Salmonid Restoration Federation
Holding Space—Restoring Habitat and Making Room for Innovation
March 26 - 29, 2024
Santa Rosa, California

Napa River Restoration: Mid - Upper Napa River (Oakville to Oak Knoll Reach) Project

27 March 2024
9:00am - 5:00pm
Field Tour Coordinators: Rick Thomasser and Jeremy Sarrow,  Napa County Flood Control and Water District; Jorgen Blomberg, Principal ESA; Jason White, Restoration Engineer ESA; Leslie Ferguson, Restoration Specialist, SFRWQCB; and Napa County RCD
The Napa River Restoration Project (Project) is a 13.5-mile large scale river restoration project located in the mid-upper Napa River between St. Helena and Oak Knoll in Napa County.  The project includes two project reaches – the Rutherford Reach (4.5 miles) and the Oakville to Oak Knoll Reach (9 miles) implemented between 2008-2021. The Project restores spawning and winter/spring rearing habitat for steelhead and Chinook salmon.  Both projects included the removal and setback of vineyards; expansion of riparian and channel habitat through channel widening, and floodplain, secondary channel and alcove grading; and addition of large wood and boulder features that will support resilient geomorphic processes. Secondary components of the Project included biotechnical stabilization, vegetation management, and site revegetation. The restoration actions are not continuous over the 13.5 miles, but instead occur in a mix of high-quality nodes and long-reaches of connected floodplain habitat resulting in more diverse and resilient ecosystem functions.     
The tour provided a ‘timeline’ review of several project sites on vineyard properties to demonstrate the establishment and evolution of physical processes, specific habitat conditions and ecosystem response to restoration actions. Examples of each of the restoration actions mentioned above were highlighted.  
Notably, this project is a win-win for the environment and the landowners adjacent to the river. The landowners have been voluntarily removing vineyards and allowing berms to be set back and lowered - in many locations 75 feet back from the river – allowing for more uniform and predictable flood management and rededication of agricultural land uses to riparian habitats. These actions improve localized hydraulic and geomorphic conditions and reduce channel instability and bank erosion, allows for a wider floodplain and riparian zone, and at the same time provides the landowners with a more reliable berm system set-back from the river. Equally important, the landowners express an interest in preserving the Napa River ecosystem for their children and future generations. In the two Projects combined, more than 40 landowners have converted nearly 56 acres of farmland to wildlife habitat. This Project has ongoing monitoring and maintenance through a Community Facilities District (CFD) voluntarily funded by the project landowners.
The Napa County Flood and Water Conservation District has overseen the design and implementation of this Project with collaboration of more than 40 landowners and Rutherford D.U.S.T. Society, Napa County RCD, Fish Friendly Farming, ESA (designers) and an agency TAC (SFRWQCB, NOAA, and CDFW).  This collaborative Project represents the epitome of a collaborative community and local/state agency effort to restore a living and resilient river.