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Coastal Watershed Restoration


There is an increasing need to understand the impact of dam construction, dam removal, dredging, beach nourishment, and other human activities along the river/sea interface. This understanding of sediment routing from source to sink is necessary in order to remove obsolete or unsafe dams, change dam operations, or implement efforts to restore habitat in streams, rivers, and estuaries at the river/sea interface. The goals of this project are:

  1. to use the Coastal and Marine Team's expertise and equipment to help solve environmental problems caused by sediment erosion, transport, or deposition that resulted from human tinkering with watersheds or estuaries,
  2. take advantage of altered dam operations (or dam removal) to conduct large-scale experiments that will improve our understanding of the fundamentals of sediment transport, and
  3. conduct research on sediment problems at the river/sea interface in areas of interest to managers and other agencies.

Of the ten tasks in this project, five are currently active (Elwha, Grand Canyon, Matilija, San Francisco Bay, and Tomales Bay). The others have been completed but are retained here as a record of past accomplishments.

Start/End Dates

10/1/2003 - 9/30/2007


United States


Photo of Lake Mills and Glines Canyon Dam photo from Mark Harrison, The Seattle Times.
Lake Mills was formed when Glines Canyon Dam was built 8.5 miles upstream from the Elwha Dam. Photo from Mark Harrison, The Seattle Times.


This project has three objectives:

  1. Advise managers on specific watershed issues related to human activities such as impact of dams or dam removal on downstream river, estuarine, and marine environments and habitats.
  2. Use dams, artificial floods, dredging operations, and other human activities to conduct large-scale sediment transport experiments to learn how to predict sediment transport more accurately at the interface between rivers, estuaries, and marine settings.
  3. To conduct research on problems of interest to managers other government agencies in settings along the river/sea/estuarine interface.

The locations of active work are: Elwha River, Colorado River, San Francisco Bay, Tomales Bay, and Matilija Creek/Ventura River.


This project has three strategies:

  1. Use CMG expertise to address relevant river/sea/estuarine management issues, funded largely by outside sources.
  2. Improve our fundamental understanding of sediment transport while addressing these management issues (taking advantage of large-scale experimental floods to study transport of geologic quantities of sediment).
  3. Use the results obtained in these flow experiments to improve sediment transport models. For this strategy, the Coastal Watershed Project is collaborating closely with the Community Sediment Transport Modeling Project (Sherwood) and Coastal Evolution Project (Hanes).

Tasks and SubTasks

  • Englebright Dam studies (completed and terminated)
  • Tomales Bay Bathymetric Mapping
    • Giacomini Wetlands Restoration Display
  • Grand Canyon sediment engineering
  • California coastal watershed sediment-transport studies (UCSC coop supported Cope Willis' thesis, completed and terminated)
  • San Lorenzo River and Monterey Bay (Jodi Harney Mendenhall, terminated in 2005)
  • Elwha Dam removal studies
  • Digital grain-size technology development
  • Matilija Dam removal studies
  • Other Funded Activities
    • Yuba River Studies, University of California, San Diego
    • Bureau of Reclamation
  • San Francisco Bay studies
    • Sediment Cycling in San Pablo Bay
    • San Francisco Bay Sedimentation and Geomorphic Evolution
    Photo of Englebright Lake and Dam.
Aerial photo of Englebright Lake and Dam. Photo from Skipper's Cove Marina, Smartville, Calif.


Read articles from our online newsletter Sound Waves:

Rubin, D.M., 2004, A simple autocorrelation algorithm for determining grain size from digital images of sediment: Journal of Sedimentary Research, v. 74, p. 160-165.

Rubin, D.M., Nelson, J.M., and Topping, D.J., 1998, Relation of inversely graded deposits to suspended-sediment grain-size evolution during the 1996 flood experiment in Grand Canyon: Geology, v. 26, p. 99-102.

Rubin, D.M., Topping, D.J., Schmidt, J.C., Hazel, J., Kaplinski, M., and Melis, T.S., 2002, Recent sediment Studies refute Glen Canyon Dam hypothesis: Eos, June 11, 2002.

Rubin, D.M., and Topping, D.J., 2001, Quantifying the relative importance of flow regulation and grain-size regulation of suspended-sediment transport (alpha) and tracking changes in grain size on the bed (beta): Water Resources Research, v 37, p, 133-146.

Topping, D.J., Rubin, D.M., and Nelson, J.M., Kinzel, P.J. III, and Corson, I.C., 2000, Colorado River sediment transport: Part 2: Systematic bed-elevation and grain-size effects of supply limitation: Water Resources Research, v. 36, p. 543-570.

Topping, D.J., Rubin, D.M., and Vierra, L.E., Jr., 2000, Colorado River sediment transport: Part 1: Natural sediment supply limitation and the influence of Glen Canyon Dam: Water Resources Research, v. 36, p. 55-542.

Topping, D.J., Rubin, D.M., Nelson, J.M., Kinzel, P.J., III, and Bennett, J.P., 1999, Linkage between grain-size evolution and sediment depletion during Colorado River floods, in Webb, R.H., Schmidt, J.C., Marzolf, G.R., and Valdez, R.A., eds., The 1996 Controlled Flood in Grand Canyon: Washington, D.C., American Geophysical Union, Geophysical Monograph 110, p. 71-98.

Project Customers

  • Bureau of Reclamation (BOR)/POC: Gold, Rick
  • Golden Gate National Recreation Area/POC: Allen, Sarah
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)/POC: Hubbard, James
  • CALFED Upper Yuba River Studies Program
  • California Coastal Conservancy/POC: Hutzel, Amy
  • Point Reyes National Seashore/POC: Becker, Ben
  • Arizona/POC: Benemelis, Perri
  • Arizona Game and Fish Department/POC: Taubert, Bruce
  • Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA)/POC: Heuslein, Amy
  • Bureau of Reclamation (BOR)/POC: Randle, Tim
  • California/POC: Zimmerman, Gerald
  • Colorado /POC: Kuharich, Rod
  • Department of Energy (DOE)/POC: Palmer, Clayton
  • Department of Interior (DOI)/POC: Gabaldon, Michael
  • Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS)
  • Grand Canyon Guides/POC: Potochnik, Andre
  • Grand Canyon Trust/POC: Ramsey, Nikolai
  • Hopi Tribe/POC: Kuwanwisiwma, Leigh
  • Hualapai Nation, Arizona/POC: Jackson, Loretta
  • National Park Service (NPS)/POC: Alston, Joe
  • Navajo Nation/POC: Begay, Robert
  • New Mexico/POC: D'Antonio, John
  • Olympic National Park/POC: Winter, Brian
  • City of San Jose/POC: Hayes, Tim
  • Colorado River Energy Distributors Association (CREDA)/POC: James, Leslie
  • Federation of Flyfishers / Northern Arizona Flycasters/POC: Steffen, Mark
  • Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe/POC: Matt, Beirne
  • Pueblo of Zuni/POC: Kucate, Arden
  • San Juan Southern Paiute Tribe
  • Southwest Rivers/POC: Hyde, Pamela
  • Tomales Bay Watershed Council/POC: Mery, Michael
  • Utah Associated Municipal Power/POC: Rampton, Ted
  • San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission/POC: Goldbeck, Steve
  • Southern Paiute/POC: Drye, Brenda
  • Utah/POC: Anderson, D L.
  • Western Area Power Administration
  • Wyoming/POC: Shields, John


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