Restoring the Lower Yuba

As the three forks of the Yuba converge, they create what is commonly referred to as the Lower Yuba River stretching 21 miles from Englebright Dam to Marysville before joining the Feather River. This 21-mile stretch of the Lower Yuba River is one of the most unique ecosystems in the Sierra as it is home for the last spawning grounds for wild threatened salmon and steelhead trout on the Yuba River.  

Additionally, during the Gold Rush era, hydraulic mining sediments flooded the Lower Yuba River covering hundreds of acres of habitat under rocks and sediment. An estimated 634 million cubic yards of sediment enter the Yuba River, that’s about double the amount of earth removed to carve out the Panama Canal. Given the amount of disturbance the lower Yuba River was subjected to, many believed the river was too degraded to be restored.

SYRCL is building our team of scientists who are working hard to preserve, protect, and restore habitat and native fish populations through restoration projects like Hallwood, Long Bar, and the new Upper Rose Bar project.

Hammon Bar Project

In 2011 and 2012 SYRCL implemented the first habitat restoration project to ever occur on the lower Yuba River at Hammon Bar. SYRCL planted over 6,000 willow and cottonwood species, digging through the gravel until reaching groundwater depth with the goal of creating diverse riparian vegetation and proving that the Goldfields on the lower Yuba River were worth fighting to restore.

On average, 50% of the trees planted at the project site of survived! There is evidence of young tree recruitment, which means the ecosystem is truly recovering. Fine sediments are also recruiting giving rise to more habitat for the riparian trees.  

SYRCL celebrates the success of this project because it proves that the lower Yuba River is resilient enough to respond to restoration efforts. The Hammon Bar Restoration Project became the catalyst that continues to inspire other restoration projects on the lower Yuba River.

Hallwood Project

The Hallwood Side Channel and Floodplain Restoration Project is a collaborative effort between SYRCL, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), cebec eco-engineeringCramer Fish Sciences, Yuba Water Agency, Teichert and Western Aggregates. Through this ambitious project, more than a million tons of dredge pilings (aka gravel) are being removed from the floodplain, creating new side channel habitat and lowering the floodplain. 

As construction progresses, we will continue to conduct inventories of existing native trees for remediation planting, monitor turbidity during periods of in-stream construction, and help ensure that the construction of new side channel habitat minimizes the disturbance to existing habitat.

Long Bar Project

Upstream from the Hallwood Project is Long Bar. This 50-acre restoration project received funding from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for planning and implementation. Led by SYRCL, this project includes lowering the floodplain, planting hundreds of native trees, and creating new side channels which serve as salmon spawning and rearing habitat.

With construction scheduled to begin in the Summer of 2021, we are busy working with partners at cbec eco-engineering and Cramer Fish Sciences to create finalized blueprints for the design of the restoration project, secure all of the necessary permits, and monitor the numbers and diversity of current Endangered Species Act listed species in the project area.

Upper Rose Bar Project

Just last month, SYRCL secured funding from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to plan and design a new project located just downstream of Englebright Dam. As one of areas with potentially viable spawning and rearing habitat for Chinook salmon and steelhead, this project has the potential to make a meaningful impact on restoring the once-thriving fisheries of the Yuba River.

SYRCL Welcomes New Lower Yuba Restoration Scientists

To complete all these restoration projects, SYRCL recently welcomed two new staff members who make up the Lower Yuba River Restoration Team. We hope you will join us in welcoming Aaron Zettler-Mann and Tyler Goodearly.

Aaron Zettler-Mann, River Restoration Project Manager

Aaron brings the enthusiasm of a lifetime working in, on, and for rivers. Aaron’s first experiences working on rivers was as a whitewater raft guide throughout California. There, he got to share his love of water and remote places with people from all over the world. After nearly a decade as a guide, his recreational interests turned academic. Aaron completed his MS at Denver University and his PhD at the University of Oregon, asking questions about how human and natural processes shape river systems and how we can better monitor the way rivers change through time, through natural processes and in response to restoration projects.

Aaron has been involved in research projects across the Western US and around the world. He has worked on high elevation streams in Wyoming, high rafting traffic rivers in western Colorado, and has been involved in intensive restoration and monitoring efforts in Oregon, and Washington. Additionally, Aaron has contributed to, and led, research funded by the National Science Foundation, Bonneville Power Administration, and  NASA, among others.

Aaron brings years of project management and monitoring skills to his position at SYRCL. He is excited about working to improve habitat function on the Lower Yuba River.

Tyler Goodearly, Fish Biologist

Tyler is no stranger to California’s rivers. He has worked on a variety of projects from electrofishing streams up and down California with renowned fish biologist Peter Moyle, to leading a California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Chinook salmon carcass survey on the American River. Tyler has also worked for Cramer Fish Sciences, one of SYRCL’s primary partners on restoration projects, where he helped conduct pre-project monitoring surveys at Hallwood.

Tyler’s passion for conservation has taken him around the world. He obtained a master’s degree in Biodiversity and Conservation from Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland. He studied the effects of environmental enrichment on pythons in Denmark, conducted large mammal surveys in South Africa, and led a crayfish eradication project in a Southern California desert oasis. Tyler’s enthusiasm combined with his experience make him a great asset to the SYRCL team, and he is excited to work to restore the Yuba River.

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