California EcoRestore Groundbreakings
October 17, 2018
Largest tidal habitat restoration effort in the Delta breaks ground
The Department of Water Resources (DWR), along with state and local partners, today celebrated the groundbreaking of the Delta’s largest tidal wetlands restoration project. The Dutch Slough Tidal Restoration Project will re-establish a rich ecological network that will boost survival rates of endangered fish and wildlife while also protecting neighborhoods against flooding.
“We’re advancing scientific knowledge of the Delta and preserving fish and wildlife harmed by decades of land and levee development,” DWR Deputy Director Kristopher Tjernell said at today’s event in Oakley. “This project is good for fish and wildlife. It’s good for water and air quality, and for the state of California.”
Located on the Delta’s western edge, the Dutch Slough Tidal Marsh Restoration Project will transform 1,187 acres of a former grazing area into a rich habitat for fish and wildlife. The project is part of the California EcoRestore Initiative, a multi-agency endeavor to restore more than 30,000 acres of wildlife habitat in the Delta by 2020. California EcoRestore marks the Delta’s largest-ever restoration program.
Tidal marsh elevation requires land that gradually slopes upward. In May 2018, DWR began moving dirt from higher elevations to lower elevations, so that water can eventually flow in from the Delta channels and out with the daily tides. The project is expected to be completed once the levees are breached in 2021, and native fish and wildlife can populate the area.
Once completed, Dutch Slough will serve as a regional park with hiking and bike trails. Visitors will be able to learn about biology and history through interpretive signs. This vast marshland will take visitors back in time, to a vibrant ecological wetland reminiscent of the Delta of the early 1800s. The site will also provide flood protection to nearby housing, guarding against rising sea levels triggered by climate change.
Tjernell hailed Dutch Slough as a “living laboratory” because the tidal marsh will inform generations of scientific study and adaptive wetland management in California. Environmental stewardship drives every major decision at DWR, the deputy director noted. In the coming years, the department must prepare for increasing hazards of climate change while ensuring a reliable supply of clean water for 27 million Californians.
Located on the west side of the Delta near the confluence of the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers, Dutch Slough is close to the Suisun Marsh estuary where salt water mixes with fresh water, creating an environmentally rich and varied habitat compared to other marsh sites. The transformation of retired agricultural land into tidal marsh will create a mostly predator-free space for juvenile salmon and other species in decline.
“It’s essentially a safe neighborhood for fish,” said Patty Finfrock, DWR’s project manager for Dutch Slough. “The salmon breed upstream, and their young will swim downstream and find plenty of food and shelter.”
John Cain, Director of Conservation for California Flood Management at American Rivers discovered the ecological possibility of the site in 1999 and convinced local leaders that tidal marsh was the best use for the site. “We made the case that this was the best way to preserve the Delta shoreline while being able to provide access for people to walk along trails and to safely boat and fish,” Cain said.
+ Visit DWR’s Dutch Slough web page.
Read more about the event and project:
San Francisco Chronicle, Marsh project means more fish, birds and wildlife
East Bay Times, Delta’s largest wetlands restoration project kicks off in Oakley
Brentwood Press, [Video] Dutch Slough project groundbreaking
May 30, 2018
Historic Groundbreaking of Project to Secure Fish Passage in the Yolo Bypass
California EcoRestore celebrated its third birthday by breaking ground on an important project that will remove barriers for adult fish traveling through the Yolo Bypass to their spawning grounds in the Upper Sacramento River and its tributaries. For many of the more than 100 attendees, this day was years in the making, for others, an opportunity to learn more about this pivotal effort. Representing a partnership between the federal, state and local government and the environmental community, the May 30th groundbreaking ceremony for the Fremont Weir Adult Fish Passage Modification Project is a true testament to the importance of persistence and the value of multi-agency collaboration when working toward a common goal.
At the ceremony, US Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) Regional Director, David Murillo reflected on the collaborative nature of the project, “Fremont Weir is a prime example of what we can do when state and federal partners work together for water supply reliability in California.” Reclamation and the CA Department of Water Resources (DWR) are the lead agencies implementing the effort.
DWR Director, Karla Nemeth provided a broader content for the impacts to the ecosystem of habitat restoration projects in the Yolo Bypass, Delta and Suisun Marsh region, “All of these pieces start to become a reality and we can see the ways in which we can reconnect very important watershed systems at the landscape scale.”
The 1.8 mile-long concrete weir, originally completed in 1924, and fish ladder, subsequently constructed in 1965, sit along the backdrop of the Sacramento River in the northern Yolo Bypass, an ancient and critical fish migration corridor. Over time, floodplain habitats in the region have been diminished, disconnecting anadromous adult fish from their spawning grounds. Several structures in the Yolo Bypass, including the Fremont Weir, are a documented source of migratory delay and stranding that often prevent adult fish from completing their migration from the ocean to their spawning grounds upstream. Additionally, the current fish ladder provides insufficient passage for adult salmon and does not provide passage for adult sturgeon.
The Fremont Weir Adult Fish Passage Project will enlarge the existing fish ladder, improving the connection to the Sacramento River, which will give fish more time to reach the northern Yolo Bypass. It will also make it easier for fish to locate the much larger fish passage structure and exit the Yolo Bypass to return to the Sacramento River, and remove or replace earthen agricultural road crossings to provide unimpeded movement in the area, allowing migrating fish to ultimately reach their spawning areas or return to the Delta.
Project construction is expected to be completed in 2018, paving the way for additional fish passage improvement projects in the Yolo Bypass.
May 9, 2017
Levee Improvement, Floodplain and Habitat Restoration Effort Underway in West Sacramento
The City of West Sacramento, along with local, state and federal officials, broke ground on its largest levee improvement project to date on Tuesday, May 9, 2017. Congresswoman Doris Matsui and West Sacramento Mayor, Christopher Cabaldon, along with various flood protection partners, spoke to a crowd of more than 75 people at the Southport Levee Improvement Project site to celebrate the official start of construction on the project aimed at improving nearly six miles of vulnerable levee in this urban area. As Mayor Cabaldon explained, the project will offer multiple benefits including increasing flood protection, habitat restoration and creation of recreational trails. The project includes the setback of the existing levee to provide additional flood capacity and create mixed floodplain and riparian habitat to provide benefits to native fish species, and contributes to California EcoRestore floodplain and riparian habitat restoration targets in the Delta. This multi-benefit flood and ecosystem enhancement effort is one of four projects aimed at bringing West Sacramento up to the state-mandated 200-year flood protection level.
The project was planned and permitted through a partnership between the City of West Sacramento, West Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency, California Department of Water Resources (DWR), Central Valley Flood Protection Board, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Speakers at the event emphasized the project would not have been possible without the strong partnership among the agencies involved. Congresswoman Matsui thanked the project partners for their support, including the State and DWR, who contributed proposition funding to assist with early implementation and habitat restoration efforts.
Read more about the event:
October 6, 2016
Project Underway at Wallace Weir to Protect Migratory Salmon
Local, state, and federal officials gathered Thursday, October 6th to celebrate the construction underway at the Wallace Weir Fish Rescue project aimed at addressing a well-known hazard to migratory Sacramento River salmon. This project is building a permanent, fish-friendly weir in the Yolo Bypass four miles northeast of Woodland to help prevent adult Sacramento River salmon from swimming into a drainage ditch that leads deep into farm fields providing no spawning potential. By building a permanent barrier across the Knights Landing Ridge Cut, the agencies will be able to better control farm drainage releases to avoid attracting salmon. A new fish collection facility adjacent to the weir will allow the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to more effectively capture stray salmon and return them to the river to spawn.
The Wallace Weir Fish Rescue reconstruction project is being managed by Reclamation District 108, while the $13 million cost of the project is being paid by the customers of the State Water Project, operated by the state Department of Water Resources, and the Central Valley Project, operated by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. The Wallace Weir Fish Rescue project is required by the National Marine Fisheries Services in their 2009 Biological Opinion protecting chinook salmon under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.
“The new permanent Wallace Weir and fish collection facility will allow hundreds of additional adult salmon to reach their spawning grounds, including critically endangered Sacramento River winter-run Chinook salmon,” said Maria Rea, Assistant Regional Administrator for NOAA Fisheries California Central Valley Office.
Fritz Durst, president of Reclamation District 108 board, told the crowd gathered at the Wallace Weir site during the October 6 ceremony, “We, as farmers, like to get stuff done” praising the “fix-it versus fight attitude” in the Sacramento Valley, adding that “We are fortunate to have a group of doers here.”
4th District Assemblyman Bill Dodd also praised the progress on the project, noting, “I constantly hear from constituents who worry about fish and who worry about water,” explaining that finding the balance of both will not be easy.
Reclamation District 108 general manager Lewis Bair echoed the messages of both Durst and Dodd when he said, “There is growing hope in our community that hard work and strong partnerships will bring sustainability to both California’s fish and farms.”
Reclamation District 108 hopes to finish the Wallace Weir project this winter. The permanent structure involves a new earthen weir hardened to withstand floods, as well as operated water control gates and an adjacent fish collection facility.
September 19, 2016
Tule Red Tidal Wetlands Restoration Project
Local, state, federal, and private industry leaders on Monday, September 19, 2016 kicked off the largest tidal wetland restoration project in the Delta, breaking ground on a project to return salty tides to several hundred acres for the sake of native fish.
More than a century after people built earthen dikes to block off part of Suisun Marsh to create duck hunting clubs, the Tule Red project in Solano County would open more than 400 acres of wetlands to daily tides. With reworked berms and new channels and basins, the project will create habitat to harbor and boost food production for several threatened or endangered species including the Delta smelt, longfin smelt, and chinook salmon.
Public water districts around California that depend upon the delivery of water from the Delta will pay for the project. Under directives from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the California Department of Water Resources is obligated to restore 8,000 acres of tidal wetlands in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and 800 acres of tidal wetlands in or around the Suisun Marsh. The Department of Water Resources (DWR) owns and operates the State Water Project.
“Human intervention altered the Delta profoundly over the last 150 years, and with projects like Tule Red, we can intervene to turn back the clock,” said California Natural Resources Secretary John Laird. “When we welcome tides back to a few hundred acres of Suisun Marsh, we reverse the trends that eliminated 95 percent of the tidal wetlands in the Bay-Delta, the largest estuary in the Western Hemisphere.”
Commonly known as the Tule Red Hunting Club, the 420-acre duck club is located along Grizzly Bay in Suisun Marsh. Before it was diked to create fresh and brackish water habitat favored by game ducks in the early 1900′s, this property was tidal habitat, with seasonal fresh water inundation during wet winter periods. The Suisun Marsh, south of Fairfield, is the largest contiguous brackish water marsh on the west coast of North America. The 116,000-acre marsh represents more than 10 percent of the remaining natural wetlands area in the state.
The Tule Red project will involve breaching a natural berm to allow for full daily tidal exchange through the interior of the project site and creation of a network of channels to convey water across the marsh plain. The project is designed to not only provide habitat to Delta smelt, longfin smelt, salmonids, and other native fishes, but also to reestablish important ecological processes that will maximize production of the microscopic plants and animals at the base of the food web that nourish native fish. One of the factors that has led to the precipitous decline of Delta smelt and other native species is lack of food resources.
DWR’s video from groundbreaking ceremony and highlights from key speakers:
October 22, 2015
Knights Landing Outfall Gates Fish Passage Improvement Effort
Local, state, federal, and private leaders gathered on October 22, 2015 for a dedication ceremony for a project to benefit native fish species migration by implementing a fish passage improvement to prevent salmon entry into the Colusa Basin Drain (CBD) while also maintaining outflows and appropriate water surface elevations. The Knights Landing Outfall Gates (KLOG) project consists of constructing a positive fish barrier on the downstream side of the existing KLOG structure to prevent adult salmon entry into the CBD, as well as repairing an erosion site on the right bank of the CBD on the downstream side of the KLOG structure. This effort is aimed at addressing a known salmon migration issue – currently, when salmon enter the CBD, there is no upstream route for salmon to return to the Sacramento River and, absent fish rescue operations, the fish perish and are lost from production. The KLOG structure is located on the CBD, approximately one-quarter mile from its confluence with the Sacramento River near the community of Knights Landing, just below River Mile 90, in Yolo County. Reclamation District (RD 108) acted as the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) lead agency.
DWR’s video from the ceremony and highlights from key speakers: