Tuesday February 20, 2024

Los Angeles Times

Throughout the Central Valley, California’s rivers have long been held within their banks by levees and berms, artificially disrupting the natural cycles of flooding and preventing streams from meandering across the landscape.

Natural floodplains — the lush green lands along rivers that historically flooded, retained water, and nourished life in the heart of the valley — were mostly drained and converted to farmland generations ago as the state’s waters were dammed and diverted.

Today, an effort to bring back some of those floodplains is flourishing at the 2,100-acre Dos Rios Ranch Preserve near Modesto, where workers years ago planted native trees on retired farm fields and removed berms to create space for water to spread out again.

This has allowed the San Joaquin and Tuolumne rivers, which converge in the preserve, to expand and flow into their historic floodplains when big surges of runoff come. By making room for the rivers to overflow, the restoration project has created an outlet for high flows that helps to reduce the risk of dangerous flooding in low-lying communities nearby.

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