Large-scale, Multi-benefit Halwood Side Channel and Floodplain Restoration Project Transforms Part of the Lower Yuba River

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The project is already improving conditions for native salmon and steelhead trout by restoring natural river processes and reversing some of the ecological challenges caused by decades of hydraulic mining

After five years of construction, a 157-acre, multi-benefit habitat restoration project that directly benefits native fish like salmon and steelhead in the lower Yuba River is complete.

The Hallwood Side Channel and Floodplain Restoration Project includes nearly two miles of restored side channels and alcoves and more than six miles of seasonally flooded side channels – areas that are essential for fish where they can hide from predators, rest, eat and grow. Recent fish surveys show that steelhead and salmon are already using the new habitat.

“The project has already shown an increase of juvenile Chinook salmon and steelhead using the site, as well as adult fish that are spawning in the channels,” said Chris Hammersmark, director and ecohydrologist for cbec eco engineering. “The project area is producing more bugs (aka fish food) and providing a myriad of aquatic conditions, which is exactly the kind of habitat that fish need to grow and thrive. The outcome so far is just incredible.”

In addition to creating habitat for salmon and steelhead, the project also improves the ability of the watershed to withstand floods. Approximately 3.2 million cubic yards of sediment was removed throughout the project area, reducing flood risk for local communities by lowering water surface elevations during large storms, such as atmospheric rivers.

“Yuba County has a history of devastating floods, due in part to hydraulic mining practices that washed millions of cubic yards of debris into the Yuba River,” said Willie Whittlesey, Yuba Water Agency’s general manager. “Not only does this project reduce that flood risk by restoring natural river processes, it also reverses some of the ecological impacts to the river from the Gold Rush. It’s really a win-win.”

The nearly $12 million project broke ground in August 2019 and included two years of pre-construction monitoring and four years of post-project monitoring. Funding was provided through the Central Valley Project Improvement Act, California Propositions 1 and 68 and Yuba Water Agency. Project partners include U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, California Natural Resources Agency, cbec eco engineering, Cramer Fish Sciences, South Yuba River Citizens League, Wildlife Conservation Board, Yuba Water Agency and Teichert.

Teichert, a construction and materials company, was essential for the cost-effective implementation of the project, providing an estimated $90 million in additional support through in-kind aggregate material processing at the site. Without Teichert’s partnership, the project would have been cost prohibitive.

“Much of the legacy mining material removed for restoration was – within just 24 hours of removal – processed and put into a nearby road paving project within 60 miles of the project,” said Aaron Zettler-Mann, executive director of the South Yuba River Citizens League. “The project is really testament to the power of partnerships to transform a landscape that we all care about deeply.”

“Given the sheer size, scope and complexity of this project, we could not have accomplished it without our partners,” said Paul Souza, regional director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Pacific Southwest Region. “The work that has been done to restore natural river and floodplain processes will create a healthier and more productive river and benefit our native fisheries at a time when they need it most.”

About the project partners

  • cbec eco engineering specializes in eco engineering for the water resources industry. cbec’s mission is to develop innovative, multi-benefit solutions in water resources engineering that improve the health of the natural environment while also meeting the needs of humanity.
  • The California Natural Resources Agency’s mission is to restore, protect and manage the state’s natural, historical and cultural resources for current and future generations using creative approaches and solutions based on science, collaboration and respect for all the communities and interests involved.
  • Cramer Fish Sciences is built around a core group of senior scientists with distinguished careers in fish, aquatic ecology, genetics, biostatistics, and population modeling, mixed with upcoming scientists that have outstanding scholastic achievement and fresh training in leading-edge methods and technologies.
  • South Yuba River Citizens League is a watershed conservation group focused on uniting the community to protect and restore the Yuba River watershed. SYRCL envisions a thriving, free-flowing Yuba and healthy ecosystems that support wildlife and people — from the ridges to the canyons and the summit to the sea.
  • Teichert is a construction company operating in California since 1887 with commitment to our family of employees, high quality of work, strong customer satisfaction, and giving back to the community. Over the years, Teichert has grown into a diverse mix of businesses, most notably Teichert Construction and Teichert Materials.
  • The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service works with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people.
  • The Wildlife Conservation Board was created by legislation in 1947 to administer a capital outlay program for wildlife conservation and related public recreation. The WCB is a separate and independent board with authority and funding to carry out an acquisition and development program for wildlife conservation.
  • Yuba Water Agency is committed to the sustainable management of our water resources for flood risk reduction and reliable water supply, enabled through clean power generation, in support of the environment and quality of life
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