Suisun Marsh, near Fairfield, California, east of the San Francisco Bay Area, is the largest contiguous brackish water marsh on the West Coast. In December 2011, the Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in partnership with the California Department of Fish and Game, released final environmental impact documents on a restoration plan for the marsh.
The Suisun Marsh Habitat Management, Preservation and Restoration Plan is a comprehensive 30-year plan designed to address various conflicts regarding use of resources within about 50,000 acres of the marsh. The plan focuses on achieving an acceptable multi-stakeholder approach to habitat conservation by providing the stakeholder coordination and environmental compliance foundation for tidal marsh restoration and managed wetland enhancements.
The plan was prepared by the Suisun Charter Group Principal Agencies, which include Reclamation and several other government agencies. It was prepared in coordination with other related resource planning efforts such as the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP).
The Suisun Marsh near Fairfield, California, is the subject of a major habitat management, preservation and restoration plan
The BDCP addresses overall San Francisco Bay Estuary/Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta ecosystem and water supply reliability issues while the marsh plan is focused specifically on habitat management, preservation, and restoration within the marsh. The majority of the acreage proposed for tidal marsh restoration under the plan would be contributing to the recovery of listed species.
The marsh plan’s purposes and objectives include:
- Habitats and Ecological Processes — Implement the CALFED Ecosystem Restoration Program Plan restoration target for the marsh ecoregion of 5,000-7,000 acres of tidal marsh and protection and enhancement of 40,000-50,000 acres of managed wetlands.
- Public and Private Land Use — Maintain the heritage of waterfowl hunting and other recreational opportunities and increase the surrounding communities’ awareness of the ecological values of the marsh.
- Levee System Integrity — Maintain and improve the marsh levee system integrity to protect property, infrastructure and wildlife habitats from flooding.
- Water Quality — Protect and, where possible, improve water quality for beneficial uses in the marsh, including estuarine, spawning, and migrating habitat uses for fish species as well as recreational uses and associated wildlife habitat.
The December 2011 release of the Suisun Marsh Plan Final Environmental Impact Statement/Environmental Impact Report will be followed by the signing of decisions that will state actions to be implemented.
The significant wetland and wildlife resource values of the marsh have been recognized since the mid-1970s, with the passage of the Suisun Marsh Preservation Act. In 2001, the principal federal, state and local agencies with jurisdiction or interest in the marsh directed the formation of a charter group to develop a plan that would balance the needs of the CALFED Bay-Delta Program, the Suisun Marsh Preservation Agreement, on-going operations and maintenance of the managed wetlands, and contributions toward the recovery of listed species.
The scenic Trinity River flows through Northern California
The Trinity River Restoration Program (TRRP) is a long-term, comprehensive effort to restore fish and wildlife populations in the Trinity River below dams that are part of California’s Central Valley Project (CVP).
The restoration program includes flow management, channel rehabilitation, sediment control, and watershed restoration. The results are monitored and assessed to incorporate experience into future restoration efforts through adaptive management.
The program differs from many other restoration programs in that it employs a riverine approach intended to create a dynamic river capable of building and maintaining sufficient habitat system-wide. The program’s goals are to complete necessary infrastructure modifications to allow implementation of higher peak releases; to create sufficient suitable habitat through achievement of healthy river attributes; and to predict, measure and evaluate progress toward long-term goals that also influence short-term management actions.
Restoration of the river, below Trinity and Lewiston dams, is an important aspect of meeting requirements of the 1992 Central Valley Project Improvement Act for fish and wildlife protection and mitigation as the CVP meets its water supply responsibilities. Since the signing of the Trinity River Restoration Record of Decision (ROD) in 2000, the restoration program has finished Phase 1 of the channel rehabilitation component of the ROD. To date, the program has completed 25 of the originally proposed 47 rehabilitation sites within the 40-mile restoration zone.
In 2011, the TRRP completed the first Phase 2 project and continued to further its goal of river restoration through partnerships with other agencies and organizations by accomplishing the following:
- Conducted a managed release of 11,000 cubic feet per second, the highest restoration flow release in 37 years, to effect changes in the river channel morphology.
- Placed 5,000 cubic yards of course sediment gravel at two locations to distribute gravel to improve fish habitat.
- Completed a seven-acre (0.3 river mile) channel restoration project at Wheel Gulch. The construction site consisted of a split-flow channel, a low-flow side channel, an alcove and a habitat enhancement channel to reconnect the existing Wheel Gulch drainage to the main river. The existing topography was lowered to create floodplains that inundate at various flow levels and eight wood structures were constructed to provide geomorphic complexity and fish habitat.
- Conducted six watershed projects that included road improvements or decommissions to reduce sediment and culvert replacement to remove fish barriers.
- Reported an analysis showing that sand content of the channel bed and banks downstream from Lewiston Dam have declined substantially over the past decade.
- Prepared channel restoration sites, constructed in 2010, for planting. The timing allowed high 2011 spring flows to erode and rework floodplains prior to planting. About 10,000 cottonwood and willow pole cuttings were planted to revegetate restoration sites.
The Region and its partners, during 2011, advanced several aspects of the restoration program for lower Clear Creek in Northern California, below Whiskeytown Dam, which is part of the CVP.
Clear Creek historically supported abundant runs of Chinook salmon and steelhead. But past gold mining activities and the construction of Whiskeytown Dam, in combination with other dams such as Saeltzer-McCormick, reduced the extent and quality of salmon habitat in Clear Creek. These dams also restricted the upstream movement of salmon and steelhead in Clear Creek.
A team consisting of several federal, state, and local agencies and private stakeholders, called the Clear Creek Restoration Team, have been involved with identifying and implementing opportunities to restore anadromous fish habitat in lower Clear Creek, downstream of Whiskeytown Dam. The restoration actions have benefitted salmon and steelhead that are listed as threatened species under the federal Endangered Species Act.
Restoration actions in Clear Creek have included removal of the Saeltzer-McCormick Dam, restoring riparian vegetation, gravel placement for spawning areas, creation of fish habitat structures in the stream, and increased stream flows to provide suitable temperatures.
Significant developments during 2011 included:
- Fish Passage – Adult steelhead populations continued to increase, with 217 returning in 2011. The count is 44 percent greater than the 10-year average.
- Gravel Placement – A total of 10,000 tons was placed in five locations in the creek.
- In-Stream Flows and Temperature – Base flows of 200 cubic feet per second were achieved in Clear Creek from October 1 through May 31. Two pulse flows were also conducted in the spring to help attract spring-run Chinook into Clear Creek. Flows to achieve temperature control met the target 77 percent of the time.
Desert Terminal Lakes
In 2011, the Region’s Desert Terminal Lakes Program obligated $129 million for multiple watershed restoration projects in eastern California and western Nevada.
The program is administered by Reclamation through financial assistance, interagency, and Indian Self Determination Act agreements with various entities for ongoing environmental, conservation and research projects. The program areas include three terminal lakes in Nevada (Walker, Pyramid and Summit) and four associated river basins in Nevada and California (Walker, Truckee, Carson and Summit).
As of 2011, Congress had allocated a total of $375 million for the Desert Terminal Lakes (DTL) Program.
Stakeholders receiving funding through the DTL Program include federal, state and local entities, non-profit organizations, tribal governments, higher education entities, and a water district.
Clouds move across Walker Lake
The DTL Program has funded numerous projects such as acquisition of land surrounding a unique lake ecosystem in the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range, federal agency and university research related to watershed health issues, title transfers of Reclamation acquired land, and lake and river fishery and fish hatchery improvements.
The $129 million obligated in 2011 included:
- $93 million for the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation for water acquisition for restoration of Walker Lake.
- $19.2 million for Pyramid Lake, Summit Lake and Walker River Paiute Tribes for conservation and restoration efforts at Pyramid, Summit and Walker lakes.
- $3.4 million for The Nature Conservancy for Truckee River restoration projects.
- $13.4 million for six additional projects including water and watershed research, implementation of the Truckee River Operating Agreement, improvement of water measurement gages, and an environmental compliance contract.
Whiskeytown TermperatureControl Curtain
Reclamation constructed temperature control curtains to reduce the temperature of water releases at structures in the Sacramento and Trinity River drainages in Northern California. Increased water temperatures, especially during drought years, are one of the concerns regarding endangered salmon species in the Sacramento River.
The project, begun in the early 1990s, included installation of temperature curtains in both the upper and lower reaches of Whiskeytown Reservoir. Due to deterioration of the temperature curtain at the intake to the Spring Creek Powerplant, the curtain was removed in the fall of 2010 and a new curtain was installed in 2011.
The new curtain measures 2,659 feet in length and reaches a depth of about 100 feet. It was spliced together on the shoreline of the reservoir and assembled as one continuous sheet. The curtain was then attached to 20-foot-long metal floats and anchored by 800-pound weights. The cost for the replacement totaled about $3 million.
Workers prepare temperature control curtain for deployment.
A crane is used to lift a piece of the temperature
Workers install a replacement temperature control curtain in Whiskeytown Reservoir in Northern California
Designed to conform to the contours of the reservoir bottom, a gap at the bottom of the curtain allows colder water to pass underneath and into the powerplant intakes.
Discharge from Spring Creek Powerplant is eventually blended into the Sacramento River below Keswick Dam.
Data is being collected to determine the performance of the new temperature curtain, which is expected to achieve about a 2-4 degree decrease in water temperature.