SYRCL Launches Phase 2 of Van Norden Meadow Restoration Project with $2.5M Grant

South Yuba River Citizens League

The South Yuba River Citizens League (SYRCL) is excited to begin Phase 2 of the Van Norden Meadow restoration work in the late summer of 2024. Phase 2 of the Van Norden Meadow Restoration Project will focus on reconnecting the Lytton Fan by completing in stream work in the upstream section of Lytton Creek and improvements to Lake Van Norden Dam Road, plus relocating & improving the Sheep Pens Trailhead. This work has been made possible through $2.5 million California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Nature Based Solutions: Wetlands and Mountain Meadows grant opportunity.

Van Norden Meadow was purchased by Truckee Donner Land Trust (TDLT) in 2012 as part of an effort to save the site from development. Beginning in 2022, in partnership with the Tahoe National Forest, TDLT, and other partners, SYRCL became the lead organization in this large restoration project.

SYRCL is restoring Van Norden Meadow (Yayalu Itdeh in Washoe), an important 485-acre meadow at the headwaters of the South Yuba River, through implementation of multiple phases. SYRCL’s Watershed Science Department, along with research partners from Point Blue Conservation Science, UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences, and the University of Nevada-Reno, have been collecting baseline data at the meadow since 2013 in order to track anticipated ecosystem benefits from restoration actions such as changes in groundwater recharge, stream flow, carbon storage, plant communities,  geomorphology, and the presence of birds and amphibians. These monitoring efforts will continue through 2026 and will build on the extensive baseline data collected to date.

Phase 1 of the Van Norden Meadow Restoration Project was completed in fall of 2022. This phase used channel fill and beaver dam analogs, man-made structures designed to mimic the form and function of a natural beaver dam, to reconnect incised stream channels with the meadow floodplain. By reconnecting the floodplain, water spreads further across the meadow, promoting groundwater recharge, revegetation of native wetland plants, and provides increased high-quality habitat for wildlife. Additional restoration actions included seeding and planting natural vegetation, road improvements that optimize hydrologic connectivity within the meadow, and the mechanical removal of reed canary grass (an invasive species) and encroaching conifers.

In summer of 2023, SYRCL scientists were eager to check on the success of phase 1 of the restoration following a record-breaking winter.  Countless broad swales that make up the floodplain in Van Norden Meadow have been reconnected and are now full of water, signaling the project’s success.  The project team also focused on adaptive management to ensure durability and the continued benefit of the project build and pursued additional conifer removal around the meadow.

In late summer of 2024, the next phase of the project will focus on reconnecting the Lytton Fan so that flows spread evenly into the meadow floodplain at rates that are not erosive to the channel nor disruptive to the meadow. Currently, the Lake Van Norden Dam Road and the Sheep Pens Parking Area are impeding flows between Lytton Creek and the meadow; restoration actions will reconnect flows by targeting in channel actions and road improvements so that flows are dispersed out of the creek and the Lytton Fan. The Sheep Pens Parking Area will be relocated to higher ground just east of its current location where flows from Lytton Creek will not interfere. Parking will be formalized with nose in stalls and a trailer turn around. Vault toilets and signage will then be installed (by 2025) to protect Van Norden Meadow from impacts and to enrich the user experience.

Moving into 2025 and beyond, SYRCL and partners will continue to seek funding to complete formalized recreation opportunities that do not negatively impact the meadow habitat. This would include establishing a formal loop trail and a new Soda Springs trailhead suited for multiple user groups.

SYRCL would like to acknowledge the following funders for contributing significant funding to the project: The Wildlife Conservation Board, Truckee Donner Land Trust, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the CA Department of Fish and Wildlife, Placer County, Nevada County, National Forest Foundation, and the Martis Fund, a collaborative project of Martis Camp landowners, DMB/Highlands Group (the developers of Martis Camp), Mountain Area Preservation (MAP), and Sierra Watch.

Learn more here.

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