Feather River State Wildlife Area – O’Connor Lakes Unit
In 2005, River Partners instituted a cutting-edge restoration project that had significant floodplain management benefits on 228 acres of flood-prone land -- the O’Connor Lakes Unit of the Feather River Wildlife Area in Sutter County.
River Partners designed the restoration plan to direct high velocity floodwaters away from the levees and improve sediment transport across the site. The California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) identified the site as a high priority for riparian restoration because of its potential to link two tracts of existing riparian habitat, thus creating a 2,142-acre block of contiguous habitat.
Working with hydraulic models, River Partners cleared four acres of forest where there would be high velocity water and planted the remaining site with riparian species.
The resulting multiple benefits included: improved wildlife habitat, especially for endangered species (Valley Elderberry Long-horned Beetle), improved flood water conveyance, reduced long-term maintenance costs for the Department of Water Resources (DWR), and reduced liability for DWR and Central Valley Flood Protection Board for elderberry mitigation.
As part of this project, River Partners facilitated the signing of a multi-agency agreement among the Central Valley Flood Protection Board, the USFWS, DWR, and California DFG. The multi-agency agreement (aka a Safe Harbor Agreement) allowed for the planting of the elderberries as part of the O’Connor Lakes habitat restoration project, without any obligation to mitigate for their loss if future maintenance or flood fighting activities damage or destroy the planted bushes.