Mendonca Dairy Restoration Project to Provide Protection for Fish, Wildlife


Mendonca Project Site

The Mendonca Dairy Restoration Project site. DWR/2018

One of the oldest and most common practices for improving native fish habitat is planting trees on the banks of rivers and streams. As branches and other woody debris fall into the water, the sunken wood creates pools where juvenile salmon can hide from predators and feed on insects attracted to the decayed vegetation.

That is why the Department of Water Resources (DWR) has teamed up with the non-profit River Partners to re-vegetate the Central Valley’s largest riparian corridor.

In summer 2018, DWR provided funding for the purchase of the 251-acre Mendonca Dairy property that sits west of Turlock. Mendonca Dairy (pronounced Men-dohn-sah) sits along a critical passageway for migrating salmonids on-route to spawn in the tributaries below the dams on the Stanislaus, Tuolumne, and Merced rivers.

A mix of oak, cottonwood, and willow trees will stretch over the San Joaquin River like a canopy, providing shade, a layer of protection and an increased food supply for the water’s fish and other wildlife. 

“This area has been highly disrupted by human activity. By restoring it you are improving the salmonids chance of survival,” said Heather Benko, environmental scientist for DWR’s Riverine Stewardship Program.

Mendonca Dairy sits adjacent to Dos Rios Ranch, a property purchased with DWR funding in 2012 that created a new flood corridor along 2,100 acres at the confluence of the Tuolumne and San Joaquin rivers. The combined acquisition of Dos Rios Ranch and Mendonca Dairy represents one of the Central Valley’s largest contiguous riparian and floodplain conservation areas, and a chance to expand an existing wildlife refuge.

The restoration construction on Mendonca Dairy is expected to begin in spring 2019, following design approvals and permitting. The project will reopen the historical floodplain by removing non-federal levees, an action that creates food and shelter for a host of aquatic and terrestrial species. 

Both properties are in close proximity to the San Joaquin River National Wildlife Refuge, a 7,000-acre stretch of land operated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). After the restoration work is complete on Mendonca Dairy and Dos Rios Ranch, USFWS will assume ownership and maintenance of the land.



Allen Young, Information Officer, Department of Water Resources

916-653-3925 |