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The Middle Sacramento River: Human Impacts on Physical and Ecological Processes Along a Meandering River

Author(s):

Koll Buer
Dave Forwalter
Mike Kissel
Bill Stohlert

Year:

1989

Publication type:

General Technical Report (GTR)

Primary Station(s):

Pacific Southwest Research Station

Source:

In: Abell, Dana L., Technical Coordinator. 1989. Proceedings of the California Riparian Systems Conference: protection, management, and restoration for the 1990s; 1988 September 22-24; Davis, CA. Gen. Tech. Rep. PSW-GTR-110. Berkeley, CA: Pacific Southwest Forest and Range Experiment Station, Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture; p. 22-32

Description

Native plant and wildlife communities along Northern California's middle Sacramento River (Red Bluff to Colusa) originally adapted to a changing pattern of erosion and deposition across a broad meander belt. The erosion-deposition process was in balance, with the river alternately building and eroding terraces. Human-induced changes to the Sacramento River, including bank protection, gravel mining, pollution, riparian vegetation removal, flow regulation, and flood control, have resulted in a number of physical and ecological effects. This study focuses on changes in bank erosion, bank composition, river length, depth, width, and sinuosity, and floodplain deposition (ongoing study, Sacramento River Bank Erosion Investigation, Department of Water Resources, Red Bluff, California.) The Department of Water Resources, Northern District, is monitoring these changes using old survey maps, aerial photographs, and field surveys. Completed studies indicate that bank protection has significantly reduced a source of salmon spawning gravel from freshly eroded banks and will over time decrease the number of preferred spawning areas such as point bar riffles, chute cutoffs, multiple channel areas, and areas near islands. Bank protection also increases the tendency of the confined river to deepen and narrow, further reducing spawning habitat. Because of flood protection from dams and extensive bank protection along eroding banks, most of the rich high terrace soils and all but a few percent of the original riparian forest has been converted to agriculture and other uses. In addition, only 45 percent of the original streambank vegetation remains. Wildlife populations have declined markedly due to loss of riparian habitat and suppression of the natural successional processes that maintain the density and diversity of habitat within the riverine environment. Some species that are adapted to the dynamics of the erosional-depositional cycle are threatened with extinction or extirpation as key habitat elements are lost from the newly stabilized river system. Flood control has interrupted the natural equilibrium between erosion and deposition, resulting in reduction in bank erosion rates and in overbank sediment deposition. Solutions to these problems will require a comprehensive river management program that incorporates the natural processes of meandering and bank erosion.

Citation

Buer, Koll; Forwalter, Dave; Kissel, Mike; Stohlert, Bill. 1989. The Middle Sacramento River: Human Impacts on Physical and Ecological Processes Along a Meandering River. In: Abell, Dana L., Technical Coordinator. 1989. Proceedings of the California Riparian Systems Conference: protection, management, and restoration for the 1990s; 1988 September 22-24; Davis, CA. Gen. Tech. Rep. PSW-GTR-110. Berkeley, CA: Pacific Southwest Forest and Range Experiment Station, Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture; p. 22-32

Publication Notes

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https://www.fs.usda.gov/treesearch/pubs/27933