Public Comment Opens for Delta's Largest Tidal Habitat Restoration Project


Lookout slough

Lookout Slough. 2018/Ecosystem Investment Partners

The Department of Water Resources (DWR) opened public comment for Lookout Slough, a proposed multi-benefit habitat project designed to reduce regional flood risk and restore fish and wildlife habitat.

On Dec. 16, the Department released a draft environmental impact report for the effort representing DWR’s largest tidal habitat restoration pursuit to date.

“The proposed Lookout Slough project will protect local communities from flooding while giving native fish a better chance of survival in the Delta,” said DWR Deputy Director Kristopher Tjernell. “DWR wants to ensure that all affected communities can offer feedback on this important effort.”

The Yolo Bypass is the primary floodplain for the Sacramento region. Its southwest end is bordered by the Yolo Bypass West Levee. Lookout Slough would create nine engineered breaches along the levee, allowing the tides and Sacramento River waters to access approximately 3,000 acres of restored habitat. These daily tides and river flows will help transport food for native fish into adjacent sloughs and waterways.

Lookout Slough also includes the construction of a new setback levee that will increase the ability of the Yolo Bypass to convey flood waters, thereby decreasing flood risk for small communities, urban areas, and agricultural lands.

The Lookout Slough site is part of the Cache Slough Complex in unincorporated Solano County. The Cache-Slough Complex is crucial to the State’s conservation efforts due to its favorable conditions for salmon and the endangered Delta smelt. These wetland areas are among the few remaining places in the Delta where Delta smelt are still found. By creating larger-scale wetlands that circulate food for the endangered Delta smelt, DWR hopes to assist in the recovery of the species.

Lookout Slough, formally titled the Lookout Slough Tidal Habitat Restoration and Flood Improvement Project, is part of the California EcoRestore initiative to restore and protect at least 30,000 acres of habitat across the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. The proposed project is being implemented by Ecosystem Investment Partners, the current land owner, with funding provided by the State Water Project (SWP) and Proposition 1.

Lookout Slough is adjacent to other tidal habitat restoration projects under DWR’s Fish Restoration Program, including the completed Yolo Flyway Farms and the planned Lower Yolo Ranch, also funded by the SWP. These projects, along with other existing tidal wetlands, will create a contiguous tidal wetland restoration complex spanning 16,000 acres in the Cache-Slough region.

DWR serves as the lead agency on Lookout Slough, navigating state and federal environmental permitting and providing oversight throughout the planning process.  The Department plans to take ownership of the site just prior to construction. This innovative public-private partnership would assist DWR in meeting requirements to restore habitat to offset impacts of the SWP on native fish.

DWR released its draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) on Monday, Dec. 16, beginning a 60-day public review period. The Department will host a public meeting on Jan. 22, 2020 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Old Vets Hall on 231 N. 1st Street in Dixon.