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:
- Case study for the Collaborative Conservation and Adaptation Strategy Toolbox (CCAST): Habitat Restoration for Native Salmonid Conservation in the Lower American River of California
- Sacramento Bee: Project to restore American River for native fish leads to surge in salmon nets
- American River Messenger: Salmon Run Out in a Wild Season
- Fox 40 News: Habitat Restoration Project Success
- ACWA News: New Habitat Restoration Project Nurtures Record Number of Salmon
- KCRA: Rocky Solution to salmon problem going swimmingly in the American River
- Sacramento Bee: Gravel Project Aims to Replenish Critical Nursing Areas of the American River for Fish
- Fox 40 News: Scientists Rebuilding Habitat for Salmon in American River
- ACWA News: New Habitat Restoration Project Highlights Federal-State-Local Partnership
- AWWA California-Nevada Section, Source Magazine: Working to Balance the Water Needs of People and the Environment in the Sacramento Region
- Upper Sailor Bar Photo Summary
- Fact Sheet and Frequently Asked Questions about the project
- Gravel Augmentation 2019 Update to the Recreation and Park Commission
- Letter to Upper Sailor Bar 2019 project neighbors
- Environmental Assessment Documents:
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.
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.
Cordova Creek Naturalization is a partnership between the Sacramento County Parks Department, the California Native Plant Society, SAFCA, City of Rancho Cordova, Soil Born Farms, and the Water Forum to remove a sterile concrete-line storm drain and replace it with a naturalized meandering stream. The new creek will provide both critical habitat and water quality benefits.
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.