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New habitat improvements being built along American River for salmon, steelhead

New project underway to save salmon in American River
New project underway to save salmon in American River 01:48

SACRAMENTO — Fish swimming up the American River will soon have a new spot to spawn. Construction is now underway on habitat improvements for salmon and steelhead.

Underneath the water of the American River lies a breeding ground for baby fish.

"They are born in this river and this is the river they come back to to complete their life cycle," said Erica Bishop with the Sacramento Water Forum.

But over the years — with dams being built, warmer water, and drought — the number of Chinook salmon and steelhead trout has dramatically dropped.

"Right now, our steelhead on the lower American River are considered threatened under the Federal Endangered Species Act," Bishop said.

So the Sacramento Water Forum is building a series of new habitat restorations along the river to help save the species.

"This area is actually going to be excavated out," Bishop said.

Construction begins this week near Ancil Hoffman Park on a half-mile-long side-channel waterway for the fish.

"Where they can get out of the main channel flow, find food, hide from predators, and hopefully grow as large as they can before they migrate out to the ocean," Bishop said.

Crews will also lay out gravel beds and underwater logs to create a safe place for the eggs to hatch.

"We build these projects so that the fish are able to have the best chance of perpetuating their species in the stretch of river that they have left available to them," Bishop said.

So how much will the habitat restoration project cost?

"Design and construction is about $3.6 million," Bishop said.

Money comes from local water districts and a mix of state and federal grants.

"We're trying to make the lower American River the best habitat that we can for these species that have been coming back here for, actually, millions of years," Bishop said.

Once complete, there will be no visible changes to the parkway.

"You can't tell because it's all underwater and it's only visible for the fish," Bishop said.

The project is expected to take about three weeks, and the bike trail and river rafting will not be impacted during construction.

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