Chinook Salmon on the Sacramento River
One of the wonders of the world are the runs of spawning salmon. After years at sea adult Chinook salmon will return to the river of their birth and swim upstream to their very cradle.The Sacramento River, like other rivers of the West, used to be home to millions of spawning fish. Dams and environmental changes to the river have reduced that number to a fraction.
It continues to be a joint effort by federal and state agencies, joined by private concerns and the public to restore the salmon to the Sacramento River.
Why Have We Installed Salmon’s Habitat Structures?
The Wild Salmon Center states that “salmon are the biological foundation of river ecosystems.”
They, of course, are the prey of many predatory species. They hatch in parts of the river bed called “redds” and then swim, as tiny fry, downstream to the sea. The many predators attack them as they go.
Biologist Dave Vogel recognized that the fry lack shelter in many parts of the Sacramento River. Before the river was dammed, fallen trees and logs would be swept by flow to become lodged along the bank or fall to the river bed. Small fish would use these trees and root masses as places of shelter. Vogel hypothesized that one reason the survival rate of recent Chinook fry is so low is that they lack shelter from predation.
The salmon population has declined by 33% since 1990. In 2016, it’s estimated that we lost around 3.38 million salmon.
How We Have Improved The Salmon’s Habitat
Biologist Dave Vogel was joined by agencies in the upper Sacramento River to test his hypothesis. River View Farms sponsored this test project and they engaged Meyer Earthworks of Redding lent their construction expertise to build unique salmon habitat structures. These are thousand pound boulders with tree stumps bolted to them. The boulders offer a natural weight to keep the stump and root branches anchored to the river bottom. Walnut and almond tree roots were used for their durability.
Pacific Maritime Group Inc is proud to play a role in salmon’s rehabilitation. Meyer Earthworks hired Pacific Tugboat Services to place 25 of these salmon habitat structures in exact locations. And, when creating any new job, we tackled it from a construction point of view.
We use truckable tugs to navigate around the site. Though they are small, they are mighty, which is exactly what we need to maneuver close to the river bank and beneath bridges. We trucked in sectional barges to be our work platform. These are barges that are small enough to arrive by truck, and are lifted by crane and put into the water. They have a patented pin system so we can lock the small barges together to create a larger one.
After laying down our sectional barges, the sight before you is one you’ll be familiar with: a construction site.
We placed a crane onto the barge. Then we loaded the 25 habitat structures. We then lifted the massive boulders into place, ensuring to meet the specific factors that salmons require to lay their eggs. At the direction of biologists the 25 structures were placed in the upper Sacramento River.
Recent reports from fish biologists confirm that young fry are using these habitat structures for shelter. We applaud the efforts of all who took part.
Our Projects Support Salmon
In a nutshell: it’s the right thing to do.
Salmon are vastly underestimated and play a pivotal role in the ecosystem. They reflect the condition of our waters. As such, Pacific Maritime Group is proud of our role in this, another environmentally positive project among many.