Wednesday October 12, 2022

San Joaquin Valley Water

A long defunct fish ladder on an historic dam on the Merced River is the focus of a public trust lawsuit by advocacy group Water Audit California.

The lawsuit, filed in late September, demands the Merced Irrigation District repair and properly maintain a fish ladder on the Crocker-Huffman Dam, about 30 miles northeast of the City of Merced.

The fish ladder was possibly built around the same time as the dam back in the 1910s. A photo showing a man standing alongside what is labeled as a fish ladder on the dam in 1920 can be found on a Mariposa County genealogy website.

But sometime in the 1970s, the Department of Fish and Wildlife recommended closing the fish ladder and instead trying to move native Chinook salmon, steelhead and other fish around the dam in an experimental “spawning channel,” according to a 2009 letter from Fish and Wildlife that is included in exhibits attached to the lawsuit.

The spawning channel failed and Fish and Wildlife directed Merced Irrigation District to reopen the Crocker-Huffman fish ladder, according to the 2009 letter.

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