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Council Adds Fish Screen Study and Construction Project to Interim Plan

December 2010

The Delta Stewardship Council’s Early Actions Committee has added two items concerning fish screens – the Rock Slough Fish Screen Project and the Clifton Court Forebay Low Flow Fish Study – to the Council’s Interim Plan.

As Council members work to craft a final plan that implements the state’s coequal goals for the Delta, the Interim Plan provides the primary framework for the Council’s efforts. Fish screens are designed to prevent fish from being drawn or swimming into a diversion of water such as a dam, aqueduct or cooling water intake.

The Contra Costa Water District successfully submitted the two actions to the Council. Both are fully funded.

With the average cost of a fish screen near $800,000, according to a presentation by the California Department of Water Resources, Council members were quick to point out that neither project was asking for funding.

“Both items were simply presented to inform the Council of what is going on,” Chair Phil Isenberg said. “It’s a lot easier to mandate that something be done than to allocate money to do it. These projects are not an expedition to find money.”

The Clifton Court Forebay Low Flow Fish Study aims to evaluate the effectiveness of a new kind of fish screen specifically designed for use near pumps with low flows. Researchers hope to increase both the abundance and lifespan of nearby fish while improving the quality of water that passes through the screens.

Isenberg and Councilmember Randy Fiorini stressed that the addition of these items is not a rubber stamp on all fish screens in the Delta.

Rock Slough fish screen project

“Because the screens are somewhat controversial, a study seems necessary,” Fiorini said.

The Rock Slough Fish Screen Project is intended to reduce the loss of delta smelt around the Rock Slough pumping facility in Oakley. This project was added to the Interim Plan by virtue of being a necessary component of a previously adopted action.

“Last month we approved a connected project for [Contra Costa County Water District’s] pipeline, and this is a necessary part,” Isenberg said. “They are not asking us to fund it – the pipeline construction is absolutely completed, paid for, not an issue, this is a required ingredient.”

Both were approved on votes of 5-0, with two Council members absent.

Yolo County also received Council support for its efforts to improve emergency communications in the Delta and to expedite the study of 1,600 miles of rural levees. The Council voted 6-0, with one member absent, to include its support of these efforts in the Interim Plan.

Coequal goals

The Delta Stewardship Council was created in legislation to achieve the state mandated coequal goals for the Delta. "'Coequal goals' means the two goals of providing a more reliable water supply for California and protecting, restoring, and enhancing the Delta ecosystem. The coequal goals shall be achieved in a manner that protects and enhances the unique cultural, recreational, natural resource, and agricultural values of the Delta as an evolving place." (CA Water Code §85054)