The SF Chronicle has an article about the success of the Butte Creek salmon run, near Chico.
The number of spawning fish returning from the ocean to Butte Creek increased 10 percent from 2006 to 2007, Harthorn said. By the look of things, he said, even more fish are returning this year.
But the most dramatic resurgence occurred over the past 10 years, when an average of almost 10,000 salmon a year swam back up the creek, according to Harthorn, who co-founded Friends of Butte Creek in 1999 after years battling farming interests and Pacific Gas and Electric over its DeSabla-Centerville plant.
It is a minor miracle that there are any salmon at all wriggling their way up Butte Creek, given that only 14 fish returned to spawn in 1987.
The dismal return outraged environmentalists and prompted a desperate effort to save the fish. About $30 million was spent by the state on a variety of projects over the years, including the removal of six small dams, the building of fish ladders and the insertion of numerous screens to keep salmon out of water diversion pipes.
The construction of Shasta Dam on the Sacramento, Friant Dam on the San Joaquin, Folsom Dam on the American and Oroville Dam on the Feather River over the past century cut off huge sections of river, wiping out much of the spring run.
Numerous smaller dams were built on the various creeks that fed the rivers. Diversions of freshwater to cities and farms, pumping operations and exposure to pollutants all contributed to the reduction of the once-mighty salmon runs.
Fisheries experts and environmentalists throughout the Sacramento River system would like to duplicate the restoration work done on Butte Creek, but finding the money and navigating through the bureaucracy is always a problem, especially with so many competing interests, like PG&E and the various water contractors.
There has been limited success removing migration obstacles on smaller tributaries, but there is very little hope that any of the big dams will ever be removed and bypassing them would cost a fortune, according to state fisheries experts.
While it’s heartening that nature can overcome such huge odds, less so is the vanishing possibility that it will get a chance to do so.