The City of West Sacramento is in the middle of a major upgrade to flood protection along the Sacramento River. Rather than relying on the riverside levee that South River Road sits atop, it is building a much wider levee, and setting it back a hundred yards or so from the river.
The intent is for the newly created space between the old and new levees to flood during high water. Consequently, it won’t be developed or farmed. This makes it feasible to put in a habitat area of the kind that would grow there naturally, namely, native trees and shrubs. And that is what has been proposed.
Considering that stream-bank and floodplain forests are the richest bird habitat in Yolo County and the Central Valley generally, this looks like good news for bird conservation. It appears that about 170 acres are slated for establishment of native forest vegetation on the river side of the new levee. About 115 acres will serve as mitigation, both for forest already lost to levee construction and for future projects that remove native vegetation. Planting will likely occur in spring 2020.
Another 55 acres includes and surrounds the birding hotspot that we know as the Wood Duck Ponds, and the City of West Sacramento calls the Bee Ponds. A grant from Proposition 1 will pay for preparation of a habitat restoration plan and planting design that presumably will make use of the vegetation already there.
Of further interest to Yolo Audubon is that the extent of public access is yet to be determined. The City wants a bike path just east of the habitat areas, another bike path on the west side, along South River Road, and connections between the two. So, at the least, birders should be able to stand next to the habitat area.
Access into the mitigation sites is unlikely, out of fear (justified or not) of disturbance or damage to the vegetation. The other site, around the Wood Duck Ponds, could be made available for birding and similar passive recreation. Demand for such amenities will surely grow as West Sacramento grows. Yolo Audubon will watch for opportunities for public involvement in setting priorities for the project, and will keep you posted.
Michael Perrone, YAS Board