Habitat Management

Habitat management actions protect and enhance key ecological, recreational, and aesthetic features of the lower American River and the Parkway.



The Habitat Management Element (HME) of the Water Forum Agreement is intended to counterbalance the impacts of increased American River diversions. The HME addresses flow, temperature, physical habitat, and recreation issues for the lower American River. 

The Water Forum leverages funding from the city and county of Sacramento, the San Juan Water District, the City of Roseville, City of Folsom, Placer County Water Agency, SMUD, El Dorado County Water Agency, and Golden State Water Company to implement numerous ecosystem manage­ment efforts.  Several notable efforts are below:

Life-Giving Gravel: For over 10 years, the Water Forum has partnered with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), along with the city and county of Sacramento to implement gravel restoration projects in the lower American River to promote the wild spawning of native steelhead and salmon.  This essential project is undertaken yearly because quality spawning and rearing habitat for Chinook salmon and steelhead is limited on the lower American River because of Nimbus and Folsom Dams.

Fall-run Chinook Salmon migrate upstream as adults to spawn from October through December. In the egg-laying process, females create a “nest” in loose gravel in flowing water, depositing their eggs and then covering them up with more gravel.  Gravel is carefully placed in the river before fall-run salmon are triggered by cooling temperatures to spawn, and after the high spring and summer flows. Our channel restoration projects are designed to create habitat based on modeling that takes into account factors such as water velocity and depth.  The project replenishes a resource that has historically been an important part of the lower American River and its delicate ecosystem.

Cordova Creek Naturalization is a partnership between Water Forum, the Wildlife Conservation Board, Sacramento County Parks Department, the California Native Plant Society, SAFCA, City of Rancho Cordova, and Soil Born Farms to remove a sterile concrete-lined storm drain and replace it with a meandering stream. The new creek provides both critical habitat and water quality benefits. Learn more about the Lower Cordova Creek Planning Project. 

Facilitating Informed Planning: The Water Forum continues to convene important citizen working groups that are involved in planning and implementing projects in the American River Parkway.  These include the lower American River Task Force and the Fisheries and Instream Habitat (FISH) Working Group.  Through these groups, the Water Forum assists with implementation of the River Corridor Management Plan (RCMP) and the accompanying Fisheries and Instream Habitat Plan.  The RCMP is a comprehensive planning tool to manage the Parkway, including its fisheries, vegetation, wildlife habitat, flood control, and recreation values.

Restoring Creek and Channel Habitat: The Water Forum partnered with the Sacramento County Parks Department, the Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency (SAFCA) and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) on the Lower Sunrise Side Channel project to deepen the channel outlet and prevent stranding of fish at low water, thereby enhancing spawning habitat for anadromous species.

Removing Invasive Plants: The Water Forum has long funded efforts by the American River Parkway Foundation to remove invasive Red Sesbania, a non-native shrub that is causing problems along California’s waterways.

Soil Born Farms Education Program: The Water Forum has provided assistance to Soil Born’s education program to develop K-12 curriculum about the Parkway ecosystem and the role of water in sustaining our environment and our lives.  The Water Forum has also sponsored field trips for schools in disadvantaged communities in the Sacramento area.  Soil Born’s programs promote awareness and appreciation of the Sacramento region’s natural and cultural resources, facilitating an understanding of why conservation is important.

Effie Yeaw Nature Center: The Water Forum has been a long standing sponsor of the Effie Yeaw Nature Center, a local environmental education provider.  Located along the lower American River, the Effie Yeaw Nature Center provides opportunities for youth, including an aquatic ecosystem program and labs for grade-school children.  The Center’s programs teach students about the diversity and richness of the Sacramento Region’s aquatic environment via hands-on lessons.

Lower American River Gravel Augmentation Project Nurtures Record Number of Salmon Nests

A new project to protect salmon and steelhead in the lower American River at Sailor Bar has produced a record number of salmon redds—underwater depressions or “nests” created by female salmon to lay their eggs, according to a recent study. Last year, there were zero redds counted in the area. This past fall, the area was teaming with redds—more than 1,000.

Over a four-week period in fall, restoration teams placed 14,000 cubic yards of gravel into the river as part of the Water Forum’s work to promote spawning of native salmon and steelhead, which has been limited because of Nimbus and Folsom dams. Teams also carved a 1,400 ft side channel into the north bank of the river to provide rearing habitat. Rearing habitat is important because it provides much-needed cover for juvenile fish after they’ve come out of the gravel. 

News clips about the project:

Learn more:

A huge “thank you” to the City of Roseville multimedia team for producing the video. https://www.roseville.ca.us/

Using aerial photography surveys, we have observed many more redds, or salmon "nests" following restoration at Upper Sailor Bar. This info graphic shared on Water Forum social media (@SacWaterForum) explains how we monitor fall-run Chinook salmon spawning in the Lower American River. Redd counts help us evaluate the success of our restoration projects.
The Water Forum conducts outreach in the neighborhoods surronding the restoration project and regionally, to inform and educate the public about the work being done on the parkway and why restoration is so vital to salmon and steelhead populations on the lower American River.

Videos of Our Past Restoration Projects

Find more videos of Water Forum habitat restoration projects on our Videos Page.