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Threatened Steelhead Trout Relocated To Make Way For Anderson Dam Retrofit

SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) -- A fish rescue has taken place in the South Bay, where the Anderson Dam retrofit project is about to get underway.

Using nets and buckets, a team with the Valley Water District scooped up Central California Coast steelhead in upper Coyote Creek to save the fish and help the species survive.

"This is a federally-threatened species and that's why the effort was put forward, due to their protection," said Clayton Leal, a Fisheries Biologist with the Valley Water District.

There are many species of fish and other wildlife in Coyote Creek, which has it's headwaters at the base of Anderson Dam.

But the steelhead will be especially vulnerable to water temperature change when the water district begins draining the dam as part of the earthquake retrofit, which will create conditions the steelhead will not be able to tolerate.

"The cold water that is available in the reservoir will be eliminated as it starts to draw down," Leal said. "So the temperatures will increase in the system."

The biologists used an electroshock system to temporarily stun the fish to make them easier to catch. They were loaded into trucks and then relocated to other parts of the watershed that will not be affected by the dam reconstruction.

"We can now take those fish, try to preserve that genetic integrity and hopefully see them persist for years to come," Leal said.

It's the first step in what will be a nearly decade-long effort to rebuild Anderson Dam to modern earthquake standards. The district is also building a better spillway and drain tunnel to minimize the possibility of flooding during wet winters.

"As soon as we get the tunnel in, we will be able to regulate the reservoir level. We'll be able to discharge about five times as much water," said Valley Water Dam Safety Manager Chris Hakes.

But neighbors and people who use the reservoir for recreation wish the project wouldn't take so long.

"People really love this park, a lot of families use it and it's not going to be useable anymore for that," said neighbor Jade Collins.

It will be a long process but after years of planning and the ever-present threats of earthquakes and floods, the project will begin on October 1st.

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