Dry Creek Habitat Enhancement Feasibility & Alternatives Analysis, & Detailed Design, California

Dry Creek is a major tributary to the Russian River (CA) that has been managed intensively for forestry, agriculture and gravel mining since the 1850s, which resulted in 25 feet of channel incision. Since the early 1980s, Dry Creek has also been highly regulated for flood control and water supply by operation of Warm Springs Dam. In 2008, the Russian River Biological Opinion was finalized and included a requirement for substantial habitat enhancement in Dry Creek focused on ESA-listed coho salmon and steelhead trout.

The habitat enhancement project began in 2008 with extensive existing conditions surveys including, habitat unit inventory, hydrologic analysis and hydraulic modeling, feasibility and alternatives analysis, project identification and prioritization, and conceptual design for the full 14-mile reach. Extensive outreach to adjoining landowners, paved the way for initial pilot projects that provided examples of enhancement measures to gain community support. To date three miles of Dry Creek has been restored by Sonoma Water with another 3 miles in design under the guidance and participation of the San Francisco District, Army Corps of Engineers through a General Investigation Study.

Received 2020 Western Division American Fisheries Society Riparian Challenge Award

Large wood habitat structures provide complex habitats for salmonids.

Dry Creek Valley is a renowned wine producing region in northern Sonoma County, California where more than 150 winegrowers and 60 wineries are located. (Photo Sonoma County Watershed Agency)

Detailed habitat and geomorphic field assessment helped develop our understanding of current conditions in Dry Creek.

Bank failures resulting from 20 ft+ of channel incision threaten infrastructure and contribute fine sediment.  Photo: before construction.

Project elements include bioengineered bank stabilization, constructed backwaters and side channels, installation of boulders and log jams, and riparian restoration.

Our bioengineered solution involves intensive revegetation to improve riparian ecology and future bank stability in addition to large wood that provides fish habitat in the channel.

Constructed off-channel habitat provides critical summer and winter habitat for ESA-listed coho and steelhead. (before)

As riparian vegetation matures, the project realizes additional aquatic and terrestrial habitat benefits.

Public educational documents play a big role in describing the improvement efforts along Dry Creek.

Constructed backwater habitats along Dry Creek are critical rearing areas for Russian River salmonids.