Delta News

Feds to upgrade fish protections at Delta water pumps

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has awarded a $4.3 million contract to install new fish protection devices at its water diversion pumps in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

The pumps near Tracy divert water to serve farms and cities in the San Joaquin Valley. The pumps do not have modern fish screens. Instead, fish are persuaded to avoid the pumps by louvers that create turbulence. The louvers must be removed from the water for cleaning. This allows fish to enter the pump and canal system, where they are presumed dead.

Starting in January, contractor Valentine Corp. of San Rafael will install new self-cleaning louvers. This will prevent losses to endangered species including salmon and Delta smelt.

The work is required as part of Endangered Species Act permits issued for the facility in 2009.

“The bottom line is improved efficiency,” said Carl Dealy, Reclamation project manager. “In other words, we save more fish.”

After being diverted by the louvers, the fish enter a system of tanks. There, they are counted, put on tanker trucks and returned to the Delta. Known as a “salvage” process, many fish do not survive the handling and transportation.

The new louvers do nothing to address salvage deaths, but research is under way to find methods to save more fish.

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