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Yuba Water Agency is welcoming a major milestone in a planned federal restoration program on the Yuba River, which could result in a significant federal investment to enhance fisheries habitat.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers last week signed the “Chief’s Report” - one of the final hurdles before the Corps sends a proposed project to Congress for authorization - for the Yuba River Ecosystem Restoration Feasibility Study.
The Corps, in partnership with Yuba Water, initiated the study in 2015. The study recommends a long-term program to restore 178 acres - 136 acres of riparian habitat and 43 acres of aquatic improvements, such as regrading sections of the river and new plants to provide cover and serve as feeding and nesting habitat.
“This project has real promise to enhance fish and wildlife habitat conditions in the Yuba River,” said Curt Aikens, general manager of Yuba Water Agency, the local sponsor of the project.
Yuba Water Agency funded half of the nearly $5 million cost of the study. If Congress authorizes the project and funds it, work could begin in a few years. The entire program is estimated to cost approximately $97 million for design and construction, with the Corps picking up about $63 million and Yuba Water Agency’s share, if the agency continues to serve as the project’s non-federal sponsor, at $35 million.
Yuba Water Agency continues to encourage additional enhancements in the lower Yuba River. This includes improved fish passage at the Corps’ Daguerre Point Dam. The agency has also raised concern with the Corps about the long-term sustainability of the proposed habitat measures during high flows such as those seen in 2017. Agency staff will continue working closely with regional Congressional leaders and Corps staff to address those issues.
“We look forward to working with the Corps of Engineers to ensure the project ultimately approved by Congress is environmentally valuable and financially responsible,” Aikens said.