Arundo monoculture along a levee bank offers little wildlife benefit
The Solano Resource Conservation District is working with private landowners in the Cache Slough area to control Arundo. Arundo is a non-native plant introduced to stabilize levees. It provides D+ habitat, so the Delta Conservancy applied for a grant with the Department of Water Resources to work on eradicating non-aquatic invasive plants. The Solano RCD was given funds to work with local private farmers and ranchers to replace Arundo with a complex of native plants along irrigation canals.
In situations where the adjacent land is used for grazing livestock it also requires an investment in fencing and watering troughs to move intensive animal use off the area. This improves the health of the livestock and limits direct access to the ditches to only pulse grazing. The RCD has been working for 4 years now with a few cooperating landowners.The Arundo still wants to come back, so there are no quick fixes. It reminded me of my never ending battle with crabgrass in my garden. At the same time the native plants are getting established and doing quite well even in the drought.
This conservation practice, if applied on a larger scale, could have a larger beneficial impact to the health of the sloughs and waterways in the Delta. Already you see more bird life and other critters.
An irrigation ditch before livestock fences are built to control access.
This is a great example of how incentives for private landowners helps to offset the costs of changing how they do business. These changes are a win-win-win for everyone: better livestock, better environment, better soil and water management. And that is a win for all of us.
After fencing and restoration.
Knights Landing Outfall Gates from the Sacramento River side.
The construction project to place structures on the Knights Landing Outfall Gates to exclude salmon is almost complete. I recently went to the event when the gates were installed. Congratulations Reclamation District 108 on getting something built.
The drainage water from Glenn-Colusa Irrigation District and the Colusa Basin Drain enters the Sacramento River or continues down the Ridge Cut at Knights Landing. Most of the drainage water comes out in the fall when rice fields are drained before harvest. At this time salmon are swimming up the Sacramento River to spawn and some of them are attracted to the flows and head up the Drain. Unfortunately, if they go over the Outfall Gates they are permanently separated from the river where the spawning beds are located and lost to the wild salmon population.
People watching the gates being installed to keep salmon from entering the Colusa Basin Drain.
In November the construction will be complete. Then the only place where salmon can enter the Colusa Basin Drain will be through the Yolo Bypass Toe Drain and up the Wallace Weir. The Department of Water Resources is designing a permanent structure for Wallace Weir that will also exclude salmon. Reclamation District 108, who operates the Knights Landing Outfall Gates and is managing this project, has also agreed to manage the Wallace Weir construction.
Gate is lowered into place.
It is crazy to hear about the challenges of permitting a project that is built primarily to benefit an endangered species—winter run salmon. You can build a Walmart with a negative declaration under CEQA, but you have to spend several hundreds of thousands of dollars to do the environmental work to permit something just for the betterment of the environment. Go figure.
This excellent video describes the Nigiri Project at Knaggs Ranch in the Yolo Bypass. Watch as these students explain the importance of floodplains to producing food for salmon fry. These young fish move from the gravel spawning beds on the Sacramento and Feather Rivers toward the ocean. Due to our flood control levees they have lost 95% of their floodplain feeding grounds.
Lulu the Wonder Dog sniffing out the fish at Knaggs Ranch.
Farmers in the Yolo Bypass have been working with UC Davis and government scientists to prove that fish will grow at record rates on rice fields when flooded in the winter time. As the fields are drained, the fish continue their journey to the ocean and the food is flushed into the Delta where it provides food for Smelt and other native fish.
Local stakeholders have worked out an integrated plan that meets flood, fish, farm and waterfowl needs. It is now before government agencies to seize the opportunity for breakthrough.
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The Freeport Bar and Grill is a community institution. It is a smallish sit down restaurant on Highway 160/Freeport Boulevard. Access is easier than ever with the completion of Cosumnes River Boulevard overpass at Interstate 5. The sports bar has no less than 5 televisions, so I could watch the UCLA and USC football games at the same time. Unexplainably they also had a British comedy on without sound (this only works for Monty Python!)
I ordered a small caesar salad and a diet coke. It is not exactly the house specialty but I was hoping for clam chowder. The lettuce could use some more spin and the dressing was applied with a heavy hand. The Yelp review gives it 3.5 stars.