News Release Archive

Negotiating Pays Off For Putah Creek Salmon

Media Contact: Jeffrey McCracken, 916-978-5100

For Release: January 12, 2004

The return of record numbers of Chinook salmon to Putah Creek signals success for a long-term effort by Reclamation and other partners to improve instream habitat through improved flow management.

Putah Creek originates above Lake Berryessa, passes through Monticello Dam and over Solano Diversion Dam, and then flows another 22 miles to the Yolo Bypass and sloughs of the Sacramento River Delta.

The key to success was negotiation of policy, informed by science. Biologists with the University of California at Davis studied fish in the creek for many years and piqued community interest with research results. The biologists credit timed pulse releases of 50 cubic feet per second of water from the Solano Diversion Dam with attracting more salmon this season and allowing fish to pass beaver dams and other obstacles. Scientists recently counted 70 salmon nests (redds) in the reaches of the creek above Davis.

In the early 1990s Reclamation sponsored three years of initial bargaining among local interest groups toward resolution of a dispute over instream flows. The water supply was historically diverted to Solano County under contracts dating from the 1950's in conjunction with Reclamation's Solano Project, including Monticello Dam and Lake Berryessa. The Putah Creek Council, in particular, advocated raising minimum flows in the creek to keep fisheries in good condition.

Reclamation then renewed its contract with Solano County Water Agency for delivery of the quantities of water in the previous contract. Negotiations were then reengaged on the settlement for flows in Putah Creek. The parties got back together with representatives of Putah Creek Council and Solano County Water Agency and finally worked out a flow agreement for settlement that was finalized in May 2000. The Putah Creek Council and Lower Putah Creek Coordinating Committee continue to lead conservation efforts.

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