The Dutch Slough Tidal Restoration Project,1 newly redesigned (Figure 1), has some improved design elements, but remains flawed and potentially detrimental to Delta native fishes. Unless the flaws are overcome, the project will be a huge waste of limited Delta restoration funds.
First, the proposed project’s location within the Delta (Figure 2) is extremely detrimental.
- The location is an eastward extension of Big Break, an open water of the west Delta that is infested with non-native invasive aquatic plants and that breeds non-native fishes.
- The project is located on Dutch Slough, detrimentally warm in summer (Figure 3), with net flows that are negative and eastward toward the south Delta export pumps (Figure 4).
Second, and equally important, the project as designed would further contribute to the existing detrimental non-native vegetation and warm water problems.
- The extensive new dead-end slough complexes will become infested with invasive plants and will contribute to lowering turbidity and warming.
- The new subtidal habitat will further add to that in Big Break with more invasive plants and breeding and rearing habitat for non-native fish.
Third, the new habitat will attract breeding smelt and rearing juvenile salmon into an area where their eventual survival is highly questionable.
Can design changes overcome these flaws? Yes, but only in combination with other regional fixes.
- Big Break must first be restored along the lines being considered and studied in the Franks Tract Restoration Feasibility Study.
- A tide gate must be installed on east Dutch Slough, similar to that being considered for False River in the Franks Tract restoration. (This would fix the negative net flows toward south Delta exports and reduce salinity intrusion.)
- Open-water subtidal habitat should be eliminated. (Make the subtidal element diked-off non-tidal marsh.)
- Dead-end sloughs should allow flow-through to increase tidal circulation.
- Finally, more freshwater outflow should be allocated by reducing south Delta exports in low outflow conditions, in order to reduce salinity intrusion.