30 Years Together: Cooperating for Habitat and Flood Control

Spotlight on the Lower American River Task Force

It’s rather amazing to ponder: As of this year, the Lower American River Task Force (LARTF) has been meeting regularly for the past 30 years.

The task force is a unique collaborative venue created in 1994 as a way for environmental, recreational, community organizations, and others to learn about and engage with local, state, and federal agencies on their efforts to maintain flood control, environmental protection, and recreation on the Lower American River Parkway.

Its members include representatives from federal, state, and local agencies, environmental and recreational groups, water suppliers, and other interested parties.

The group has a vital role, as this stretch of river is nationally recognized as a Wild and Scenic River, and also bears a heavy weight in protecting urban Sacramento from significant flood risk. The Lower American River (LAR) and Parkway also face many challenges, such as climate change, population growth, aging infrastructure, and competing demands.

The Water Forum and Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency (SAFCA) currently co-facilitate the discussion. And, consistent with the group’s history, they help shape meeting topics with the objective of creating a full picture of all of the activities on the LAR.

The task force exists to share information, identify opportunities, and coordinate actions for improving existing flood control facilities and management strategies along the river while at the same time highlighting actions to protect and enhance the Parkway. The LARTF also has long-standing working groups, like the Bank Protection Working Group, that focus on specific topics, such as fisheries and in-stream habitat, bank protection, and natural resource management.

“There’s always been a history of trying to improve the flood protection but also preserve the natural resources in the parkway,” said Gary Bardini, director of planning at SAFCA. “It’s a good forum to get folks up to speed on activities in the parkway and understand some of the management issues we’re trying to address.”

Some of the task force’s major accomplishments include:

  • Preparing the Lower American River Corridor Management Plan (RCMP) in 2002, which provides a framework for integrated management of the LAR and its resources.
  • Developing the FISH Habitat Management and Restoration Plan (FISH Plan) in 2001, which identifies and prioritizes actions to restore and enhance fish habitat and populations in the Lower American River.
  • Supporting the implementation of various projects and programs that benefit the Lower American River, such as the American River Common Features Project, the Nimbus Hatchery Fish Passage Project, the Lower American River Conservancy Program, and the American River Parkway Natural Resource Management Plan.

In 2016, Congress authorized the American River Common Features, General Reevaluation Report (ARCF GRR), which included implementing up to 11 miles of bank protection along the LAR to safely manage flows of up to 160,000 cubic feet per second (cfs). This required collaboration with local entities for implementation. The task force reestablished its Bank Protection Working Group to involve additional partners in providing recommendations for balanced bank protection and erosion design projects along the LAR.

“It’s allowed a number of key parkway organizations to get direct engagement as we’ve progressed with those types of projects,” Bardini said of the working group.

Looking forward, task force members will consider how the LARTF might evolve to meet the ever-changing challenges and needs of the Lower American River and Parkway.

“Even after 30 years, the task force continues to play an important role in ensuring the long-term health and sustainability of the Lower American River and its multiple benefits for the Sacramento region and beyond,” said Water Forum Executive Director Jessica Law. “We look forward to the next chapter in its distinguished history.”

The Lower American River Task Force meets quarterly on the second Tuesday in March, June, September, and December, and its meetings are open to the public.

For more information, or to be added to a mailing list of task force activities, contact the Water Forum using this form: https://waterforum.org/contact.

Help Shape the Future of the Lower American River Task Force

The LARTF is assessing how it can evolve to meet the changing challenges and needs of the Lower American River and Parkway. Help shape the future of this group by completing the following survey by April 18, 2024.

Take the survey here.