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STOCKTON FWO: Anadromous Fish Restoration Program Restores Spawning and Floodplain Habitat in Central Valley Rivers
California-Nevada Offices , September 27, 2012
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Gravel being placed in the American River to enhance spawning habitat for Chinook salmon and steelhead.
Gravel being placed in the American River to enhance spawning habitat for Chinook salmon and steelhead. - Photo Credit: USFWS
This newly restored side-channel in the American River will provide rearing habitat for juvenile salmonids.
This newly restored side-channel in the American River will provide rearing habitat for juvenile salmonids. - Photo Credit: USFWS
Aerial view of the Merced River Ranch Floodplain and Side-Channel Restoration Project during construction in 2011.
Aerial view of the Merced River Ranch Floodplain and Side-Channel Restoration Project during construction in 2011. - Photo Credit: Cramer Fish Sciences
The Mokelumne River Spawning Habitat Improvement Project area is rigorously characterized and monitored each year for spawning activity, bed form, and function.
The Mokelumne River Spawning Habitat Improvement Project area is rigorously characterized and monitored each year for spawning activity, bed form, and function. - Photo Credit: EBMUD

By Ramon Martin, JD Wikert, Elizabeth Campbell, Donnie Ratcliff, and Michelle Workman

The mission of the Anadromous Fish Restoration Program (AFRP) is to make all reasonable efforts to double natural production of anadromous fish in California's Central Valley streams on a long-term, sustainable basis.

Since the settlement of California’s Central Valley in the 1800s, anadromous fish species including Chinook salmon, steelhead, white sturgeon, and green sturgeon have dramatically declined. Habitat degradation is the major cause of this decline. Doubling existing numbers of anadromous fish requires partnerships, local involvement, public support, adaptive management, and flexibility to pursue unforeseen opportunites.

In 2012, the AFRP restored 485 feet of side-channel and 2.5 acres of floodplain habitat in the Stanislaus River, placed approximately 49,087 cubic yards of gravel in the American, Mokelumne, Merced, and Stanislaus rivers, and planted cottonwood and willow pole cuttings on 1.25 acres on Hammon Bar in the Yuba River. Improving habitat for all life stages of anadromous fish is an important objective of the AFRP, and a crucial component in the maintenance and restoration of aquatic species and their habitats.

The AFRP improved spawning and floodplain habitat in the American, Mokelumne, Merced, and Stanislaus rivers. Construction activities during the summer of 2012 included placement of approximately 20,000 tons of gravel in the American River, plus the excavation and re-contouring of a side-channel, 3,580 tons of gravel in the Mokelumne River, 27,644 tons of coarse sediment for spawning habitat in the Merced River, and 17,500 tons of gravel were added to the main channel at the Honolulu Bar Recreation Area in the Stanislaus River.

The Mokelumne River Spawning Habitat Improvement Project area is rigorously characterized and monitored each year for spawning activity, bed form, and function. This year over 500 Chinook salmon redds were documented in the gravel enhanced area of the Mokelumne River. The second year of construction activities on the Merced River Ranch Project was completed this year and once implemented, up to six acres of riparian floodplain and 1.23 miles of spawning habitat will be restored. These projects were also designed to increase juvenile salmonid rearing habitat and restore riparian vegetation in the floodplain.

In fiscal year 2012, AFRP staff worked with multiple water agencies to coordinate fall flows in the San Joaquin River Basin tributaries, Mokelumne River, and American River. The program continued monitoring and evaluation to assess the effectiveness of these measures by implementing redd dewatering studies and collecting real-time monitoring data through fish counting weirs.

For example, the AFRP worked with the East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) and other signatories of the Lower Mokelumne Joint Settlement Agreement to adaptively manage the system and coordinate fall pulse flows (90,000 acre feet) in an effort to improve adult Chinook salmon returns. These efforts led to the development of a pilot project that incorporated the management of the fall pulse flows in October and the closing of the Delta Cross Channel gates to minimize adult straying of Mokelumne origin Chinook salmon. Preliminary results of this experiment are very promising and may assist AFRP meet its
watershed doubling goal in this watershed.

The AFRP works collaboratively with Merced County, Merced Irrigation District, California Department of Fish and Game, Sacramento Area Water Forum, South Yuba River Citizens League, Bureau of Reclamation, Army Corps of Engineers, Oakdale Irrigation District, Cramer Fish Sciences, FishBio, EBMUD, and many other partners to help restore anadromous fish habitat in California’s Central Valley.


Contact Info: Ramon Martin, 209-334-2968 ext. 401, ramon_martin@fws.gov



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