Demolishing Hetch Hetchy Could Save California’s Salmon Population – or Not

In Environment, Restore Hetch Hetchy

The Tuolumne River below Hetch Hetchy Dam. Photo by Jared Kelly.

There’s a very interesting piece by columnist Bill McEwen in the Fresno Bee about the decline in salmon coming up California’s rivers and salmon might be the dams undoing.

The Tuolumne, a tributary of the San Joaquin, is “the keystone” to bringing back California’s salmon fishery, according to Dale Mitchell, a former state Department of Fish and Game biologist and regional manager.

“If we want to make salmon in the [San Joaquin River] basin, one really big step would be to take out Hetch Hetchy — or at least condition the amount of water it can divert in critical times,” Mitchell says.

“It would produce many more salmon than the Friant tributary restoration can accomplish, and much faster and cheaper.”

Mitchell, who worked 40 years for the department, says that increased flows on the Tuolumne from February to July “would be a huge benefit for salmon.” (Fresno Bee)

There’s only one little problem with this story and it really makes me doubt the credibility of the sources in the article, there’s a much BIGGER dam between Hetch Hetchy and the San Joaquin that ocean going salmon can’t get past, Don Pedro Dam.

Don Pedro Dam on the Tuolumne River below Yosemite National Park. Photo by Jason Schultz.

So how would removing Hetch Hetchy solve the salmon problem when Don Pedro Dam is the one controlling the water flow in the lower Tuolumne River where the salmon spawning reds are?

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