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A Reflection from SYRCL’s Restoration Coordinator

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It’s quite a dream to go to the river to play one day and work on the river the next. As the end of my two year AmeriCorps term as SYRCL’s Restoration Coordinator draws near, I can’t help but reflect. I am impressed and excited by the amount of work we have completed over these past two years, and by the amount the restoration program has grown.

I was born and raised in Texas. I grew up in Houston, and at age 18 I moved to Austin. Yes, everything you hear about Austin being an oasis, a tiny blue dot in the middle of Texas, is true. I loved it. Austin has plenty of music and art, a river that runs through the city and several pretty hikes and parks nearby. Then, when I was 23, I moved to Nevada City, CA to work as Restoration Coordinator for SYRCL. However beautiful I thought Austin was, I was now convinced that I was living in and near some of the most beautiful land in the country.

Adele at Hammon Bar during her first week as Restoration Coordinator

During my first weeks at SYRCL, I was sent out several times to SYRCL’s Hammon Bar Riparian Enhancement pilot project, the first riparian restoration project on the lower Yuba River, as it was finishing its second year of implementation. My exposure to this project, coupled with a SYRCL staff and board rafting trip on the lower Yuba, helped me to understand the gold mining legacy’s immense impact on this river. That year I watched the sunrise on Hammon Bar on my birthday, a birthday that I share with Denise Della Santina, the contracted supervisor for implementation. To say the least, it was a great introduction to the restoration program that I would be working for over the next two years.

Catkin Crew: Jim Wofford, Chris Friedel, Adele Rife, Gary Palmer
Catkin Crew: Jim Wofford, Chris Friedel, Adele Rife, Gary Palmer

The lower Yuba River became one of my favorite areas to work on as it is full of opportunity in the world of restoration. The Lower Yuba River has been dramatically altered by hydraulic mining sediments, dredger mining, dams, levees, and alteration of flows. Many professionals, stakeholders, and landowners have large-scale ideas on how to restore habitat in the lower Yuba River for salmon and steelhead. SYRCL is a leading force in these efforts and participates in high-quality science to inform these rehabilitation concepts. Fortunately, I have been involved with several of these efforts, including the lower Yuba Riparian Survey. The riparian surveys were conducted to address three specific data gaps on riparian community characteristics: willow and cottonwood seed dispersal timing, tree structural conditions, and willow abundance. The best part about this survey was going out in the field on a weekly basis during the summer with my all-star volunteers, Jim Wofford, Gary Palmer, and Chris Friedel, and SYRCL’s past River Science Assistant, Sarah Phillips.

Another exciting component of my past two years has been working in the headwaters of the Yuba River, more specifically in mountain meadows. Over the past two years, I have visited more than a few Yuba meadows, all of which have been beautiful. I’ve gotten to know Loney Meadow quite well through our aspen regeneration project. Sierra aspen are hot spots for biodiversity, provide critical habitat for native birds and are known for their beautiful fall color and the fluttering of their leaves on warm summer days. SYRCL has restored 9 acres of aspen habitat since 2011 with the help of many dedicated volunteers. Moreover, SYRCL is expanding our work in meadows by collecting data and in-depth assessments to inform potential meadow restoration projects.

Restoration volunteers celebrate hard work at the South Yuba River!
Restoration volunteers celebrate hard work at the South Yuba River!

When I reflect on SYRCL’s restoration program, I notice growth. I notice that our scientific capacity has grown, our outreach has grown, and the number of on the ground-projects has grown. This progress is a pattern that I see throughout all of SYRCL’s programs. I feel lucky to have been a part of it throughout the past two-years and will truly miss working for SYRCL and living in this river-centric community. SYRCL has an amazing staff and volunteer base that is dedicated to protecting our watershed through continuous support and hard work, filled with people that I am constantly impressed by. I am excited to see how our restoration projects look in 10, 20, and 50 years from now. I am excited to see the long term effects of all of our hard work at SYRCL. No matter how long it takes me to come back to this area, I know I will always have a friend to visit, the Yuba River.

Join me on my last day of work at our 17th Annual Yuba River Cleanup and Restoration Day. We are working at 5 restoration sites and 30 cleanup sites. The restoration sites include:

  • Bridgeport: Blackberry removal at Lower Kentucky Ravine
  • Jones Bar: Blackberry removal at the mouth of Rush Creek
  • Edward’s Crossing: English Ivy removal
  • Bennett Street Meadow: Black Berry and English Ivy removal at Wolf Creek
  • Oregon Creek: Scotch Broom removal
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