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Stories from the valley

Helping Habitat

Contributed by Jennifer Harrison

Talk about a before and after! A newly completed project on the American River gives fish a place to spawn. It’s the tenth project of its kind, coordinated by the Water Forum who collaborates with water providers, environmentalists, businesses, and government agencies to restore crucial habitat for salmon and other fish in the Sacramento Valley. 

Ancil hoffman park construction before and after aerial shots

Why here?

Home to 43 fish species, and the major water supply source for millions, the lower American River is crucial to our region. It’s vital for fish. The Ancil Hoffman Park area of the river, near the Effie Yeaw Nature Center in Carmichael, has historically been a special spot for salmon and steelhead. This is their spawning area. Nimbus and Folsom Dams now block the movement of natural sediment sources that create spawning locations. Heavy river flows and the march of time further degrade the spawning and rearing spots. It was time to recreate these areas. 

Why now?

Fall-run Chinook salmon return to the American River as adults from October to December. The females need a place to lay their eggs, ideally loose gravel and flowing water where they can deposit their eggs and then cover them with more gravel. Once born, young salmon need a safe place to grow before returning to the Pacific Ocean. Enter the The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation who carved out a new alcove and laid 15,8000 cubic yards of clean gravel to create new spawning and rearing areas. 

Why it works?

Fish have a place spawn, survive, grow and thrive. In addition to the gravel, 15 large woody tree structures were placed in the side channel. This gives fish a place to hide and a creates an environment where food for fish, can grow. The Ancil Hoffman Habitat Restoration Project also works because of teamwork. Organizations and groups joining forces to protect and sustain the vital fish species in the Sacramento Valley.