$3 million Yuba River ecosystem restoration feasibility study begins

Published July 1, 2015
SACRAMENTO, Calif. – A study to define the feasibility of various approaches to improving habitat along California’s Yuba River is now underway.

A federal cost-sharing agreement has been approved between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Yuba County Water Agency, the non-federal partner, for the $3 million feasibility study.

The study will be conducted in a risk-informed framework with the first step being a charette, a collaborative design and planning session to determine the project’s scope. This session will also open a formal public comment period and is expected to take place in Fall of 2015.

“The goal of the feasibility study is to present science- and logic-based options for restoration of the Yuba River ecosystem,” said Melissa Hallas, Sacramento District’s lead planner for the Yuba River study. “As planners, we help decision-makers identify water resources problems, conceive solutions, and compare the importance of the inevitable conflicting values inherent in any solution and shape recommendations.”

“We’re pleased the Corps is beginning this study,” said Curt Aikens, YCWA’s General Manager. “We’re looking forward to the study’s recommendation of several practical actions to help restore salmon and steelhead habitat in the Yuba River.”

Federal interest in ecosystem restoration for the Yuba River was confirmed in the Corps’ reconnaissance study, completed in October 2014. During the feasibility study, specific study objectives and constraints will be addressed with the non‐federal sponsor and study stakeholders.

The Corps is responsible for management of two dams -- Englebright and Daguerre Point -- on the Yuba River. These dams were built in the early 20th century by the California Debris Commission.

The Corps is responsible for maintaining these dams to ensure they continue to function in accordance with their Congressionally-authorized purposes. The Corps must also ensure that its maintenance activities do not jeopardize fish species listed by the federal resource agencies as threatened.

The Corps has been carrying out a program to inject a mixture of coarse sediment (gravel and cobble) into the lower Yuba River below Englebright Dam, in order to improve spawning habitat for salmonids, and has been funding surveys to monitor the effectiveness of these habitat restoration measures.

Four separate gravel injection efforts were undertaken from 2007-2013, with approximately 15,500 tons of gravel/cobble placed into the Englebright Dam Reach. Surveys by the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission found that salmon are using that gravel to spawn. Surveys of salmon redds also show encouraging signs that the gravel injection is working as planned.

The Corps also began a pilot study in December 2013 to place large woody debris below Englebright to provide terrain variety and give juvenile threatened fish a safe place to rest.

“We love the Yuba River and understand the passion of other conservationists in the region,” said Colonel Mike Farrell, USACE Sacramento District commander. “Ecosystem restoration is a priority mission of the Corps and this feasibility study will help us sustain and further focus our efforts to improve habitat there.”

Robert Kidd

Release no. 15-025