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Home » Where We Work » Model Multiple Benefit Projects: Dos Rios Ranch and the San Joaquin River NWR

Model Multiple Benefit Projects:
Dos Rios Ranch and the San Joaquin River NWR

Strategic Flood Management

Dos Rios Ranch and the adjacent San Joaquin River National Wildlife Refuge stand as a landscape-scale model of such strategic and multi-benefit flood-control projects.

The San Joaquin River provides a conveyance channel for massive flooding that results from the San Joaquin Valley’s network of dams and bypasses becoming overwhelmed by uncharacteristic storms. This critical public safety function has shifted water planners’ view of the river from one of a vibrant living system to more of a trapezoidal channel optimized for flow out to the San Francisco Bay – contributing further to the dire situation for wildlife of the valley. In 2012, California’s Department of Water Resources completed a massive effort to take a comprehensive look at the function of our flood management system and find ways to link the ecological and engineering solutions that are needed to provide reliable flood protection for growing urban areas like Stockton while enhancing the value of the flood system for wildlife, water quality, and people. The FloodSAFE California Initiative and the Central Valley Flood Protection Plan envision multi-benefit flood control projects in which the dynamics of a flood fight can synergistically stimulate riverside wildlife and vegetation.

Dos Rios Ranch and the adjacent San Joaquin River National Wildlife Refuge stand as a landscape-scale model of such strategic and multi-benefit flood-control projects. By repurposing the floodprone lands behind the levees to act as high quality floodplain habitat for threatened and endangered wildlife AND transient floodwater storage basins during massive flood years, these projects find the sweet spot between two historically competing land uses.

Since 2002, River Partners, the USFWS, DWR, and a host of other technical experts, engineers and conservation partners have designed and installed levee breaches, constructed wetland basins, elevated refugia for terrestrial species and vegetation patterns that safely convey floodwaters in a strategic way to optimize the flood protection benefits of the largest contiguous riparian habitat restoration initiative in California at the confluence of the San Joaquin River and its largest tributary. Such multi-benefit projects provide opportunities to link public benefit programs that focus on habitat enhancement and public safety to net large results with small price-tags. Such efforts are demonstrations of the ingenuity and collaboration that will be the hallmark of effective solutions targeting the next 100 years of California’s epic water management conflicts.

About the Dos Rios Ranch and San Joaquin River National Wildlife Refuge

Dos Rios and SJRNWR mapMap of the San Joaquin River NWR and Dos Rios Ranch projects. Click for larger image.
  • Potential of up to 30,000 acre feet transient floodwater storage
  • Largest contiguous riparian restoration initiative in California (4,800 acres)
  • Potential for endangered species recovery – riparian brush rabbit, riparian woodrat, least Bell’s vireo, Central Valley Steelhead, Chinook salmon, Western yellow-billed cuckoo, Valley Elderberry Longhorn Beetle, yellow warbler
  • Model partnership amongst private, local, state and federal organization
  • Millions of dollars used to purchase supplies, equipment, and services from local businesses

Flood Control Project Providing Multiple Benefits

  • Improved Flood Management – Located at the confluence of the San Joaquin and Tuolumne Rivers this project provides significant opportunities for attenuating flood flows and for facilitation of flood operations on the Tuolumne and San Joaquin Rivers.
  • Restore Riparian Habitat for Critically Endangered Species– The project has contributed and will continue to contribute meaningfully to the recovery of endangered species that rely upon limited floodplain and riparian habitats.
  • Improved Water Supply Reliability – The project has retired 12,500 acre feet of riparian diversions annually, and has the potential to retire another 5,000 acre feet per year in the future.
  • Improved Water Quality – The project will create riparian filter strips adjacent to two of the most important drainages in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Valley. Restored floodplain vegetation serves as a natural filtration system that improves water quality by reducing erosion, trapping sediments and catching pollutants.
  • Increased Public Recreational Opportunities and Access – This project provides river access at the San Joaquin River NWR and will become an access point to the Lower Tuolumne River Parkway.
  • Restoration of the San Joaquin and Tuolumne Rivers – The project will be a key contributor to the recovery and restoration of the San Joaquin and Tuolumne Rivers by improving water quality and supply and by increasing habitat important to healthy fish populations.
  • Improve Flood System Resilience to Climate Change – The project can buffer the impacts of extreme weather events. Additionally, the project is projected to sequester over 1 million tons of CO2 over the life of the project.