SYRCL Partners with Bren School Students on Lower Yuba River Study

Graduate students from the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management at UC Santa Barbara. From left: Elijah Papen, Nathan Burroughs, Jo Anna Beck, Leah Gonzales, and Alyssa Obester.

On a recent, sweltering, mid-summer day, SYRCL River Science Director, Rachel Hutchinson, and a group of five graduate students from the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management at UC Santa Barbara embarked on a float down the Lower Yuba River to talk restoration, management, and the future of the Yuba.

The group is working alongside Ms. Hutchinson and SYRCL. Unlike traditional graduate work, students at the Bren School work in groups on a project for an external client; in this case, SYRCL. Both parties benefit through collaboration: students gain real-world experience and clients get the chance to develop a project they may otherwise not have the time nor resources to undertake.

lower-yuba-river-at-hammon-bar
Lower Yuba River at Hammon Bar

As part of their year-long master’s thesis, students Jo Anna Beck, Nathan Burroughs, Leah Gonzales, Alyssa Obester and Elijah Papen worked together to develop a restoration plan for the Lower Yuba River focused on restoring Chinook salmon and steelhead trout populations and overall watershed health. Their plan will quantify both the costs and benefits of restoration—something most restoration plans don’t typically do.

The team started by examining the river’s history of human modifications including hydraulic mining and the construction of dams, as well as restoration efforts undertaken by SYRCL and other groups.

They are currently focused on building a framework that will help to evaluate the health of the river system, and prioritize areas for restoration along the river. The team will then perform a cost-benefit analysis that will assist in answering questions like, by how much will land value increase as a result of restoration. How will recreational opportunities improve on a more restored river system?

The goal is not only to produce a plan detailing restoration strategies and costs and benefits of restoration, but also a plan that helps garner local support and funding for future restoration projects.

The group will finish their project in the spring of 2017. Learn more about the project and follow the group’s progress here: http://yuba2016.wixsite.com/yubariverrenovation.

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