Last week, state, federal, and local agencies gathered to celebrate the groundbreaking of the largest tidal habitat restoration project in California history. The Department of Water Resources (DWR) and Ecosystem Investment Partners (EIP) are teaming up on the Lookout Slough Tidal Habitat Restoration and Flood Improvement Project in Solano County. It is a multi-benefit effort to restore the site to a tidal wetland, creating habitat and producing food for Delta Smelt and other fish species while also creating new flood capacity in the Yolo Bypass and reducing overall flood risk in the Sacramento area.
“Drought and climate change have elevated the importance of these types of multi-benefit projects,” said DWR Director Karla Nemeth. “This project will reduce flood risk for communities in the Central Valley and create much-needed habitat for Delta Smelt and other endangered and threatened fish species.”
The Lookout Slough project is located west of Liberty Island Ecological Reserve in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Part of the massive project includes constructing a new, 25-foot-tall setback levee, excavating 20 miles of open tidal channels, restoring native habitat through grading, fill placement, and natural revegetation, degrading the Shag Slough Levee to match the elevation of a 10-year storm event, and breaching exterior levees at multiple locations around the site. Construction of the project is expected to be completed in late 2024.
The Lookout Slough project is unique in that it shows the effectiveness of innovative public-private partnerships to deliver accelerated landscape scale restoration, which is critical to supporting wildlife and the environment against climate-driven impacts.
“Ecosystem Investment Partners is very proud to be partnering with the Department of Water Resources to help meet California’s critical water and habitat needs,” said Adam Davis, Managing Partner of Ecosystem Investment Partnership. “Lookout Slough has given us a chance to help demonstrate that large restoration projects can happen more quickly and cost effectively, and the positive results here create the opportunity for more significant investment in environmental projects in the future.”
Beyond the benefits to fish, habitat, and flood protection, there will also be recreational opportunities at the site. Following construction completion, the public may access the new tidal channels for wildlife viewing, fishing, and hunting.
Lookout Slough is one of many projects that the State is implementing to support fish species and restore critically needed habitat in the Delta as part of EcoRestore. Last week, DWR broke ground on the Fremont Weir Big Notch Project, which will restore 30,000 acres into floodplain salmon rearing habit in the Yolo Bypass. In the coming weeks, DWR will also break ground on the Bradmoor Island Tidal Habitat Restoration Project located in the Suisun Marsh, which will restore tidal flooding to the site while also providing new recreation opportunities for the public. At that same event, DWR will also celebrate the completion of the Arnold Slough Tidal Habitat Restoration Project, which restored approximately 161 acres of managed wetland to tidal wetland.
The Delta is the hub of California’s two largest surface water delivery projects, the State Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project. The Delta provides a portion of the drinking water for 27 million Californians and irrigation water for large portions of the state’s $50 billion agricultural industry. Covering more than 738,000 acres in five counties, the Delta is home to more than a half-million residents.