By Don Ford

YUBA CITY (CBS SF) — The trouble with the Oroville Dam spillway has endangered wildlife in the Feather River, leaving state workers scrambling Wednesday to rescue some of the stranded fish.

Geologists were getting a better look at the damage at the Oroville Dam’s main spillway.

The army corps of engineers is helping out with closer inspections now that the flow of water has stopped.

The nearly dry spillway has been closed for two days. The shutdown has caused the levels of the Feather River to drop considerable, but is also allowing crews to remove millions of cubic yards of debris while engineers finally get a closer look at the tremendous damage.

The sudden drop in water level is causing problems downstream.

“When they shut off the spillway gates, it left tens of thousands of fish stranded in little pools outside of the river channel that couldn’t get back,” explained Department of Fish & Wildlife Spokesperson Andrew Hughan.

Fish & Wildlife workers from around the state are using aerial  photos and more than a dozen boats to locate these pools, searching for endangered salmon, steelhead and other fish, all while the river continues to drastically drop.

It’s muddy, dangerous and the fish are not cooperating

“The fish don’t want to be caught! Most of these are wild fish that were spawned in the river and they know the gig, said Fish & Wildlife hatchery worker Matt Johnson. “They know they want to get away from something that is trying to get them.”

A special electrical stun rod gives the fish a small jolt so workers can scoop up the baby salmon and take them back to the main river.

“Yesterday we saved 800 fish,” said Hughan.

The draining river is also reveling for the first time major new sand banks that weren’t there before. Sections of forest were destroyed by the deluge and some of those trees are still floating downstream

“It’s over a billion dollar industry in salmon fishing, so, it’s critical we save as many fish as we can,” said Hughan.

The Department of Fish & Wildlife said this fish rescue operation is going to continue for the rest of the week or until it starts to rain.


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