Partners: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, South Yuba River Citizens League, cbec eco engineering, Cramer Fish Sciences, SRI Supreme, Patterson Taber General Engineering, Inc.
Funders: U.S. Fish and Wildlife, Yuba Water Agency
Background: The impact of past gold mining efforts is glaring on the Lower Yuba River. Though the economic prosperity from the Gold Rush led to the rise of modern California, it came at a price. Billions of tons of gravel from hydraulic mining were washed into the Yuba River, altering the riverbed and impacting native fish populations. Hydraulic mining was eventually made illegal in 1884 and now, in 2022, it is the mining industry, through an unlikely partnership, that is part of the solution to the problems created by its past.
In 2016, the South Yuba River Citizens League (SYRCL) applied for and received a $3.2 million grant in order to begin restoration on 42 acres of the part of the lower Yuba River known as Long Bar. The majority of the restoration process will consist of removing approximately 350,000 yards of hydraulic mining debris in order to restore optimal rearing conditions for spring- and fall- run Chinook and Central Valley Steelhead. Because the floodplain is so far above the water, by removing this gravel we are bringing the floodplain down to where the water is and then planting along the riverbanks in order to jumpstart the food web.
Construction at Lower Long Bar is beginning on the downstream (left) side of the project footprint and working upstream (right). The first step is to “rough grade” features which means removing the bulk of the material so that the floodplain elevation is close to what we want. Once that’s done, we will go back and put the finishing touches on each habitat feature moving downstream to upstream (left to right on the map). This approach means we shouldn’t have to take any heavy equipment back over a habitat feature which is already done.
- Construction kicked off June 22, 2020
- Currently, heavy equipment is actively removing sediment from the gravel bar to bring it down where it can function similar to how it did prior to the Gold Rush
- As of 7/15/2022: 28,570 cubic yards of material have been removed
- Side channel construction is scheduled to begin the week of July 25, 2020
- As of 7/27/2022: The rough grade on the lower third of the Backwater Channel is about 85% done as is the north section of the Enhanced Floodplain feature. The Main Channel Terrace rough grade is about 15% complete. We expect to start carefully constructing the Backwater Channel as early as 8/4 being careful to preserve as much of the existing willow and cottonwood vegetation as possible.
- As of 7/28/2022, we estimate that, so far, 80,000 cubic yards of material have been removed from the floodplain area to date.