Feather River

The Sunset Project for Integrated Restoration and Efficiency (SPIRE) project is comprised of 2 components – canal modification and the removing of the Sunset Pumps facility. The dam is located near Live Oak, California, in Sutter County, on the lower Feather River.


The proposed canal modifications would increase water supply reliability by increasing the capacity of the Sutter-Butte Main Canal by approximately 200 cubic feet per second (cfs) through:

  • Concrete lining of the upper 5 miles of canal
  • Replacement and modernization of two control structures
  • Replacement of 2 bridges
  • Canal improvements such as widening and raising channel height on three miles of canal

The second component of the project consists of removing the Sunset Pumps Facility (Sunset Pumps Diversion Dam, pumps, and pump platform) to restore the channel in the Feather River at an elevation consistent with the upstream and downstream channel slope. Upon completion of this project component, fish passage, and ecosystem function will be improved.


Is this an Active Project or Completed Project? Active

Watershed: Feather River

Public Access: Yes

Public Benefits

The project will remove a navigational barrier from the channel.

Why is the project needed? What are the project goals?

The Sunset Pumps Diversion Dam was built in the 1920s and is owned by the Sutter Extension Water District (SEWD). The dam raises the upstream water surface elevation approximately 10 feet to provide hydraulic head for SEWD’s water diversion – Sunset Pumps. This has affected habitat connectivity, fish migration, and threatened green sturgeon and spring-run Chinook salmon access to 28 miles of upstream habitat.


The Main Canal conveys water to the Joint Water Districts between the Thermalito Afterbay and the Sunset Pumps. It is an open concrete trapezoidal canal that runs near the Feather River through agricultural land.


The project will:

  • Remove the need for the Sunset Pumps facility by increasing the capacity of the Sutter-Butte Main Canal to provide water supply reliability and operational efficiency by improving control of canal flows
  • Remove the Sunset Pumps facility to enhance lower Feather River ecosystem function and improve fish migration for special status fish species (spring-run Chinook salmon, steelhead, and green sturgeon).


This project was recommended in the Sacramento Valley Salmon Resiliency Strategy released by the California Natural Resources Agency in 2017. Completion of this project would also address the following recovery action from the 2014 National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS)’s Recovery Plan for the Evolutionarily Significant Units of Sacramento River Winter-run Chinook Salmon and Central Valley Spring-run Chinook Salmon and the Distinct Population Segment of California Central Valley Steelhead.


Recovery Action FER-2.13 Modify Sunset Pumps to provide unimpeded upstream passage of adult steelhead, Chinook salmon, and sturgeon, and to minimize predation of juveniles moving downstream


The project is in the “plan” and “design” phases. There will be an opportunity for public participation in the future.

 Planning for this project has been ongoing since late 2014, with project management, modeling, and initial design and alternatives analyses facilitated or conducted by DWR, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), and SEWD staff. Initial modeling tasks addressing both the dam removal and canal modifications have been completed. A hydraulic model has been developed to provide an initial evaluation of sediment volume upstream of the dam, identify existing and post-project channel profiles, and determine effect on upstream diversions. Additionally, an analysis completed by GEI Consultants (contracted by SEWD) has conceptual-level recommendations that involve improving approximately 7.4 miles of canal.


Our projects partners are SEWD, USFWS Anadromous Fish Restoration Program, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, NMFS, and others.