Aquatic Organism Passage Restoration

California was once a place where we had
a thriving commercial fishery, recreational fisheries. Those populations have dwindled over the last, almost a hundred years. by a successive development of our water resources, dams, irrigation
diversions, transportation networks, in this state. The transportation network that the forest system has was
built to meet our mission at the time. However, our mission is changing. What we’re now
challenged with is helping those organisms, that use the stream networks as their habitats, to complete their
life history in stream networks on forest system lands. The Forest Service has quite a developed road network,
transportation network, on all eighteen national forests. Those were built over a series of decades and pretty much
had a single objective, get vehicular traffic across the stream. You know, from point A to point B. In many cases there wasn’t a lot of thought put into
streams as corridors for aquatic organisms moving through those watersheds. I’ve actually videotaped fish trying to reach their natal grounds, where they’ll spawn, and being frustrated in those attempts by a culvert under a road, that
is either too high, or too steep for them to swim through. You could have the best aquatic habitat in the
world, on any particular reach of national forest, but if the species that normally use that habitat, can’t access
that habitat, then it’s not fulfilling its potential. And it is difficult, challenging actually, to witness
that, and realize that that’s being replicated at tens of thousands of crossings across the west
and thousands right here in Region Five. If you look at the data throughout the west
where they have inventoried road stream crossings, over 80% of those road stream crossings are going
to present a barrier to some organism. There’s a lot of variability on the cost associated with repairs. You know, low end might be tens of thousands of dollars. There are other projects where there is an existing
culvert that needs to be a bridge, to really accommodate all of the species and their

life stages that need access there. Bridge construction is a very expensive undertaking – usually millions of dollars, each. The fade-to-black graphic was developed by NOAA Fisheries

to illustrate how the construction of dams around the Central Valley of California, has affected anadromous salmonids, so that would be your Chinook salmon, and steelhead in particular. And in succession, as those dams were constructed, It blacks out the upstream networks of habitat that were
no longer accessible as a result of each dam. And at the end it shows about 80% of that
historic habitat as being no longer accessible. I would like to see the fade-to-black scenario erased. It’s conceivable, it’s very possible, to eliminate these aquatic
organism passage barriers from forest system lands. We can correct them. We can turn the corner. We can restore access
to those habitats and the species will respond.

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