The Light at the End of the Tunnel: The Napa River Restoration Project

The Light at the End of the Tunnel: The Napa River Restoration Project

While the end of this project has taken slightly longer than expected, residents who have been watching the Napa River Restoration project unfold will be thrilled to see it coming to a close. As a matter of fact, two main stretches of the project, directly in the center of the project, will be receiving vegetation in the next few months.

In certain areas, the Napa River had become eroded and narrow. This caused a major reduction in the wildlife species naturally able to thrive in the river and also contributed to major flooding events in the area.

The formally named Rutherford Reach project actually started back in 2009. The goal of the project was to correct the issues that had naturally arisen over time, creating better floodplain benches as well as instream habitats. The creation of the instream bench helps to slow the water while creating a refuge for species like Chinook salmon and steelhead trout. The instream benches themselves also keep the fine sediments from settling, which would suffocate the eggs the fish lay, by pushing it out to the sand dunes created by the floodplain benches.  The entire project spans a length of 4.5 miles.

The two stretches nearing completion are situated smack in the center of the Napa Valley and will soon be home to more than 18,000 plants. Project managers have been very specific about the type of plant used in the area. New plants will include western spice, Santa Barbara sedge, and bit leaf maple. It’s important to note, however, that there are certain types of plant that can’t become a part of the finished project. Plants like giant reed grass and Himalayan blackberry, for example, are considered invasive and would create habitats for insects and pets that carry diseases dangerous to the vineyards.

In order to complete this project, neighboring vineyard owners agreed to give up more than 20 acres of land. The sacrifice will be well worth the cost, however, when the river becomes healthier and their vineyards experience less damage from flooding.

We here in the valley should see the vegetation planted throughout the winter and spring months. The program contacted with Empire Landscaping to do not only the planting work, but also to monitor the vegetation for health for the next three years.

And this will be the end of the project. We’re sure neighboring vineyard owners, visitors, Napa Valley hotel and resorts, and local businesses are happy to see the work end – and hopefully they’re excited to see how the valley changes thanks to years of dedicated effort.

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