CSU, Chico News

Million-Dollar Grant Evaluates Sacramento River Health

Date: 08-30-2007

Kathleen McPartland
Public Affairs
Kristin Cooper-Carter

California State University, Chico Research Foundation and partners from UC Davis, UC Santa Cruz and The Nature Conservancy will be working on a million-dollar grant with the Sacramento River Monitoring and Assessment Project (SRMAP) to evaluate the health of restoration projects along the Sacramento River. The Sacramento River is the largest river system in California. Restoration projects for habitat, bank and flood protection; fisheries and water quality; and endangered and threatened species have been a regional and state goal for almost two decades.

The Sacramento River Monitoring and Assessment Project combines state-of-the-art geographical information systems (GIS) analysis and the expertise of leading North State researchers to assess conditions and changes in riparian vegetation and river dynamics.

The Sacramento River is a large alluvial meandering river system with riparian habitat formation dependent upon channel migration. Studies will measure the river’s ability to create habitats and erode banks, as well as floodplain development. When this research is compared to previous similar efforts, more than 100 vegetation sites will be revisited to conduct analysis over a seven-year span.

The CSU, Chico Geographic Information Center will provide project mapping of the Sacramento River and its riverside vegetation from Colusa to Red Bluff. Researchers from CSU, Chico, UC Davis and UC Santa Cruz will examine changes in the Sacramento River ecosystem and monitor its health. They will also evaluate public investment into the Sacramento River and analyze the maps to look at changes in the location, shape and characteristics of the channel.

Botanists will be sampling vegetation in restoration sites, natural forests and newly formed gravel bars to determine how restoration has influenced habitat quality. The Nature Conservancy will work with UC Davis and the Point Reyes Bird Observatory to develop a “scorecard” of the river’s health. This team will also develop a monitoring plan that can be used to track ecological health over time.

Aerial photographs will be used to develop a 2007 GIS map, which will be compared to a similar map prepared in 1999. The map will include channel location and attributes, natural vegetation, land use and land ownership. Available historical aerial photos from 1938, 1952, and 1978 and riparian atlases at five-year intervals from 1950 through 1990 are also being compiled and will be available for download. The Sacramento River Conservation Area Forum will provide a venue for ongoing public presentations as the project progresses.

For more information on this grant, please contact Kristin Cooper-Carter, program director, at 530-893-5751 or kcooper-carter@csuchico.edu.