Stream and Riparian Restoration

SERCAL 2017 Technical Session, Davis

Chair: Kevin MacKay, ICF

Lead presenters in alpha order

Non-Native Himalayan Blackberry as Essential Nesting Habitat for the Tricolored Blackbird: Will our xenophobia contribute to extinction?
Daniel A. Airola
Northwest Hydraulic Consultants, 2600 Capitol Ave, Suite 140, Sacramento 95816, 916.494.1283,
The Tricolored Blackbird is in population decline and being considered for listing under the federal and state ESAs. Historic population losses resulted from wetland habitat decline, but recent causes are colony destruction in agricultural crops and habitat loss to development and orchard and vineyard conversion. Recent studies show much of the remaining breeding population nests in open grasslands in the Sierra foothills. The blackbird nests there primarily in the non-native Himalayan blackberry, which is a superior nesting substrate. The blackberry, however, is designated as an invader that disrupts natural habitats. Blackberry is confined to wet soils in the arid foothills, so most patches used by Tricolored Blackbirds grow in intensively used pastures, ditches, and ponds. These areas are dominated by non-native plants. Major opportunities exist to increase the Tricolored Blackbird population by establishing new nesting habitat. Federal and state habitat managers are reluctant to manage for non-native blackberry and have proposed use of native species. Evaluation of native alternatives, based on their prevalence, growth form, physical characteristics, and blackbird use shows they are inferior to Himalayan blackberry as a nesting substrate. Detrimental ecosystem impacts from focused management of Himalayan blackberry for the blackbird are limited and can be further minimized through management. The blackbird’s native ecosystem, and potential to restore it, is mostly gone. We need to face reality and model restoration on the non-pristine conditions to which the blackbird has adapted. Managers and environmentalists needed to adopt greater flexibility and proceed with a key recovery action for this species. 

Middle Martis Restoration, Part 2: Moving from design to implementation
Beth Christman*1 and David Shaw2
1Truckee River Watershed Council, P.O. Box 8568, Truckee 96162, 530.550.8760 x1,; 2Balance Hydrologics, P.O. Box 1077, Truckee 96160, 530.550.9776,
Once you have identified a problem and devised a technical solution, then what? My presentation will focus on how to move a complex meadow restoration project from design to implementation to post-project monitoring. I will address stakeholder coordination, environmental compliance, construction, project monitoring, and preliminary restoration results. The Middle Martis Creek Wetlands project is a fantastic case study of challenges encountered during restoration implementation. The project included multiple landowners including a State Agency, a Federal Agency, private landowners, and two special districts. Environmental compliance was extremely complex due to abundant cultural resources on the project site, special status species, and the usual concerns about working within wetlands. The project was funded through multiple sources, so identifying, securing, and managing the funds was a challenge. And finally, construction itself was not easy due to site access concerns, including having a State Highway running through the middle of the project site. Despite all that, TRWC was able to bring everyone together, assemble an effective restoration team, and restore 40 acres of meadows and a mile of intermittent stream channels.

Monitoring Wetland Restoration and Validating the California Rapid Assessment Method for Depressional Wetlands
Cara Clark
Central Coast Wetlands Group at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, 8272 Moss Landing Rd., Moss Landing 95039, 831.771.4428,
Depressional wetland restoration improves habitat and water quality. Depressional wetlands are the most abundant wetland class in California, and support many endangered species. However, they are subject to ongoing impacts and are seldom monitored consistently. We developed tools to assess the overall condition of depressional wetlands, consistent with the State’s Wetland and Riparian Area Monitoring Plan, which calls for map-based landscape inventories, rapid field assessment, and intensive quantitative field measures. The California Rapid Assessment Method (CRAM) is a field-based, cost-effective, and scientifically defensible tool for monitoring wetlands. We validated depressional CRAM by examining correlations between CRAM data and intensive field measures, including macroinvertebrate and algae indices of biotic integrity (IBIs), and water quality. We leveraged data collected in Southern California and the Bay Area (15 sites each), and also collected new data with consistent methods at 15 sites in Northern California. CRAM data was significantly correlated with the macroinvertebrate IBI (ρ = 0.42, p = 0.0036) and the algae IBI (ρ = 0.49, p = 0.0005). Results indicate that CRAM is sensitive to some of the same factors that affect macroinvertebrate and algae communities, which validates its effectiveness. Depressional CRAM is a powerful tool for assessing the success of wetland restoration projects. It has been used at multiple projects to track change in condition through the restoration trajectory. Initially, the overall condition may decrease after grading and the disturbance it causes. Over time, as the project matures and native plantings become established, the condition improves with maintenance and adaptive management.

Riparian Restoration in Urban Settings
Katherine Holmes
Solano Resource Conservation District, 1170 North Lincoln Street #110, Dixon 95620, 707.301.5779,
Over the past ten years, Solano RCD has implemented numerous riparian restoration projects on farm edges and in wildland parks. Recently, however, we have increasingly worked in urban settings along creeks in Vacaville, Fairfield, and Vallejo. Although we have found that many of the restoration techniques and practices developed for rural settings are transferable to urban ones, important differences must be addressed to ensure project success. Restoration site design in urban areas must take into account diverse issues such as fire suppression (there is an inherent conflict between native grasses and aggressive mowing requirements), compacted soils (use of a variety of augers is key), and large homeless populations (dense pods of shrubs can be a problem). Restoration implementation techniques must also be modified. The high numbers of people present in urban areas require restoration practitioners to make adjustments to equipment type and operation as well as to herbicide spraying techniques. Vandalism problems can be ameliorated with subsurface drip systems and inexpensive plant protection materials. In addition to its challenges, urban restoration offers unparalleled opportunities to educate, involve, and motivate the public. Community-based planting events, demonstration gardens, informational signs, and the adoption of sites by school groups can all be easily incorporated into urban restoration projects. Community involvement not only provides direct value to a restoration project via free labor and guardianship, but it also expands the reach of the project by teaching participants to value wildlife habitat and incorporate conservation and restoration practices into their own yards and lives.

SFPUC Bioregional Habitat Restoration at Sheep Camp Creek, Sunol CA
Jeff Peters*1, Leanne Feely*2, and Scott Chenue3
1ICF,; 2Avila and Associates,; 3Scott Chenue, San Francisco Public Utilities Commission,
ICF and Avila and Associates support the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission on restoration of Sheep Camp Creek Mitigation Area, a Bioregional Habitat Restoration site in the Alameda watershed. In 2014, Avila developed and implemented a strategy to install and irrigate 21,000 plantings of 40 native species across the 430-acre site via direct seeding and rhizome-division propagation. Vegetation surveys and habitat assessments began in 2015, collecting a broad suite of data to monitor germination, survivorship and recruitment rates, as well as absolute coverage of native and non-native species. Despite severe drought conditions in 2014 and 2015, the site is now transforming from heavily degraded non-native grassland into a matrix comprising oak, sycamore and willow riparian and seasonal wetland habitats. High rainfall in 2016 and 2017 continue to bolster the preliminary success of these re-vegetation efforts. In 2014, ICF conducted a baseline erosion inventory of all erosion features within the Site. The baseline hydrogeomorphic surveys identified such features as eroding banks, headcuts, canyon wall slumps, and other “legacy erosional features” from years of sheep and cattle grazing. To protect and support extensive habitat restoration efforts, remedial actions have been taken to address bank erosion, headcuts, and other erosional features on site. Recent monitoring by ICF has shown significant increase in vegetation establishment and reduced bank erosion. This exciting project will continue until Year 10, and Avila & Associates and ICF will to continue identify areas of erosion severity for future restoration potential.

Middle Martis Alluvial Fan Restoration, Part 1: Design diversification in a dynamic setting
David Shaw*1 and Beth Christman2
1Balance Hydrologics, P.O. Box 1077, Truckee 96160, 530.550.9776,; 2Beth Christman, Truckee River Watershed Council, P.O. Box 8568, Truckee 96162., 530.550.8760 x1
Restoration of channel processes on alluvial fans is a challenge, especially where infrastructure limits the feasibility of widespread sediment deposition and channel dynamics. In many locations, alluvial fan restoration must be limited to “dynamic corridors,” with appropriate confinement to protect infrastructure from erosion and channel shifting. In other areas, where space is available, it is possible to restore channel and fluvial dynamics to significant portions of the alluvial fan. The recently-constructed Middle Martis Alluvial Fan Restoration Project includes both dynamic corridors as well as elements to restore widespread channel evolution across the fan. A comprehensive landscape and site assessment was critical in identifying where to design flow controls and infrastructure protection and where to encourage less-predictable widespread channel migration. This multi-faceted approach also required a wide range of project features, ranging from engineered bank protection and constructed channels to flow dispersal logs with no constructed channels.

Developing a Multi-Objective Restoration Strategy for the Coon Creek Watershed
Jai Singh*1, Chris Bowles1, and Matt Wacker2
1cbec eco engineering, 916.231.6025,; 2H. T. Harvey & Associates
Coon Creek drains a 101-square mile watershed that originates in the Sierra foothills near Auburn and extends to the floor of the Central Valley approximately 20 miles north of Sacramento. Since the late 1800s, numerous disturbances have affected the watershed including agricultural encroachment, grazing, channel realignment, berm and levee construction, flow management, urbanization and water quality effects. As a result, physical processes have been inhibited, aquatic and riparian habitat has been degraded and the anadromous salmonid population has declined. Nonetheless, the catchment remains one of the least developed foothill watersheds in the area and is prioritized for conservation and restoration strategies as part of the Placer County Conservation Plan. We leveraged a fluvial audit methodology to establish an understanding of the system’s geomorphic processes and controls. Combining this work with anadromous fish habitat assessments and targeted juvenile fish surveys, riparian habitat assessments, water quality monitoring, and hydrologic analysis facilitated an integrated understanding of physical and ecological functions. This interdisciplinary approach enabled us to identify controlling factors for declines in watershed health and to develop a multi-objective, process-based restoration strategy. We present a prioritized portfolio of rehabilitation projects and management efforts that can improve the health and resilience of the watershed’s riverine ecosystems while also maintaining other land use objectives.

Incorporating Geomorphic Processes into Stream Restoration Design
Jason Q. White*, Aaron A. Fulton, Jorgen A. Blomberg, and Ann E. Borgonovo
Environmental Science Associates, 1425 N. McDowell, Suite 200, Petaluma 94954, 707.509.9487 mobile,
Geomorphic processes are responsible for the formation and maintenance of natural stream habitat; however, few restoration designs explicitly include geomorphic process-driven approaches to restoring habitat complexity. Environmental Science Associates (ESA) has developed a geomorphic approach to stream restoration design that accelerates stream evolution to improve geomorphic and ecological function. ESA recently applied this geomorphic approach on two projects in Northern California. For the Sonoma County Water Agency’s Dry Creek Habitat Enhancement Project, ESA designed a perennial secondary channel to provide summer rearing habitat for coho and steelhead in the Russian River basin. The secondary channel was designed to utilize geomorphic processes at various scales to create self-maintaining riffle-pool units under dynamic conditions. For Napa County’s Napa River Restoration Project, ESA designed large benches and flow expansions within the incised corridor to create winter refugia and enhance riffles for chinook and steelhead in the Napa River basin. The benches were designed to widen the incised corridor, and initiate gravel deposition and maintenance of constructed riffles during high flows. Overall, ESA’s design approach for the Dry Creek and Napa River Projects focuses on utilizing geomorphic processes to create natural self-maintaining complex stream habitat.

Salmonid Habitat Restoration and Conservation Along the Sacramento River: A case study
Mark Young
Restoration Designer and Manager, Westervelt Ecological Services, 600 North Market Blvd., Suite 3, Sacramento 95834, 916.646.3644,
Conservation banking for salmon and steelhead began in the last century and has continued to evolve as laws and policies are refined. This presentation reviews a salmonid conservation bank in the Central Valley, located directly on the Sacramento River, the Bullock Bend Mitigation Bank. The preserve addresses the need for off-river floodplain habitat mitigation for salmonids during period of moderate to high flows during out-migration. Restoration of the site focused on providing the necessary ecological processes along a critical reach of the Sacramento River that fulfill the habitat requirements for listed juvenile salmonids including: 1) inundation timing, adequate water depth, dissolved oxygen, and temperature; 2) freshwater corridors to access off-channel rearing habitat; and 3) woody and herbaceous riparian vegetation for both terrestrial and aquatic food web support, escape cover, and foraging habitat during out-migration for salmonids. The presentation will give an overview of site selection, design, permitting, implementation, and management of the bank; it will also review the ecological results to date of the project.

Restoring the Salinas River through Large-scale Arundo Control
Emily Zefferman*1 and Paul Robins2
Resource Conservation District of Monterey County, 744 La Guardia St., Building A, Salinas 93908: 1831.424.1036 x129,; 2831.424.1036 x124
The Salinas River has the second-worst Arundo donax (giant cane) infestation in the state of California. Dense, impenetrable stands of Arundo, covering almost 1,500 total acres, increase the risk of flooding in the watershed, consume huge amounts of water, and degrade habitat for fish and wildlife. In 2014, the Resource Conservation District of Monterey County began the Salinas River Arundo Control Program with a goal of eradicating Arundo in the watershed to restore more natural fluvial processes and vegetation communities. With funding from the Wildlife Conservation Board, the Monterey County Agricultural Commissioner, and private landowners, the RCD has treated over 250 acres of Arundo in three years through a combination of mowing, hand-cutting, and herbicide application. Here we present some of the challenges in developing and conducting this large-scale program along over 90 river miles of privately-owned land, our approach and methods, results of work to-date, and lessons learned that can be applied to this and other riparian restoration projects throughout the state.

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