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Fish Passage Improvement

Contractor removing dam




Read Fish Passage Stories

Native aquatic species need to move freely within streams

Native fish and other aquatic species (like salamanders and macroinvertebrates) thrive best when they can move freely within a stream to forage for food, find shelter, and rest in cool, oxygenated water.

But in Rogue River watershed streams, these organisms face a variety of barriers, including culverts, concrete dams, gravel push-up dams, and dysfunctional fish ladders. 

Removing these barriers is a key step in improving water quality and allowing fish and other aquatic organisms to move freely within a stream ecosystem. 

Fish passage barriers prevent natural stream processes from occurring, leading to degraded water quality. 

In summer months, fish and other aquatic organisms must be able to move around and find sources of cool water (spring, seeps, etc.) to survive warmer water temperatures.

Historical irrigation practices often create more work for water users. Many fish passage projects with an irrigation structure component involve the construction and installation of an updated fish-friendly structure that is more efficient. 

Slate Creek dam before

Wildlife passage?

Slate Creek dam after

Wildlife passage?




Fish Passage on Salt Creek

Salt Creek has cold water inputs that keep it cool in the summertime, marking it as a key spawning and rearing tributary for salmon, trout, and lamprey. But until recently, these fish, and other aquatic organisms, would have encountered at least eight passage barriers in their journey upstream into Salt Creek. So, Over the last eight years, RRWC has focused on improving fish passage in Salt Creek by removing one gravel push-up dam at a time. As a result, the whole creek is now more easily accessible for native fish and other aquatic organisms.

Salt Creek

Step 1: Fish Passage
            Barrier Removal

Gravel push-up dam

Gravel push-up dams, like the one shown in the picture above, are a historical water diversion practice that allows landowners to divert water from the stream for use on their property. These dams can be more than six feet tall, and span the entire stream channel, presenting a barrier to fish passage and aquatic organism movement. 

Step 2: Upgraded Irrigation
             Structure Installation

Irrigation diversion structure

RRWC works with engineers and contractors to remove these structures and install in their place, new fish-friendly irrigation infrastructure. In the case of gravel push-up dams, landowners no longer need to pile river rocks six feet high each year just to access their water rights. Instead, they just turn the waterwheel on the updated structure. 

Fish Passage in the Rogue Basin

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