Fish Screening 101

Quick Facts

  • Idaho, Montana, and California have approximately 50,000 unscreened diversions per state
  • 75-90% of all diversions are 5 cfs and under
  • Oregon and Washington have 5 screen shops total together, producing on average 81 screens per year
  • Current prices of screens in these states range from $3,000-$20,000 per cfs
  • The average producer spends between $3,000-$5,000 per year on operation and maintenance costs for screens
  • The average irrigation district spends between $20,000-$60,000 per year on operation and maintenance costs for screens
  • Fish hatcheries are in need of properly working screens to keep wild fish out of the hatchery while providing fresh water to the hatchery fish in the hatchery.

Fish Screening 101

Why do we need fish screens? 

Farmers need water to grow crops. To get this water, farmers must maintain a water delivery system that can transport water from a river or lake to their farm. Since these systems travel through rugged terrain for many miles, farmers and agencies have spent decades trying to figure out a screening technology that keeps fish, sticks, and leaves from entering the canals, clogging the system, and preventing the flow of water. While maintaining these systems is costly for farmers, it has proven to be an equally large problem for fish.

What is a fish screen? 

Fish screens are devices placed at diversions to prevent the fish, organic debris, and sediment that are naturally carried along in a river system from entering the diversion. In FCA’s home state of Oregon, there are an estimated 55,000 diversions supplying water for irrigation, municipal water supplies, power generation, and other uses.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife sites these key benefits of screening diversions (Quoted from ODFW Fish Screening Program 2007-2009 Report to the Legislature):

  • Fish screens prevent fish from entering places they should not be (like an irrigation system)
  • Fish screens improve the protection, survival, and restoration of native fish
  • Fish screens achieve both sustainable agriculture and sustainable fisheries
  • Juvenile and adult fish are not prevented from upstream and downstream migration
  • Fish populations increase providing anglers with more fishing opportunities
  • 98% of young salmon survive an encounter with a properly designed screen