Area representatives and officials gathered Tuesday in Yuba City to detail work being done to remove sediment from the confluence of the Yuba and Feather rivers at the Yuba City boat ramp and called out the need for more funding to finish what was started.

Work at the confluence to remove nearly 65,000 cubic yards of sediment began on July 23. The first phase of the project is being overseen by the Sutter Butte Flood Control Agency and was funded through a $5 million Proposition 68 grant through the California Natural Resources Agency to remove sediment for safety purposes, to restore recreation access and to restore fish passage at the confluence, the Appeal previously reported.

Chris Fritz, project manager for the Sutter Butte Flood Control Agency, said another $10 million has been targeted for what is needed to complete the second phase of the sediment removal project. So far, that funding has not been secured.

The second phase would include the dredging of approximately 250,000 cubic yards within another 14-acre area immediately downstream. 

Assemblyman James Gallagher, R-Yuba City, said the work at the confluence was exactly the type of work that the state and community should be doing.

“Not only is this the type of project we should be doing, but we need a whole lot more of them throughout the state,” Gallagher said. 

He said bad policy has guided the way water is managed in the state and it has not taken into account how the system all works together.

“Droughts and floods are not new to us,” Gallagher said. “We faced these droughts and floods since the beginning of California statehood. … But the way that we move forward here is voluntary agreements and finishing these river corridor projects.”

Gallagher said simply sending more water through the river is not enough to provide what is needed.

“It’s not about just sending more water down the river,” Gallagher said. “That’s been the water board’s policy and it’s a flawed policy. It’s a policy that not only devastates agriculture and our communities in the north valley, but it doesn’t actually provide any new habitat for fish. It doesn’t provide any better quality of life for salmon … that are trying to survive in these rivers.”

Voluntary agreements, which he said Sacramento Valley and central valley landowners are willing to do, are a way to move forward.

“We could do that up and down this corridor if the governor and state water board would get on board with voluntary agreements and make them happen,” Gallagher said. “We’ve been pushing for that. These are the types of great projects we could do not just here in Yuba City but throughout the valley. We’ll have a better river system as a result of it.”

District 4 State Senator Jim Nielsen said getting this project going has been encouraging.

“We as humans have got to work together with our environment,” Nielsen said. “And it takes effort on our part. And some of the things we have to do is what you’re doing right here … that improves the habitat ... and improves rivers and streams.”

Sediment buildup along the river has created dangerous conditions for recreational users, made some boat launch facilities nearly unusable, and impacted public safety by hampering the ability for officials to launch emergency vessels, the Appeal previously reported.

Gary Lippner, Department of Water Resources deputy director of Flood Management and Dam Safety, said the state is committed to continuing local partnerships to maintain rivers and waterways.

“This type of project not only aligns with the governor’s water resiliency portfolio, but is also the type of multi-benefit project that uses common sense approaches combined with the latest science to increase access, enhance habitat and increase climate resiliency,” he said.

James Stone, executive director and president of the Nor-Cal Guides and Sportsmen’s Association, said one of the largest drivers of tourism for the area is hunting and fishing. 

“(People) don’t realize that in this community that our number one economical driver of tourism … is our rivers,” Stone said.

He said small businesses depend on the removal of sediment at the confluence in order to access the mouth of the Yuba River and other areas of the Feather River. He said these issues have been present for years and the current project is a great start to cleaning up the river.

“This is a great beginning to start cleaning up this river and remove the sediment to allow access, to allow opportunity for our kids and our grandkids to go enjoy this wonderful river that we have in our backyards as well as bringing in tourism from other areas,” Stone said. “We need help. We need the government to step up … to clean up our rivers once and for all so that we can all enjoy our publicly trusted resources on the Feather and Yuba rivers right here in our backyard.”

Work on phase one of the sediment project is slated to be completed by Oct. 15.

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