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Fish Passage Improvement Program (FPIP)

Marsh Creek

photo of creek


The lower Marsh Creek drop-structure and the Marsh Creek Dam are physical barriers to migrating fish in Marsh Creek, a tributary of the San Joaquin River.

The lower Marsh Creek drop-structure is a grade control structure located within the City of Brentwood, in Contra Costa County, and approximately 4 miles upstream from the mouth of Marsh Creek at Big Break in the western Delta. Recent repeated observations of adult Chinook salmon have increased interest in this fish barrier. Surveys by both Darrell Slotten (1995-1997) and Erica Cleugh (2002) of DFG found juvenile (60-80 mm) Chinook salmon rearing in lower Marsh Creek.

Marsh Creek Dam is approximately 7 miles upstream of the drop-structure and is a complete barrier to anadromous fish migration. The 7 miles of stream between Marsh Creek Dam and the lower Marsh Creek drop structure contains numerous regions of gravel and a narrow band of riparian woodland that forms a canopy over the channel that moderates stream temperatures. In a 2004 report, Levine and Stewart found that upstream of the lowest fish barrier there is suitable gravel quality, quantity, and vegetative cover to support Chinook salmon spawning. In addition, potential spawning and over-summering habitat for both steelhead and Chinook is available in the intermediate and upper zones of the watershed. The presence of rainbow trout in the upper Marsh Creek watershed suggests that there are suitable habitat conditions available (Robins and Cain 2002).

Marsh Creek Drop-Structure

DWR's Fish Passage Improvement Program (FPIP) was a partner in the project to modify or remove the lower Marsh Creek drop-structure, through 2003. We provided conceptual drawings for project alternatives, an estimated budget for grant proposals, topographical surveys, and participated in technical meetings with project partners. Because Marsh Creek is in the Central and West Delta Ecological Management Unit, which does not include fish passage goals at dams and other barriers, FPIP staff have focused their efforts on other streams with CALFED Ecosystem Restoration Program fish passage goals. The Natural Heritage Institute, American Rivers, Contra Costa Flood Control District, The Friends of Marsh Creek, and others completed the Marsh Creek Fish Ladder Project in 2010. The project involved building a fish ladder over the drop structure to enable migration of fall-run Central Valley Chinook salmon.