The first meeting of a Technical Advisory Group organized to plan for the restoration of the upper Napa River met Friday, May 1st at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife offices in Yountville. The conceptual plan, or “Upper Napa River Habitat and Sediment Reduction Plan” seeks to restore approximately 5 miles of river habitat or ten “reaches” along the Napa River ranging from Big Tree Lane north to Lincoln Avenue in downtown Calistoga. Made possible by a grant received by the California Land Stewardship Institute from the State Water Resources Control Board and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under the Federal Nonpoint Source Pollution Control Program, the Napa County Resource Conservation District will act as the sub-contractor responsible for the fisheries component of the plan with Storesund Consulting responsible for geomorphological components. Engineering, fisheries, and riparian ecological studies were discussed at the May meeting which included representatives from federal and state regulatory agencies, environmental organizations, the County of Napa, and City of Calistoga.
Similar to what has been done in Rutherford and Oakville, planners hope to work collaboratively with private landowners in an effort to restore water quality and the aquatic habitat of the river. Recreating floodplains and riverside habitat, the restoration may involve converting 15-20 acres to natural habitat and assist in protecting property from future erosion and floods as well as enabling the restoration of Napa River fisheries.
The upper Napa River and many tributaries in Napa County historically supported large numbers of migratory species including steelhead trout, chinook salmon, and coho salmon. Unfortunately, their populations have declined sharply in the past several decades. Coho salmon became extinct in the Napa River watersheds in the 1960's. Steelhead were listed as threatened in Napa County in 1997 under the Endangered Species Act. A small Chinook salmon run still exists in the Napa River, but it is not clear whether they are wild fish or strays from hatcheries in the Sacramento or San Joaquin River systems. According to the Napa County RCD, improving and expanding habitat for steelhead and chinook salmon is a top priority in the Napa River watershed.