By Todd Manley, Northern California Water Association (NCWA) and
Darcy Austin, State Water Contractors (SWC)
In December, the Northern California Water Association (NCWA) and the State Water Contractors co-hosted a Floodplain Symposium in Sacramento. The symposium included speakers who described the latest science being developed on the habitat benefits floodplains provide for fish, birds and other species and the collaborative efforts to promote floodplain reactivation in the Sacramento Valley and solicit landowner and other impacted party input as floodplain projects are being developed.
Historically, during high flow events in the winter months, the rivers in the Central Valley would rise up over their banks and create a vast floodplain, which provided ideal habitat for fish, migratory birds, and other species. But, in the early 1900s, levees and bypasses were constructed to corral mighty rivers and push water quickly through the system to combat devastating floods. With the construction of these levees, 95% of the Central Valley’s historical floodplains are cut off from the river.
Today, partners are working to recreate a portion of these historic floodplains and the habitat they provided. Farmland (primarily ricelands), wildlife refuges, private wetlands, the rivers, and flood bypasses can be managed together in innovative ways to mimic the historic floodplains to recreate a dynamic fisheries and wildlife conservation landscape that continues to provide flood protection for communities and nearby lands. Spreading out and slowing down water across this landscape mimics natural flows and provides multiple benefits year-round, by allowing farmers 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.
The following are the symposium speakers and topics they discussed:
- Jacob Katz, CalTrout – Floodplains Overview – Power of Puddle
- Alexandra Wampler, UC Davis, and Paul Buttner, California Rice Commission – California Ricelands Salmon Project
- Carson Jeffres, UC Davis – Salmon Eye Lenses, Otoliths and Habitats
- Jacob Montgomery, CalTrout – Fish Food Program
- Mark Petrie, Ducks Unlimited – Floodplains and the Pacific Flyway
- Lewis Bair, Reclamation District No. 108, and Barry O’Regan, KSN Inc. – Floodplains Reimagined
- David Guy, Northern California Water Association – Floodplain Forward Coalition