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The Yuba River Named One of America’s Most Endangered Rivers

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MEDIA RELEASE:  Embargoed for 12:01am May 17, 2011

Yuba named one of America’s Most Endangered Rivers

Salmon at risk if Army Corps doesn’t provide passage around dam


Steve Rothert, American Rivers, (530) 277-0448, srothert@americanrivers.org

Jason Rainey, South Yuba River Citizens League, (530) 265-5961, jason@syrcl.org

Nevada City, CA – Outdated dams are preventing salmon recovery on the only major river draining the Sierra Nevada that still has wild runs. This risk earned the Yuba a spot on the annual list of America’s Most Endangered Rivers TM– a report issued by the conservation group American Rivers.

Englebright Dam

Best loved for its popular hiking trails, granite swimming holes, and challenging whitewater runs, the Yuba River is one of California’s last refuges for spring-run Chinook salmon. But two outdated Army Corps of Engineers dams block migration of salmon and steelhead to more than 100 miles of historic spawning habitat in the upper Yuba.

American Rivers, the South Yuba River Citizens League and their partners are calling on the Army Corps to consider all options, including dam removal, for moving fish around the 280-foot high Englebright Dam and 25-foot high Daguerre Point Dam.

“These dams have locked salmon and steelhead at the bottom of the valley for 70 years,” said Steve Rothert, director of the California office of American Rivers. “It’s time for the Army Corps to bring them home. There is enormous potential on the Yuba to recover wild salmon and the time is now to seize the opportunity.”

“The Yuba was probably the first major river to lose its salmon in California. The removal of Englebright Dam will make the upper Yuba the first California river to regain its salmon runs by taking down a dam. This would be an extraordinary and historic accomplishment,”  said Peter Moyle, Professor of Wildlife, Fish and Conservation Biology, UC Davis.

“Over the last century, we systematically disconnected salmon and steelhead from their spawning grounds while providing vague assurances that hatcheries would not only keep the salmon runs healthy, but even expand them.  For many reasons, this approach has failed, utterly.  Our only choice is to reconnect salmon with their watersheds.  This means targeting low economic value/high environmental cost dams for modification to allow fish to get by.  If that doesn’t work, we should take them down.  Englebright Dam, on the Yuba River, is precisely one of those dams.  Its removal would be a major boost to salmon and steelhead runs in the Sacramento Valley,” said Jeffery Mount, Founding Director of the Center for Watershed Science, UC Davis.

“For two decades we’ve been working in Congress, the courtroom and the collaborative science table to showcase the salmon restoration potential on the Yuba River.”  Today there is a confluence of federal processes and scientific consensus directed at the Corps’ dams—for the sake of California’s wild salmon, let’s restore Yuba Salmon Now!” said Jason Rainey, Executive Director of the South Yuba River Citizens League (SYRCL).

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) recognizes that passage above the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Englebright Dam on the Yuba should be the primary reintroduction measure to recover endangered salmon in the Northern Sierra region. American Rivers called on NMFS to mandate fish passage in its forthcoming Biological Opinion.

About America’s Most Endangered Rivers

For 26 years, American Rivers has sounded the alarm on 360 rivers through our America’s Most Endangered Rivers report.  The report is not a list of the “worst” or most polluted rivers, but is a call to action for rivers at a crossroads, whose fates will be determined in the coming year. Over the years, the report has helped spur many successes including the removal of outdated dams, the protection of rivers with Wild and Scenic designations, and the prevention of harmful development and pollution.

American Rivers’ staff and scientific advisors review nominations for the following criteria:

  • A major decision that the public can help influence in the coming year
  • The significance of the river to people and wildlife
  • The magnitude of the threat, especially in light of climate change

For the third consecutive year, America’s Most Endangered Rivers™ is sponsored by The Orvis Company, which donates 5% of their pre-tax profits annually to protect nature.


American Rivers is the nation’s leading voice fighting for clean water and healthy rivers. For almost 40 years we have protected and restored rivers, scoring victories for communities, fish and wildlife, and future generations.  American Rivers has offices in Washington, DC and nationwide, and more than 100,000 supporters and volunteers. Visit www.americanrivers.org, www.facebook.com/americanrivers and  www.twitter.com/americanrivers.

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