US Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Mike Connor broke ground on 23 March at the Red Bluff Diversion Dam on Diamond Avenue, marking the beginning of construction of the Fish Passage Improvement Project that is part of the $109M going to Red Bluff under the President’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).

The Red Bluff Diversion Dam’s gates are lowered to form Lake Red Bluff, which enables the gravity diversion of water from the Sacramento River into the Tehama-Colusa and Corning Canals to irrigate 150,000 acres of high-value cropland, more than half of which are planted in permanent orchards. However, when lowered to provide irrigation water, the gates block threatened and endangered salmon, steelhead and green sturgeon, as well as other fish species, from reaching their spawning grounds.

USBR’s partner, the Tehama-Colusa Canal Authority (TCCA), received the $5.25M in ARRA funds to construct an interim screened pumping plant to deliver irrigation water while the gates are raised, thus providing unimpeded fish passage. A construction contract for the bridge and siphon was awarded in December for $21.45M and a supply contract for pumps and motors was awarded in January for $6.96M. An additional $76.2M in ARRA funds will be provided at a later date to construct a permanent pumping plant.

The project will be completed in multi-phases by USBR, TCCA, and the State of California. The total project cost is estimated at $230M and is being paid for partially by the $109M in ARRA money. Construction of the project is expected to begin in summer 2010 and be completed in 2012.