California’s $1 Million Fish Story
You’ve heard of Alaska’s “Bridge to Nowhere”. Now it’s time to meet California’s $1 million fish ladder.
Actually it’s only $935,000 — what the state’s Department of Transportation wants to spend to pave over part of Dan Blocker State Beach with cement and boulders to help seagoing trout spawn in Southern California streams.
The conduit, 60 feet wide and running 102 feet onto the beach, would create pools allowing the fish to swim under the Pacific Coast Highway, then upstream.
Unfortunately, there are at least two flaws in the state’s thinking — well, three, if you want to get into the seemingly never-ending argument over $1 million for critters (in this case, fish) vs. budget cuts in education and social services.
Problem one: rarely is the cost as advertised. One $1 million fish ladder already in place may cost $7.5 million in federal stimulus funds to rebuild.
Problem two: even conservationists disagree over whether fish ladders are the best solution to an ecological challenge (critics have argued that ladders along the Columbia River leave salmon too exhausted to spawn).
And there’s one other little detail: a local trout population may be something of a . . . fish story.
Just ask Daniel Forge, who decided to sell part of his Malibu restaurant property after Caltrans — aka, the Department of Transportation — threatened a lawsuit and the use of eminent domain, to bring steelhead trout into the nearby Solstice Creek. “They decided we were going to bring back steelhead to the stream but I don’t think there were ever any steelhead along there,” Forge said.