‘Sharing Butte Creek’ Highlights Work Behind Rebounding Salmon Run

  • by ACWA Staff
  • Nov 19, 2021
  • Water News

A new documentary illustrates how collaborative work between farmers, scientists, conservationists and water managers produced a dramatic rebound in the salmon population on Northern California’s Butte Creek.

First aired Nov. 17 on PBS KVIE in Sacramento, “Sharing Butte Creek” can be viewed through a link on the station’s website. More background and future airings can also be found on a blog post promoting the documentary signed by the Northern California Water Association, California Rice Commission, California Trout and Ducks Unlimited.

Acclaimed filmmaker Kit Tyler produced the documentary, which runs just under a half hour and is part of KVIE’s ViewFinder series. The blog post describes how collaborative work informed by research from leading experts with the University of California at Davis modernized infrastructure, restored 90 miles of Butte Creek, and led local farmers to allow their rice fields to be flooded each summer after harvest.

The results have been striking. Once nearly gone from Butte Creek, the number of spring-run Chinook salmon returning to the Valley has increased 25-fold from their lows in the 1970s through the 1990s. Millions of birds now also return to the Valley in fall and winter to utilize the rice lands and adjacent wetlands along the Pacific Flyway.

The innovative conservation strategies to reactivate our floodplains pioneered in the Butte Creek watershed are now being applied throughout the Sacramento Valley to restore aquatic ecosystem function — while also making California’s agricultural and downstream urban water supply more resilient to the major climate-driven threats like severe drought and major floods facing California.

“By slowing down the river system and spreading the water across a portion of the historic floodplain, these local farmers are enabling habitat restoration for fish and birds while also recharging precious groundwater resources and maintaining flood protection downstream,” the blog states. “Spurred by a need to restore habitats for native species, including the threatened spring-run Chinook salmon, our organizations are working together to find a way for wildlife and farming to thrive together without choosing one over the other.”

 

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