First prototype Farmers Screen, showing adjustable taper wall still in place.

Fish Screening Industry Quick Facts

Fish screens, (also known as irrigation screens, intake screens, or debris screens) create one of the greatest opportunities to protect fish and ensure cost efficient, consistent water flow to diverters for power generation and irrigation. Yet, across the nation thousands upon thousands of diversions still need screening. Why?

The answer to this question remains at the center of a web of challenges:

  • Screen designs poorly matched to the screen site resulted in clogging and, therefore, high operation and maintenance costs and fish injury and death
  • Limited funding has been provided for the innovation of new technologies
  • Screens are expensive due to high government administrative costs and lack of private sector investment
  • Minimal education and outreach has been done to promote the economic and environmental benefits of screens
  • Diverters are afraid to commit to screen purchase since screens do not have established prices
  • Permitting screen installations has been a lengthy and unpredictable process discouraging private investment and diverter participation

Not surprisingly, a survey of both the Oregon State and Washington State Screen Shops found that only 81 screens are being installed annually even though there are an estimated 111,000 diversions needing screens. While there are current state and federal laws that require screens for diversions, industry challenges have prevented widespread screen installation.

The results of these challenges have led to the following:

  • Idaho, Montana, and California have around 50,000 diversions needing screening per state
  • 75-90% of all diversions are 5 cfs and under
  • The State of Oregon has 4 screen shops currently producing a total of 75 screens annually
  • Current prices of screens in the State of Oregon are about $3,000-$15,000 per cfs
  • The State of Washington has 1 screen shop installing 6 screens per year
  • Current prices of screens in the State of Washington are about $5,000-$20 ,000 per cfs
  • The average producer spends between $3,000-$5,000 per year on operation and maintenance costs for screens (for a 5cfs and under diversion)
  • 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 and hatchery fish in the hatchery
  • Since the 1950’s, many fish screens have been installed.  Many of these screens no longer meet current criteria and now need to be replaced. The number of screens is unknown, but is expected to be a significant number.


In addition to these numbers, the following is a more detailed summary of the irrigation screening industry:


Number of diversions needing screens per state:


  • Roughly 55,000 diversions throughout the state need to be screened
  • 3,200 are considered high priority
  • Most diversions – probably 75-90% are under 5 cfs
  • Because of limited funding and lack of multi-agency coordination, no one knows what the true numbers are
  • 33 fish hatcheries
  • Oregon state run screen shops, 4 shops total, are installing about 80 screens per year
  • During the 1950’s there was a great push to install fish screens. Most of the screens installed were rotary drums. Most of those screens require constant maintenance and do not meet current fish protection criteria. Therefore, a significant portion of those screens need to be replaced.




  • There are roughly 50,000 diversions. Most diversions are either pump or small gravity-fed systems
  • One state run screen shop in Yakima that installs roughly 6 screens per year
  • Has subsidized screen maintenance program that costs diverters between $500 and $1500 per year
  • 78 fish hatcheries




  • There are an estimated 46,000 diversions
  • It is estimated that 90% are under 5 cfs.
  • One state run screen shop
  • 27 fish hatcheries



Beyond the Northwest

California, Montana, and British Columbia all appear to be significant markets and similar to the state of Washington – thousands of diversions with most diversions being pump or small gravity fed systems.  It appears that fish screens are predominately used in the Western states and are most common in the Pacific Northwest States.



Number of fish hatcheries 

  • Oregon-33
  • Washington-78
  • California-21
  • Idaho-27
  • British Columbia-about 36
  • Colorado-17
  • Montana-6
  • Maine-9
  • New York-12
  • Virginia-9
  • Georgia-9 state hatcheries
  • National Hatcheries (under US Fish and Wildlife)-70
  • All states have at least two hatcheries



Current cost of screens


  • $3,000 to $12,000 per cfs for older technology screens (rotary drums, etc.)
  • $5,000 to $15,000 per cfs for new technology screens (screens with wiper mechanisms, etc.)



  • Prices varied widely however most estimates were between $5,000 and $20,000 per cfs



Paying for screens


  • Measure 66 funds will cover up to 60% of screens
  • Oregon State Tax Credit will cover 50% of remaining cost
  • Based on a $10,000 screen, a farmer would have to pay $2,000 out of pocket
  • Based on average operation and maintenance costs  of a 2 to 5 cfs screen, FCA will be able to show farmers that there is a 2-5 year payback for the $2,000 they spent in reduced operation and maintenance cost.



  • Salmon Recovery Funding Board
  • Projects funded through direct appropriation by the legislature



  • Funding through the state screen shop for anadromous streams and rivers only



  • NRCS:  WHIP and EQUIP programs
  • USFW:  Partners for Fish and Wildlife and Wild Native Trout Initiative
  • FRIMA:  Pending reauthorization.  Covers up to 65% of project costs.
  • BPA:  Directly funds restoration projects and funds OR, WA, and ID state run screen shops.  Also provides funding through Tribal organizations.
  • Mitchell Act:  Primarily funds state run screen shops for on going operation and maintenance of installed screens



  • Various private foundation funding for specific, high priority sites.