Fish Health and Diversity: Justifying Flows for a California Stream

Peter B. Moyle, Michael P. Marchetti, Jean Baldridge, Thomas L. Taylor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Efforts by a citizen's group, Putah Creek Council, to improve the flow regime of a California stream for ecosystem, aesthetic, recreational, educational, and research purposes led to a successful court trial in which fish conservation played a key role. A major issue around which the trial revolved was the proper interpretation of a section (5937) of the California Fish and Game Code, which states that fish must be maintained in “good condition” below a dam. We defined good condition to mean there had to be healthy individual fish in healthy populations that were part of healthy biotic communities. This definition resulted in a conceptual model for instream flows for the creek that favored native resident and anadromous fishes. The stream flow recommendations from this model had four components: living space flows for the entire creek, resident native fish spawning and rearing flows, anadromous fish flows, and habitat maintenance flows. The trial judge, in attempting to balance competing demands for the water, ordered the implementation of only the first two recommendations. The order has been appealed by the water interests, but regardless of the final outcome, the court's decision reflects the growing public interest in protecting streams, the need for innovative use of existing legal tools to try to protect aquatic resources, and the importance of biological information in developing flow recommendations for complex fish assemblages.

Original languageAmerican English
StatePublished - Jul 1 1998


  • Biology
  • Environmental Studies

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