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Home » News/Events » The Journal » Vol. 12 Issue 2 » Breaking Ground at Abbott Lake

Breaking Ground at Abbott Lake

  • By Michael Rogner, Associate Restoration Biologist

(Above) Planting is now underway at the Abbott Lake restoration project (right). Native woody shrubs, like coyote brush (left), will provide habitat for a diverse range of native wildlife species.

With funding from the Wildlife Conservation Board, River Partners is restoring 150 acres of the 439-acre Abbott Lake Unit of the Feather River Wildlife Area, owned by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. The Abbott Lake project has been delayed for years due to permitting challenges and other factors. Thanks to patience and persistence, we are excited to finally have broken ground on the project in 2015.

The Abbott Lake project is located 7 miles south of Yuba City and approximately 0.3 miles upstream of River Partners’ Star Bend Setback Levee Improvement Project. In conjunction with our restoration at the nearby O’Connor Lakes Unit, the Abbott Lake project will result in hundreds of acres of habitat on the Feather River while also improving river access and public recreation.

(Above) Flexible-stemmed native blackberry plants wait patiently in their pots (left), ready to planted by River Partners’ hardworking field staff (right).

The restoration design for the 150 acres focuses on providing habitat for California Quail (Callipepla californica), Swainson’s Hawk (Buteo swainsoni), and Valley Elderberry Longhorn Beetle (Desmocerus californicus diamorphus), among other wildlife species. Most of this acreage has been planted with a diverse mix of native trees and shrubs that have established well even in this period of drought. A dense herbaceous understory of native grasses and forbs will also be planted to improve habitat quality and aggressively compete with invasive species. Prior to implementation, this portion of the project was carefully analyzed to minimize adverse effects on floodwater conveyance and to improve flood safety for the surrounding area. Hydraulic analysis of the project was conducted by the firm MBK Engineers, which resulted in adjustments to plant locations, species, and densities to optimize conditions during floods. For example, large 100’ wide native grass corridors will be installed between blocks of woody trees and shrubs. The number of large woody species like cottonwoods and sycamores was also reduced, and the number of smaller, more flexible-stemmed species was increased. Both actions will make it easier for floodwater to move through the project site during periods of higher flows.

The remaining 35 acres will be planted with native grassland species. Integrated research by former River Partners intern Grant Thornton, now an M.S. student at CSU Chico, is seeking to identify cost-effective seed mixes and seeding rates to maximize grassland cover in these areas. In addition to the area being actively restored, the surrounding habitat at Abbott Lake will be enhanced by removing invasive species, which will reduce the potential for invasion across the site.

The above article originally appeared in the Spring 2015 issue of the River Partners Journal.