to construction of a fish
habitat improvement shop was funding.
The Stamp Committee responded to the call with funding recommendations
sufficient to construct a bare-bones steel building.
DFG assured the Committee that other funding would be found to finish
the interior of the building. The building was completed in the
late 1990s and houses the habitat restoration crew and their
equipment. Fish habitat restoration work in the San Joaquin basin
now proceeds much more smoothly.
Support for Other DFG Salmon Restoration
Through the years the Stamp Committee has regularly funded new equipment
or replaced worn equipment for DFG facilities or programs in addition
to hatcheries and habitat improvement shops. Some examples include:
a precision flowmeter for evaluations of fish screen effectiveness;
electronic survey equipment and software; a digital film recorder
to inventory all water diversions and fish passage areas as part
of DFGs Geographic Information System (GIS) project, and a
one-ton pickup and other needed items of equipment for the Cooperative
Fish Rearing Program Coordinator.
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