With most of California’s rivers already dammed, the state of the fisheries below those dams is of concern to California’s fly fishermen — many of whom don’t know that section 5937 of California Fish & Game code specifically provides for healthy fisheries below dams.
“The owner of any dam shall allow sufficient water at all times to pass over, around, or through the dam, to keep in good condition any fish that may be planted or exist below the dam.”
—California Fish and Game Code § 5937
This informative article from the California Water blog features fisheries uber-scientist Peter Moyle* and Legal Eagle Brian Gray**, who spell out the power of 5937 — and why it hasn’t always protected fisheries:
The simple language of Section 5937 makes it one of the clearest laws in California. Versions of this law have been around since the 19th century and it was repeatedly strengthened until the present version became law in 1957. Section 5937 seems to provide clear protection for California fishes below dams. So why are we still wrangling over issues of how dams affect fish more than 120 years after the first version of the Code was written?
The article does a wonderful job of detailing the 60-year fight to restore the San Joaquin River’s now extinct Coho salmon runs below Friant Dam, including the threats to the current restoration program.
(*Peter Moyle, Professor of Fish Biology, UC Davis)
(**Brian Gray, Professor of Law, UC Hastings School of Law)