The San Joaquin River Restoration Program: Past, Present, and Future with Don Portz


The San Joaquin River historically supported the geographically southernmost Chinook salmon population in North America. Within a decade after the construction of Friant Dam, this once prolific population of spring-run Chinook salmon in California was facing extirpation. More than 60 miles of river between the confluence of the Merced River and Friant Dam would be dry annually and irrigation diversion dams impeded successful fish passage even in wet years when flows were present. The loss of flows, the riverine ecosystem, and the Chinook led to 18 years of litigation of long-term contracts and operation of Friant Dam which resulted in a Settlement in 2006. Three years later, federal legislation was passed directing the implementation of the San Joaquin River Restoration as part of the Settlement Act (2009). Flows to the river once again resumed on October 1, 2009, and reintroduction of spring-run Chinook salmon began in 2014. This presentation will provide an overview of the San Joaquin River Restoration Program activities to date, an update on the current state of the river, challenges ahead, and a discussion of what the future holds for restoration of California’s second longest river.