Valley Water District Relocates Threatened Steelhead

By on September 9, 2020

Last month Valley Water biologists rescued federally threatened Central California Coast Steelhead from Coyote Creek and relocated them to a more suitable environment in the Coyote watershed ahead of the drawdown of Anderson Reservoir on Oct. 1.

“This is an example of Valley Water’s commitment to protecting sensitive and threatened species like the Central California Coast Steelhead,” said Nai Hsueh, Chair of the Valley Water Board of Directors. “We believe it’s important to make every effort to move these fish into a more beneficial environment.”

Valley Water will drain Anderson Reservoir to about 3% of capacity to allow for the construction of a new, larger outlet tunnel at Anderson Dam. The tunnel will allow for greater control over water levels, provide additional incidental flood protection, and help the environment.

During construction Valley Water will import water pumped from San Luis Reservoir in order to keep water flowing into Coyote Creek. Although, that imported water may be warmer than the water that is normally in the creek during the summer and early fall and that could negatively impact the steelhead in Coyote Creek.

“Most fish and the ecosystem will be able to persist in Coyote Creek, because water will continue to flow,” said Lisa Porcella, environmental services manager at Valley Water. “However, the warmer water from San Luis is not ideal for the more sensitive steelhead.”

To help catch the fish, Valley Water reduced the amount of water released into Coyote Creek from Anderson Reservoir. This encouraged the fish to congregate in pools, making it easier for Valley Water biologists to scoop them out of the water.

Valley Water released the captured steelhead to different locations within the Coyote watershed that are anticipated to have better habitat in the coming months. The locations have been pre-selected by Valley Water in consultation with the California Dept. of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS).

All other species of fish will remain in place in Coyote Creek as water is released from Anderson and San Luis reservoirs.

For more information about the Anderson Dam Seismic Retrofit project, please visit https://www.valleywater.org/anderson-dam-project