History has taught that rivers flood and levees fail. Expanding floodways, restoring floodplains and allowing rivers to be rivers saves lives and taxpayer dollars. We can't prevent flooding; the best we can do is reduce its risk.
Retiring low-lying, flood-prone riverside land is a cost-effective strategy to reduce flood risk and protect people and property. Restoring these lands back into native forest has the added benefit of providing jobs and enriching our communities with great outdoor recreational opportunities.
The recent purchase of Dos Rios Ranch west of Modesto by River Partners is a good example of what can be accomplished when federal and state agencies work together with local landowners and organizations to create jobs, improve public safety and protect the environment.
The public dollars invested in this project will pay dividends for years to come. Young adults are being trained for careers in conservation. The forest they are planting today will grow into a community resource for hunting, fishing, bird-watching and hiking. Flooding that would destroy the wheat and corn now growing on these fields will in the future nourish riverside forests, fish and songbirds. Pumps that draw irrigation water from the river will be retired, leaving the water in the river to benefit both agriculture and wildlife. Floodwaters absorbed by this property will reduce damage downstream and allow those in harm's way more time to prepare.
Dos Rios Ranch has all of the pieces in place to become a model multibenefit project, but to be truly successful we will need the help of our neighbors and the community.
River Partners purchased this ranch from a willing seller and we will to continue to farm it until the last field is restored. The fields that are being restored will require agricultural services and supplies and we need farmers to make this happen.
Restoring riverside forest is a labor-intensive endeavor. River Partners is hiring biologists and ecologists, seasoned professionals and college interns. We are partnering with the California Conservation Corps to supply the hands-on field labor. A productive work force is critical to the success of this project.
The projected cost to complete Dos Rios is approximately $10 million. This is new money coming into this community and we will need local businesses to supply us with goods and services. To optimize the flood damage reduction benefits, we will require guidance from the Department of Water Resources, local levee districts and engineers. To ensure we create the best possible habitat for wildlife, we will seek assistance from the San Joaquin River National Wildlife Refuge and local wildlife experts.
Providing quality recreational opportunities is also an important goal of this project, so we will solicit help from the Tuolumne River Trust and other outdoor recreation enthusiasts.
The reality is that River Partners needs to work with almost every segment of this community to make the Dos Rios Ranch restoration a success. I would like to invite all of you to join us as we move forward with this highly beneficial project.
For information, contact Jeff Holt at (209) 521-1700, ext. 22, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Carlon, a blueberry farmer in Forest Ranch, in Butte County, is president of River Partners.