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Denis Peirce: Lower Yuba rehab project in the works

Denis Peirce

Our central valley runs of salmon and steelhead are cyclical in nature. We get good years like the last couple for steelhead on the Lower Yuba and we get poor years such as the recent salmon runs. Despite the up and down nature of the returns the overall trend is down. There are a lot of factors that affect the fish returns such as winter precipitation, water diversions, predation of the migrating juveniles, ocean temperatures and food chain … some of these factors we can affect and some we can’t.

Project location beyond angler Bill McCrea, 2019. Bill is fishing 100 yards below DaGuerre Dam.
Photo by Denis Peirce

There have been ongoing efforts on the Lower Yuba to enhance spawning and survival for salmon and steelhead.. Currently there is a project entitled “The Hallwood Side Channel and Floodplain Restoration Project.” It is a collaboration among many entities such as Yuba Water Agency, US Fish & Wildlife, cbec eco engineering, Cramer Fish Sciences, SYRCL, Teichert and Western Aggregates.

There have been ongoing efforts on the Lower Yuba to enhance spawning and survival for salmon and steelhead.. Currently there is a project entitled “The Hallwood Side Channel and Floodplain Restoration Project.”
Provided photo

The area in question is downstream from the Daguerre Dam to Hallwood. For those who are not familiar with the river, Daguerre Dam is south of Hwy 20, a bit west of the Marysville Road (the right turn to Collins Lake) and Hallwood (the 25 mph school zone) is a couple of miles farther west. The river bottom in this stretch of the river was filled with hydraulic mining debris in the 1800’s. That sand and gravel has been dredger mined multiple times since.

This stretch of river extending for a mile below DaGuerre Dam has a main channel flowing year round and a seasonal side channel separated by a 50 foot tall “training wall” of cobble. The current second phase of the project started April 1. It will remove the training wall and convert the seasonal side channel to a year round flow. The side channel will be sculpted to optimize spawning locations and rearing habitat for juvenile fish. Other benefits will include flood control and animal habitat.

One of the conditions that make this project feasible is the proximity of the Teichert and Western Aggregate plants on either side of the river. There will actually be a temporary bridge built over the river channel for trucks to transport the excess material out of the flood plain.

This project has been in planning and development for over a half dozen years. The first phase, which was recently completed, was close to Hallwood. It removed 1.2 million cubic yards of sediment from the flood plain and the middle training wall. This was followed by reconstructing 89 acres of side channel with accompanying vegetation.

This second phase, which started last week, will continue until the end of this year. It too will involve massive removal of rock and sand followed by reconstruction of the side channel and vegetation.

What the project is requesting of anglers and boaters is to stay away from the work area. The main river channel south of the project will be open for anglers and shallow draft boats. This is good shad fishing water during the spring run. To efficiently get the project completed, the crews need unimpeded access to the work area which will be posted.

I was unaware of this project until I was contacted by a friend Mike Williams from the Gold Country Fly Fishers asking about a closure on the Lower Yuba. Thank you Mike. I also suspect that the first phase of the project was the source of the cloudy water I noticed last year, where the Yuba enters the Feather River.

If you want a deep dive into the specifics of the project with videos, maps and graphics go to the Yuba Water website: https://www.yubawater.org/290/Hallwood-Fish-Habitat-Project

I am very encouraged to see this kind of public – private partnership in a win/win situation. I intend to go down there in 2022 to see the results.

Denis Peirce writes a fishing column for The Union’s Outdoors section and is host of “The KNCO Fishing & Outdoor Report,” which airs 6-7 p.m. Fridays and 5-6 a.m. Saturdays on 830-AM radio. Contact him via his website at http://www.trollingflies.com.


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