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Historical channel changes in the lower Yuba and Feather Rivers, California: Long-term effects of contrasting river-management strategies

James, L. Allan, Singer, Michael B, Ghoshal, Subhajit and Megison, Mary 2009. Historical channel changes in the lower Yuba and Feather Rivers, California: Long-term effects of contrasting river-management strategies. In: James, L. Allan, Rathburn, Sara L. and Whittecar, G.Richard eds. Management and Restoration of Fluvial Systems with Broad Historical Changes and Human Impacts, Vol. 451. Geological Society of America, p. 57. (10.1130/2009.2451(04))

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Abstract

Hydraulic gold-mining tailings produced in the late nineteenth century in the Sierra Nevada foothills of California caused severe channel aggradation in the lower Feather and Yuba Rivers. Topographic and planimetric data from historical accounts, maps, topographic surveys, vertical sections, aerial photographs, and LiDAR (light detection and ranging) data reveal contrasting styles of channel change and floodplain evolution between these two rivers. For example, levee cross-channel spacings up to 4 km along the lower Yuba River contrast with spacings <2 km on the larger Feather River. More than a quarter billion cubic meters of hydraulic-mining sediment were stored along the lower Yuba River, and the wide levee spacing was intentionally maintained during design of the flood-control system to minimize delivery of sediment to navigable waters downstream. Consequently, the lower Yuba floodplain has a multithread high-water channel system with braiding indices >12 in some reaches. Some of the larger of these channels remain clearly visible on aerial photographs and LiDAR imagery in spite of intensive agricultural leveling. Narrow levee spacings on the Feather River were designed to encourage transport of mining sediment downstream and keep the channel clear for navigation. Levee spacings on the lower Feather River reached a minimum near the turn of the twentieth century, when floodplain widths were reduced at several constricted reaches to <250 m. Historical data indicate that the general channel location of the lower Yuba River had stabilized by the end of the nineteenth century, whereas substantial channel avulsions began later and continued into the twentieth century on the lower Feather River.

Item Type: Book Section
Schools: Earth and Ocean Sciences
Publisher: Geological Society of America
ISBN: 9780813724515
ISSN: 0072-1077
Last Modified: 02 Sep 2017 06:36
URI: http://orca.cf.ac.uk/id/eprint/104158

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