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Floodplain Habitat Enhancements & Vegetation Management Activities

Aside from planning, constructing and managing mitigation projects, SAFCA’s environmental program staff are actively engaged in planning and implementing various habitat enhancement projects that are consistent with the Agency’s Environmental Mission § Link §.  These projects have included watershed wide management of floodplain invasive plants such as Red Sesbania (Sesbania punicea), perennial native grassland restoration and other active or passive restoration projects.  Some of these projects activities are highlighted below:

Dry Creek Watershed Red Sesbania Control Program

Red sesbania (Sesbania punicea) is a rapidly growing invasive riparian shrub that is native to South America.  It thrives in the California Central Valley and spreads rapidly down waterways via floating pods that contain seeds that may be viable for many years.  Since its initial detection in the Dry Creek Watershed, red sesbania has proliferated and become an aggressive and dominant species, establishing along the banks and on islands, displacing native riparian vegetation, limiting shoreline access, increasing erosion, and affecting flow patterns.  In heavily-infested areas of the watershed, red sesbania can comprise more than 50% of the biomass of emergent vegetation along the shoreline and on islands causing canopy closure that prohibits natural colonization of native plants. Complex food webs that are maintained by a diversity of native wetland plants and aquatic habitats become simplified or excluded.  Knight and Walter (2001) report that the foliage and seeds of red sesbania are poisonous due to toxins called saponins, a compound that is toxic to birds, wildlife and livestock. Green seeds are most poisonous and foliage appears to be less toxic.

SAFCA, Placer Resource Conservation District and its project partners (County of Sacramento, County of Placer, City of Sacramento, City of Roseville and the Water Forum) seek to eradicate red sesbania within the Dry Creek watershed in order to:

  • Improve the conveyance of floodwater downstream of the City of Roseville, Sacramento
  • County and beyond;
  • Aid the restoration of natural processes;
  • Contribute to the elimination of a large regional source population of this invasive plant; and
  • Contribute to the statewide effort in controlling this plant.

Given that the species spreads by water flow, the upstream sources need to be eradicated in order to adequately contain and eliminate the downstream populations.  Because the seeds are viable for many years, eradication will require monitoring and follow-up treatment to avoid re-infestation of the creek by seeds remaining after the initial removal efforts.  From 2004 to 2008, 99% of the mature red sesbania plants, seedling and resprouts were removed from the watershed.  However, due to the established seed bank in the project area, it is anticipated that at least two (2) more years of maintenance (possibly up to 10 years of additional treatments) will be required to fully eradicate the species from the Dry Creek Watershed.  The Project Area is defined as stream corridors within the Dry Creek Watershed, encompassing over 80 linear miles of shoreline, 40 linear miles of waterways within the Dry Creek Watershed and its tributaries (i.e. Antelope Creek, Linda Creek, Miner’s Ravine, Strap Ravine, Secret Ravine, and Cirby Creek in Placer County).  The project terminates at the confluence of Dry Creek and Steelhead Creek (formerly known as Natomas East Main Drainage Canal).  Removal efforts are continuing in 2009.

Knight A.P. and R.G Walter 2001. A Guide to Plant Poisoning of Animals of North America,
Colorado State University, Teton NewMedia 367pp

§ Dry Creek Watershed Red Sesbania Long Term Management and Maintenance Plan §     
§ Before and After Pictures §        

Sacramento Weed Warriors 

§ Dry Creek Red Sesbania Management Program 2008 §

American River Parkway Invasive Plant Management Program

The Invasive Plant Management Project, located in the American River Parkway in Sacramento, CA, seeks to remove the most invasive non-native plants and restore low floodplain native riparian forests.  In 1997, after 150 years of degradation, the California Native Plant Society, the Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency (SAFCA) and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, together with assistance from The Nature Conservancy’s Wildlands Weeds Management and Research Office at U.C. Davis, and The California Invasive Plant Council, began an ambitious endeavor: “To the extent practical, remove and control the most aggressive non-native plants from the American River Parkway (ARP) and restore the native riparian, in-stream and upland habitats within the 4,700-acre Parkway.”  The partnership’s first step was to fund a team of independent ecologists to identify and map over 140 species of non-native plants within the ARP. From the initial list of 140 non-native species covering over 1,170 acres, 10 of the most invasive were targeted for control, and a series of pilot projects were conducted to assess the effectiveness, cost and appropriateness of various control methods. An intensive public outreach and partnership building effort was also undertaken, and in May 2000 the Planning Phase Report for the American River Parkway Invasive Plant Management Plan was released.

By 2001 over 25% of ARP’s 6,035-acre habitat was choked with rapidly expanding non-native plants. Having secured $630,000 from SAFCA, the Wildlife Conservation Board (WCB) and the state Department of Transportation, Phase 1 of the Invasive Plant Management Project (IPMP1) commenced.    The five objectives of IPMP1 were successfully completed over a 3-year period (2001 to April 2004) through a combination of professional contract crews, conservation corps, and community volunteers; all under the direction of May & Associates (the contracted Project Manager), Sacramento County Parks and SAFCA.  The objectives included: (1) removal of 95% or greater of all mature Phase 1 targeted species from 650 acres; (2) sustained control of target species’ re-sprouts and seedlings; (3) some (limited) active restoration; (4) updating the GIS weed mapping and treatment database; and (5) fostering a stewardship program to continue invasive plant control in perpetuity.  The program was very successful, meeting or exceeding all of the stated program goals § Link §.  Selected for their devastating impact on in-stream and riparian habitat, the targeted Phase 1 invasives included: Red sesbania (Sesbania punicea); Giant reed (Arundo donax); Spanissh broom (Spartium junceum); Chinese tallow tree (Sapium sebiferum); and Tamarisk (Tamarix ramosissima).  These species were considered high priority based on their rate of spread, damage to natural and economic resources, current distribution, population sizes and potential for control.  The Phase 1 Final Report was released in March 2004.

Grassland Restoration

Goethe East
Goethe East is located on the left bank of the American River Parkway just upstream of C.M. Goethe Park.  The site is approximately 77 acres and, due to previous farming activity on the site, the soil is aerated and not compacted.  However, the vegetative community was predominantly yellow starthistle (Centaurea solstitialis), a highly invasive non-native weed.  Several agencies received encroachment permits from the County of Sacramento, Regional Parks, Recreation and Open Space to conduct Valley Elderberry Longhorn Beetle (VELB) mitigation on all but approximately 15 acres.  To aid in the preparation of the site, SAFCA organized a controlled burn over the entire site in October of 2006.  Shortly after, annual grasses and broadleaf weeds began colonizing the burned area.  In early 2007, SAFCA conducted an herbicide application over the entire site and drill-seeded the 15 acres not used for VELB mitigation with the following native grasses:  Sterile Triticale, Slender Wheatgrass, Nodding Needlegrass, California Barley, Creeping Wildrye, Purple Needlegrass and Blue Wildrye.   As a follow-up treatment, the drill-seeded areas received two broad-leaf herbicide applications; one in the late spring of 2007, one in spring 2008.  The native grasses have received no supplemental irrigation and are readily becoming established.  Click here to see the progress of the site § Link § .

Wolf Ranch

The Wolf Ranch Wildlife Sanctuary encompasses approximately 60 acres of created wetland and upland habitat in northern Sacramento County. The site was renamed in 2005 to honor the Wolf family who originally owned the property, and to reflect the sites wildlife habitat objective.  Prior to project implementation, much of the project area was classified as upland irrigated pasture lacking natural plant communities, with 0.89 acre of existing wetland. 

The area was excavated as a borrow site for earthen fill material (approximately 800,000 cubic yards) for the North Area Local Project levee improvements, and then graded and contoured to support the establishment of wetland and riparian habitats.  Native trees, shrubs, and rhizomatous herbaceous species were planted at prescribed densities beginning in 1996.  A portion of Wolf Ranch satisfies a requirement of the USFWS Biological Opinion (1-1-98-F-0109) to create 5.76 acres of constructed seasonal wetlands, as compensation for indirect impacts to 2.88 acres of degraded vernal pool habitat (2:1 ratio).   The Mitigation Plan included 52.0 acres of wetland and riparian habitats and 3.9 acres of upland habitat on the site.  These habitats included: Palustrine Open Water, Perennial Emergent Marsh, Riparian Marsh , Mixed Riparian , and Oak Riparian all of which are performing well.

Plans were developed in 2006 to establish a native grassland on six (6) acres in the northern upland of the property.  Prior to project implementation the site was dominated by annual broadleaf weeds and non-native grasses and the eastern half of the upland site burned in the summer of 2005.  In 2007, restoration activities included one application of a general, post-emergent herbicide later followed by drill seeding of native grasses in limited areas due to site conditions.  The remainder of the site was drill-seeded in February 2008.  Early growth of emerging grasses was challenged by precipitation, foraging by American coots (Fulica americana) and competition with broad-leaf plants.  Therefore, adaptive management actions in 2008 included supplemental irrigation and a post-emergent broadleaf herbicide application in summer. § Link §

American River, river mile 4.2 (left bank)

This site is located on the outerbank at the downstream end of a riverbend channel.  Due to concerns of a high flow event eroding the upper portion of the site and compromising the integrity of the levee, a proactive landscaping design of plug planting native grasses was implemented in 2004.  Supplemental irrigation was provided for 2004 only.  Click here for pictures § Link §




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