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River Partners Acquires 500-Acre Hidden Valley Ranch

Purchase Expands the Dos Rios Ranch Flood Control and Restoration Project

By Julie Rentner, Central Valley Regional Director

Above: he San Joaquin River after flooding receded in May 2011. In the foreground, farmlands at Hidden Valley Ranch inundated through seepage. Visible in the background are remnant riverside forest patches and fields of various-aged restoration projects at the San Joaquin River National Wildlife Refuge.

One year after the devastating hurricane Sandy destroyed or damaged hundreds of thousands of homes and permanently affected the New Jersey economy, the need to allow our waterways room to expand without damaging property and threatening public safety has become even more essential. River Partners was able to spearhead the acquisition of the 500- acre Hidden Valley Ranch adjacent to Dos Rios Ranch in Stanislaus County to do just that – allow the San Joaquin River more room to expand during flood years, and spare local and regional assets from flood damages in the future.

Hidden Valley Ranch – which currently serves as a dairy and farming operation - includes 1.5 miles of San Joaquin River frontage. The adjacent 1600-acre Dos Rios Ranch and the 8,000- acre San Joaquin River National Wildlife Refuge are located at the confluence of the Tuolumne and San Joaquin Rivers. Together, the three properties encompass both sides of the San Joaquin River’s floodplain for a five-mile reach. The land also provides essential habitat for migrating birds along the Pacific Flyway and to fifteen species of animals that are listed as endangered, threatened, or species of concern on California State and/or Federal registries. In particular, this land would serve as critically needed floodplain rearing habitat for juvenile salmon and steelhead.

The purchase of the Ranch was completed in just over three months thanks to the participation and cooperation of multiple individuals, organizations and agencies: a shortterm high-risk loan from the River Islands Settlement Fund (including real estate developer Susan Dell-Osso, and conservation partners Natural Resources Defense Fund, American Rivers, and the Natural Heritage Institute) helped to initiate the process, close collaboration from long-time project partner the Tuolumne River Trust moved the project along , and quick responses from three State funding programs enabled the acquisition to close in record time. And all of this taking place under the excited supervision of River Partners President John Carlon.

The $9.3 million price tag was provided from voter-approved bond funds including Prop 84 - The Safe Drinking Water, Water Quality and Supply, Flood Control, River and Coastal Protection Bond Act of 2006; Prop 1E – the Disaster Preparedness and Flood Protection Bond Act of 2006; and Prop 117 – the California Wildlife Protection Act of 1990. This acquisition was an incredible representation of California’s resource management agencies working collaboratively to implement a multiple-benefit project that benefits the public and the environment in one efficient package.

The above article originally appeared in the December 2013 issue of the River Partners Journal.