There is a broad consensus that habitat restoration is needed on the Yuba River, but opinions vary on the specifics of that restoration.
A public scoping meeting conducted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Wednesday night in Marysville gave the public a chance to learn about the various options for restoration on the river and provide comment on a $3 million feasibility study.
About 30 people attended the two-hour presentation. Opinions on habitat restoration ranged from general support of the concept to specific ideas, such as the removal of Englebright and Daguerre Point dams.
At stake in the restoration are three threatened species of fish — the Chinook salmon, Central Valley steelhead and green sturgeon — as well as riparian and floodplain habitat and a river system that provides water for agriculture, hydropower generation and recreation.
Representatives for the South Yuba River Citizens League, which has long advocated for a fish passage solution to reintroduce salmon and steelhead to the upper reach of the Yuba River above Englebright Dam, attended the meeting.
"We're hoping (the corps) takes a wide watershed view to make this river habitable for listed species," said Shana Maziarz, a SYRCL board member. "Salmon are harbingers of watershed health, other species rely on them for health."
Maziarz said she would like to see the study look at notching Englebright Dam and installing a fish ladder over the dam in more detail. Notching the dam would lower its elevation in one part, making the construction of a fish ladder over the massive, 280-foot dam more feasible.
Maziarz also said that the study should look at ways to rehabilitate habitat on the lower Yuba River and look into climate modeling to examine the potential effect of reduced snowpack on the river's water temperatures.
Others had different views.
"I think the study is a good thing for fish habitat and spawning grounds," said Jeff Hunerlach, a Sutter County resident. "But I'm not in favor of tearing down Englebright Dam."
Marysville resident Ted Lowe submitted a written comment advocating for the removal of Daguerre Point Dam, a sediment control structure on the lower Yuba River.
"The only reason for Daguerre Point Dam is to benefit the Yuba County Water Agency and farmers that want to pump water from the river," Lowe said.
Lowe said that removing the dam would open up the river for recreational rafting and boating.
Yuba County Supervisor Roger Abe said he would like to see a cost-effective solution that also takes into account agricultural and recreational uses of the river.
"You can't do things where the only consideration is environmentalism," Abe said. "It's not just fish that use the water in the river. Agriculture and recreation are entitled to consideration as well."
Don Schrader, a former Yuba County supervisor who also served on the Yuba County Water Agency board during the formation of the Yuba Accord, questioned the purpose of the study.
"Were going to spend $3 million, and I'm not sure why," Schrader said. "This all started eight or nine years ago, and we haven't accomplished anything yet that I've heard."
Possible measures on the Yuba River
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers presented a number of possible rehabilitation measures on the Yuba River on Wednesday evening.
One possible strategy was to modify the floodplain to improve the connectivity to off-channel and floodplain habitats.
Actions could include:
• Lowering the banks of adjacent areas to reconnect the floodplain to groundwater.
• Construct swales to restore hydraulic connectivity between side channels and backwaters.
• Create or enhance additional side channel or backwater habitat.
• Restore riparian vegetation.
• Construct engineered log jams, install Large woody material, and/or install large boulders.
• Rice field rearing.
The corps also addressed fish passage at Englebright Dam.
Actions could include:
• Collect and transport fish above Englebright Dam.
• Remove Englebright Dam.
• Construct a second dam as a step to Englebright Dam.
• Install a full-height fish ladder.
• Notch the dam and install a partial-height fish ladder.
• Construct a fish bypass channel around the dam.