CSU, Chico News

Iron Canyon Fish Ladder Project Receives Funding

Date: 02-14-2008

Kathleen McPartland
Public Affairs
Kristen Cooper Carter, director
Concrete Industry Management Program

The Research Foundation at California State University, Chico has received $220,000 funding from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for Phase II of a project to restore the Iron Canyon Fish Ladder. The ladder, located on Big Chico Creek above Salmon Hole, is in disrepair and has been for years. It is a critical component in moving salmon from the heavily used swimming holes of Upper Bidwell Park to the protected holes upstream of the Big Chico Creek Ecological Reserve and other private land holdings.

Phase I supported a constructability study and a conceptual design for the new fish ladder. Phase II will include the development of an environmental document for review and adoption by the City of Chico, the application for environmental permits necessary for construction, and the writing of grants for the estimated $1.8 million necessary to construct the new ladder (Phase III). It is estimated that Phase II will be completed in time for construction in the summer of 2009.

The Big Chico Creek Watershed Alliance (BCWA), which has been working on this project for years, is a partner on the grant to provide public outreach. Other resource agencies critical to the project include U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, California Department of Fish and Game and the California Department of Water Resources.

Kristin Cooper Carter, now a faculty member in the new Concrete Industry Management Program at CSU, Chico, will be the project director. She has worked with Susan Strachan, who will be the project manager, on BCWA restoration efforts for many years.

The restoration of the fish ladder will be a formidable project given the vertical 40-foot basalt walls that form Iron Canyon. It will involve placing tower cranes on the bluff overlooking the canyon and using those cranes to transport personnel and materials into the canyon to the construction site.

The Department of Fish and Game constructed the original concrete fish ladder in the 1950s. It consisted of a series of weirs that formed step pools through the blocked area. Since falling into disrepair, the pools leak and salmon are trapped in Salmon Hole in all but the best flow years.

Cooper-Carter is using her contacts in the concrete industry to provide input to project specifications and design. “The industry can provide information on concrete mixes and admixtures that can maximize the life of the structure and minimize its environmental impact,” said Cooper-Carter. “The project will provide an opportunity for CIM students to follow the planning of a major construction project step-by-step.”

The CSU, Chico Research Foundation provides general and fiscal management for the Iron Mountain Fish Ladder project. The non-profit foundation, incorporated in 1997 as an auxiliary to the University, manages more than 850 projects each year, many staffed by student and faculty researchers.