About Fish Habitat Enhancement

About Fisheries in the Lower Yuba River

The lower Yuba River is one of California’s signature anadromous fish streams, meaning it supports fish that are born in freshwater but spend most of their lives in saltwater before returning to freshwater to spawn. Although heavily impacted by the effects of hydraulic gold mining and the construction of Englebright and Daguerre Point dams by the California Debris Commission, the lower Yuba River supports Central Valley spring-run and fall-run Chinook salmon, Central Valley steelhead and North American green sturgeon among several other both native and introduced fished species. It is also one of the few Central Valley rivers with no salmon hatchery.

Fisheries protection and enhancement is one of Yuba Water Agency’s core mission areas. Since its formation in 1959, the agency has worked with local, state and federal agencies, as well as environmental groups and tribes, to protect wild salmon and steelhead in the lower Yuba River. 

Cold-Water Flows

One of the key reasons Chinook salmon and steelhead are able to thrive in the lower Yuba River is because Yuba Water ensures reliable, cool-water flows released from deep in New Bullards Bar Reservoir, part of the Yuba River Development Project. Each year, Yuba Water provides approximately 232,000 to 574,000 acre-feet of instream flows, depending on the type of water year, to support lower Yuba River fisheries.

The average water temperature in the lower Yuba River is around 55 degrees, which is substantially cooler than most other Central Valley rivers. To help ensure continuous cold-water flows in the lower Yuba River, Yuba Water constructed a $12.5 million dedicated bypass at its Narrows II Powerhouse in 2006 and, in 2020, purchased the Narrows I Powerhouse, formerly owned by PG&E. If the Narrows 2 Powerhouse goes offline, flows are automatically shifted to the river via the bypass, to the Narrows I Powerhouse, or to both.

Ongoing Fisheries Support and Habitat Enhancement Activities

In addition to maintaining reliable cold-water flows for fish, Yuba Water supports a range of programs and projects to improve fish habitat in the lower Yuba River. This includes:

  • An annual investment of more than $565,000 for fisheries science, monitoring and habitat studies through the Lower Yuba River Accord River Management Team 
  • Supporting local irrigation districts’ efforts to maintain and upgrade fish screen systems to protect fish in the lower Yuba River, and to do Groundwater Substitution Transfers, leaving more water in the Yuba River in drier years 
  • Supporting Yuba County classroom education grants and activities
  • Funding multi-benefit fish habitat restoration projects like the Hallwood Side Channel and Floodplain Restoration project
  • Funding research with the University of California, Davis resulting in 23 technical reports, eight master theses, three conference proceedings and 27 journal articles associated with Gregory Pasternack’s research group.

Learn more about the work Yuba Water is involved in to support Yuba River fisheries.

A fish breaching the water in a river. Lower Yuba River AccordA hand measuring two small fish on a ruler.Fisheries Research and Monitoring
A man standing on gravel next to a side channel of a river. Hallwood Side Channel and Floodplain Restoration ProjectA photo of a river. Voluntary Agreements