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The Importance of Fish Passage

Imagine that you are driving somewhere, and as you are cruising down on the road, you slow down because there was a long line of cars ahead of you.  You see the orange flags and the warning signs- you’ve hit a construction delay. You are at a standstill and haven’t moved a single inch. Your first reaction could be disappointment, restlessness, or even agitation that you’re forced to wait. You’re left wondering why they can’t they do the construction on another day. As you get closer the construction site, you see that people are working in the creek and you wonder what’s so important about the creek if we humans aren’t really using it.

Well, it’s possible that the people in the creek are working on a fish passage project.

Fish passage is migratory fish relying on the river and creek system to access spawning habitat, move between resting and foraging habitats, find cover from predators or cooler water conditions, out-migrate to the ocean. Barriers like dams, culverts, or levees aren’t designed for the consideration of migratory fish and environmental issues like excess sediment, poor water quality, changing temperature, and flow variation makes the lives of these fish difficult. These obstacles result in reduced fish abundance and diversity, scarce access to natural resources, and fish being cutting off from their historical birthplace. Amy Horstman, a USFWS Fish Passage Coordinator for Oregon and Habitat Restoration Biologist, said, “Fish passage is all about aquatic conductivity. Just like you wouldn’t go jogging when half of your arteries were clogged, you can’t have a functional stream system if you have instream blockages. There must be open connections between the tributaries and the main stem, from headwaters all the way down to estuaries, to have a good functional system.”

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