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Sacramento River project for habitat, pumping plant protection up for review

Chico Enterprise-Record - May 12, 2012

By HEATHER HACKING, Staff Writer

Change along the Sacramento River comes slowly, whether by nature's flow or man with a plan.

A project in the works since 2004 is slowly making its way toward reality to restore 500 acres of land to wildlife habitat, take out some rocks, put in a new hard point along the river and protect an agricultural pumping plant on the west bank of the river.

The area is along Highway 45, north of Princeton, south of Bayliss Blue Gum Road, 15 miles southwest of Chico.

The pumping plant there consolidated three unscreened pumping plants more than a decade ago, serving 30,000 acres of agricultural land and wetlands. Funds came from the state wildlife agencies and the total cost, at the time, was about $11 million.

But soon after, the river shifted, and the irrigation districts saw they could have problems operating the fish screens that kept fish in the river.
River Partners, a restoration group in Chico, has been working on solutions, including securing funding for studies.

The current plan is to restore habitat on the 500 acres on the Llano Seco Riparian Sanctuary Unit across the river from the pump station.

Kelly Moroney of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said the area is now fairly degraded, and part is used for farming hay to cut down on weeds.

The goal is to someday provide habitat for endangered species and other wildlife.

An additional idea, currently being reviewed, is to remove some bank revetment (a hard point on the river) on the refuge land, and add another stable point to protect the stretch of river near the pumping plant.

This requires negotiations with the Department of Water Resource and the Corps of Engineers, but so far "they haven't thrown up major barriers," Moroney said.

A good selling point is that the habitat could be used by bank swallows and protected fish.

The exact costs haven't been mapped out, but Moroney said it's likely $7 million-$10 million.

Plans for the project can be viewed at www.riverpartners.org/documents /projects/sanctuary/RiparianSanctuary_Draft_EIS-EIR.pdf.

The project, which has been in various draft forms since 2004, is ready for the environmental review stage, after being narrowed down to the current proposal.

Public comments will be taken until June 25.

A public meeting will be held 5:30-7:30 p.m. May 30 at the Ord Bend Community Hall, 3241 Highway 45 in Ord Bend.

A copy of the draft review can also be found at:

  • Sacramento NWR Complex, 752 County Road 99W, in Willows
  • River Partners Office, 580 Vallombrosa Ave., in Chico
  • Orland Free Library, 333 Mill St., in Orland
  • Chico library, 1108 Sherman Ave., in Chico
  • CDFG Office, 629 Entler Ave., Suite 12, in Chico
  • PCGID-PID Office, 258 S. Butte St., in Willows