Extreme erosion in California’s Napa River, which courses through one of the region’s most scenic and habitat-rich landscapes, threatened property and compromised habitat conditions.
As one of California’s most ambitious agricultural landowner-initiated ecosystem restoration projects, this project will expand the river corridor to enhance fish and wildlife habitat, reduce bank erosion, add 135 acres of floodplain and riparian habitats, and provide ongoing education about Napa River and its watershed.
This project demonstrates the feasibility of voluntary private-public partnerships to restore the nation’s waters within California and beyond.
ESA has spent over a decade collaborating with Napa County, regulatory agencies, and local landowners and vineyard managers on this ambitious floodplain and wildlife habitat restoration project. Our team of fluvial geomorphologists, restoration specialists, and engineers have collaborated with stakeholders to develop, design, permit, and implement a 14-mile restoration plan for the Napa River (including the Rutherford, Oakville, and Oak Knoll reaches). We performed detailed geomorphic and hydraulic analyses, site surveys, and habitat assessments to establish the basis of design and develop the restoration design plans, details, and specifications.
ESA’s restoration plan involves setting back agricultural berms and creating a series of restoration nodes where the river can extend over new floodplains and into multiple channels and backwater alcoves. These more complex features re-establish and support resilient processes for riffle-pool formation and provide migrating salmonids a place to take refuge during high flows.
The results of extensive research and landowner coordination are being realized as the restoration design that protects both natural and agricultural resources is constructed, monitored, and adapted for improvement.
One of the more enlightening moments in stream restoration is when a recently constructed site experiences a large storm event. Whether these events test a restoration design approach or trigger system adjustment, they are always an opportunity to learn.