The Water Forum this week launched the second phase of its 2022 Habitat Projects on the Lower American River.
Crews began work enhancing spawning and rearing areas in the Nimbus Basin, near the Sacramento State Aquatic Center. Over the coming weeks, they will add clean gravel sourced from tailings piles at Mississippi Bar to the river for salmon and steelhead to build redds (nests) and excavate a side channel complex for juvenile fish to hide and grow. Gravel from the tailings (discarded rock from the gold mining era) has been carefully sorted to the sizes that salmonids prefer.
The Water Forum last worked in the area about a decade ago and is now providing a “tune-up,” understanding that the Nimbus Basin is heavily utilized by spawning fish every year and that gravel naturally moves downstream over time.
“Previous habitat enhancement projects have nurtured dramatic increases in redds, including a 1,000 percent increase after the Water Forum’s 2019 habitat enhancement project at Upper Sailor Bar,” said Program Manager Erica Bishop. “We are optimistic that we will see similar—or better results—with the projected higher flows and expected cooler temperatures in the river this year.”
This week also marks the halfway point for the Habitat Project at Lower Sailor Bar. Crews from the City of Sacramento Department of Utilities are now finished with excavating and sorting gravel and are using river-friendly equipment to push gravel into the river. Over 100,000 cubic yards of gravel were sorted to achieve the 37,000 cubic yards needed for the Lower Sailor Bar project.
Crews have also carved the side channel and are placing woody habitat structures during the next few weeks to provide protected places for young fish. They are utilizing surveying equipment and drone footage to measure progress and ensure the design follows site plans.
The 2022 Habitat Projects are the most ambitious of the Water Forum’s spawning and rearing work to date. The Lower Sailor Bar project alone includes three spawning riffles and an extra-long side channel measuring over half-a mile end-to-end.
The work is made possible with the support of Water Forum members, project partners, and grant funding from the federal Central Valley Improvement Act and state Proposition 68—the “California Drought, Water, Parks, Climate, Coastal Protection, and Outdoor Access for All Act,” passed by voters in 2018. Prop 68 funding is intended for projects that plan, develop and implement climate adaptation and resiliency projects, including those that protect natural resources and water supplies.
The Lower Sailor Bar project is on target to finish in late September, with the Nimbus Basin project taking place through early October.