Prior to 2011, the Bureau of Reclamation operated a moveable gate diversion dam across the Sacramento River to feed the Tehama-Colusa Canal. When the gates were down on the dam, the pool upstream of the dam raised to allow water to spill into the Tehama-Colusa Canal for irrigation to farmland. During this period between June 15 and September 1 of each year, the dam prevented the upstream migration of fish – including several endangered species. Since new environmental regulations prohibited use of the gates after 2011, the Bureau of Reclamation devised an alternative method of delivering water to the 1,500 family farms downstream through the Tehama-Colusa Canal – and hired Balfour Beatty to build it.
Balfour Beatty constructed a 1,150-foot by 35-foot fish screen consisting of a concrete slab, walls and deck that support stainless steel screens that are environmentally friendly to fish. Directly behind the fish screens, a large forebay was excavated, leading to a new pumping plant with 95 MGD capacity. This pumping plant provides the ability to draw water from the Sacramento River during irrigation season and push it to the Tehama-Colusa Canal.
The Red Bluff Pumping Plant and Fish Screen were completed in September 2012 to replace the Red Bluff Diversion Dam and improve fish passage conditions on the Sacramento River at Red Bluff, CA. The facility includes a 1,118-foot-long flat-plate fish screen, intake channel, 2,500-cubic-feet-per-second (cfs) capacity pumping plant and discharge conduit to divert water from the Sacramento River into the Tehama-Colusa and Corning canals.
The pumping plant:
- Allows the Red Bluff Fish Screen to be operated in a manner that allows unimpeded upstream and downstream passage for five runs of listed salmon species and the green sturgeon.
- Alleviates a long-standing fish passage concern.
- Provides irrigation water to approximately 150,000-acres of high-value cropland with an economic benefit of an annual average of over $1 billion.
- Provides 2,000-cfs initially, with capability for adding pumps to deliver 2,500-cfs, which is the full capacity of the canals.