Nearly all of the Sacramento Valley floor is part of the historic floodplain—the naturally flood prone areas surrounding the rivers. Before levees and dams were built to protect people from catastrophic floods, this floodplain supported robust fish and wildlife populations. The reason for these robust populations was fairly simple according to leading scientists: the special combination of water, land and sunlight.
We can learn from this simple equation. In the Sacramento Valley, farmland (primarily ricelands), wildlife refuges, and the bypasses designed for flood protection can be managed to work together for dynamic conservation and to mimic the historic floodplain that existed before the levees and dams, while continuing to provide flood protection for Sacramento and other parts of the Valley. Spreading out and slowing down water across this landscape mimics natural flows and creates the special combination of water, land and sun. Practically, this water serves multiple benefits year-round by allowing farmers and to cultivate rice and other crops for humans during the spring and summer, habitat for wild birds, reptiles, and other fauna in the fall, and food for migratory birds and native fish species in the winter. This holistic water management can bring our ecosystem to life through the careful interaction of water, land and sunlight.