A flood plain restoration project by the Sonoma Ecology Center that incorporates storm water management, habitat enhancement and educational elements has broken ground along Nathanson Creek near East MacArthur Street.

For the next few weeks, workers will displace approximately 1,000 cubic yards of earth in order to create a new flood plain along Nathanson Creek. This roughly half-acre area will extend restoration efforts to the most upstream portion of the Preserve. The planned flood plain, habitat features, and native plant installations will be a boon for the creek’s ecosystem.

According to Sonoma Ecology Center Restoration Program Manager Mark Newhouser, flood plains are essential for a healthy creek because they provide important fish and wildlife habitat and allow the high energy of flood flows to spread and dissipate, decreasing erosion and property damage, as well as diminishing impacts on fish and wildlife. Flood plains provide refuge for fish and other aquatic species during flood flows. The planned off-stream flood plain will allow fish to escape the high-flow periods of winter rainstorms.

“Local Chinook salmon and steelhead trout seek the shelter of flood plains during their winter migration, so they can rest and feed before continuing upstream to spawn,” Newhouser explained.

After excavators have dug out the basin, Sonoma Ecology Center staff will plant the site with native vegetation from the waterline below to oak woodlands above, restoring habitat for fish and other wildlife. In addition, the site serves as a demonstration of proper flood water management techniques, as flood plains help dissipate energy during the winter rains. The site will feature an access point with interpretive signage to relay the importance of flood plains to visitors. Work is scheduled to be completed by July 29, 2016.

Sonoma Ecology Center prepped the area with the help of volunteers, making this a true community project. The City of Sonoma, which owns the parcel, is partnering with Sonoma Ecology Center on the project, and the work is made possible thanks to funding by the Department of Water Resources Urban Steams Restoration Program and the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District Matching Grant Program.

For more information on the Nathanson Creek Preserve Enhancement Project, contact project manager Mark Newhouser at 707-996-0712, ext. 103 or mark@sonomaecologycenter.org.