10 Years of Restoration on the Truckee River
The lower Truckee River was once a remarkably productive ecosystem, teeming with migratory birds and supporting a robust fishery, including 40-pound Lahontan cutthroat trout. However, a century of man-made changes greatly impacted this stretch of the river.
Significant damage occurred as part of a 1960s flood control project when the channel was straightened and widened, cutting the river off from its floodplain.
The result was a devastating loss of the cottonwood and willow riparian forest, native plants and shrubs, and large percentages of the migratory and riparian nesting bird populations that relied on the Truckee.
The Nature Conservancy started restoration work on the lower Truckee River in 2002 at the McCarran Ranch Preserve to try and reverse the damages done and restore the Truckee to a winding, healthy river.
Building on the success of the transformative restoration work done at McCarran Ranch Preserve, the Conservancy and its partners broadened their efforts, launching restoration construction at the 102 Ranch and Lockwood during the summer of 2008 and Mustang Ranch during the summer of 2009.
Restoration of Tracy Reach
In the fall of 2013, ten years after shovels first hit the ground as part of the Conservancy’s Truckee River restoration project, bulldozers and dump trucks got to work at the Tracy restoration site.
In partnership with landowner NV Energy, The Nature Conservancy is bringing new life to roughly 65 acres along almost a mile of the Truckee River.
“It’s becoming what it should be, what it used to be,” Mickey Hazelwood, Truckee River project manager for The Nature Conservancy, told the Reno Gazette-Journal.
NV Energy is the first private, third-party landowner on the river to collaborate with the Conservancy on a restoration project. The company also donated a conservation easement on the Tracy site that will help ensure the area remains permanently protected.
The benefits of restoration include:
- Water quality improvement
- Flood Attenuation
- Wildlife Habitat Enhancement
- Open Space and Recreation
The restoration program consists of re-creating the physical and biological conditions that are natural for the river. By giving the Truckee the tools that it needs to function as a natural river, the ecosystem can recover and provide for the animals—and people—that depend on it. The four key components of restoration are:
- Creating wetlands to restore the diversity of habitats that once existed.
- Building riffles – in-stream rock structures – to improve conditions for fish and insects.
- Constructing new meanders that allow the river to flow in a curved, natural pattern and lowering the elevation of the adjacent floodplain to reconnect it to the river.
- Revegetating the landscape with native plants to restore the riparian forest and displace invasive weeds that have taken over many areas.
Restoration on the mile-long section at Tracy Reach will include:
- 5 new river meanders
- 6 riffles
- 1 backwater wetland area
- Numerous swales and scour channels (floodplain habitat complexity)
- Approximately 55 acres of revegetation
Truckee River Flood Management Authority; Washoe and Storey Counties; Cities of Reno and Sparks; Nevada Department of Conservation and Natural Resources; Nevada Department of Wildlife; U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; U.S. Bureau of Reclamation; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe; Reno-Sparks Indian Colony
As the natural communities recover at The Nature Conservancy’s McCarran Ranch Preserve and other locations, they are becoming a unique destination in northern Nevada – a place of natural beauty and diversity for animals and people alike. The McCarran Ranch Preserve is open to the public throughout the year from dawn until dusk. Plan your visit today.
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Images on Flickr show a new meander constructed to make the river flow more naturally.
See photos of restoration in progress at Tracy Reach.
Beautiful scenes from this preserve along the Truckee River.