Volitional Fish Passage in the Yuba

Historically, Chinook salmon and Steelhead inhabited the entire Yuba River watershed, including the North, Middle and South Yuba Rivers. Today, there are two barriers restricting and inhibiting volitional fish passage to the upper Yuba River. These are Daguerre Point Dan, a 24-foot impounded diversion dam outfitted with incompetent fish ladders that do not meet modern design standards and Englebright Dam, a 260-foot impassible dam that is the upstream limit of anadromous fish migration, inhibiting volitional fish passage to the upper reaches of the Yuba River. New sediment removal techniques make dam modifications at the Daguerre Point Dam and Englebright Dam a real possibility for restoring volitional fish passage and the historic Yuba River fishery.

“Daguerre Point Dam built in 1910 and Englebright Dam built in 1941 were constructed for the specific purpose of holding back the debris generated by hydraulic mines operating in the upper Yuba watershed. Due to the likelihood that large quantities of contaminated sediment are stored behind them, dam removal has been discounted as an option for increasing access to natural habitat for anadromous salmonids.”

Carrie Monohan, Ph.D., Program Director

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Daguerre Point Dam was originally constructed in 1910 and rebuilt in 1964 following extensive flood damage to act as a barrier to reduce high sediment loads from moving downstream. Daguerre is currently used to facilitate water diversion for irrigation purposes but does not provide any additional benefits such as flood control, water storage or power generation. Daguerre is equipped with fish ladders but they do not meet modern fish passage design standards, and they are not effective in passing all species of concern over a full range of flows.

Englebright Dam was constructed in 1941 for the specific purpose of holding back debris generated by hydraulic mining. Englebright serves as the afterbay for New Bullards Reservoir hydropower facilities and the forebay for the Narrows 1 and 2 Powerhouses but does not provide any additional benefits such as water delivery or flood control. Since its construction, Englebright Dam has trapped ~23,000,000 cubic yards of mercury contaminated sediment, or roughly 25% of its original storage capacity.


Previous assessment activities concluded that dam alterations or removal for fish passage were cost prohibitive because of the sediment and that there was no habitat for fish in the Yuba. The Sierra Fund is investigating sediment removal techniques with multiple benefits. Additionally, TSF is looking closely at salmonid holding habitat and caring capacity for the Yuba River to evaluate the extent of habitat available for salmonids. These efforts will inform the benefits of restoring habitat in the Yuba for threatened and endangered species and return a vital cultural life way to the river and First People.


Modification of Daguerre Point Dam and Englebright Dam to allow volitional upstream passage to previously unreachable habitat for anadromous fish would open up a minimum of 60 additional miles of habitat.  In addition, the natural flow regime, natural sediment and nutrient regimes and reduced mercury exposure risks through fish consumption and reduced mercury methylation potential in the reservoir are all benefits of restoring longitudinal connectivity.

Next Steps

The Sierra Fund is working with partners to develop an approach for modifying Daguerre and Englebright which would allow for volitional fish passage, while maintaining the use of the facilities. Additionally, The Sierra Fund is developing a parallel approach to addressing barriers in the upper reaches of the Yuba Rivers such as Our House Dam on the Middle Yuba and Log Cabin Diversion Dam on Oregon Creek, a major tributary to the Middle Yuba.

Project Funders

Angel Investor