Salt River Ecosystem Restoration Project

A multi-year, multi-agency endeavor led by HCRCD that takes a holistic, watershed-wide approach to address sediment, fish passage, flooding, and drainage issues in the Salt River Watershed of Ferndale.

Project background

The Humboldt County Resource Conservation District is the lead agency on the Salt River Ecosystem Restoration Project, a multi-year, multi-agency, landowner-driven endeavor that takes a holistic, watershed-wide approach to address sediment, fish passage, flooding, and drainage issues in the Salt River Watershed of Ferndale. Increasingly frequent flooding, reduced drainage capacity, and sediment deposition have negatively impacted water quality and the ability of local landowners to effectively utilize their lands for agricultural purposes.

This proposed ecosystem-scale project includes a large tidal wetland restoration component that created 330 acres of biologically rich and diverse tidal wetland habitats, including transitional wetlands and adjacent uplands, and restoration of 7.2 miles of the Salt River channel. A Sediment Management Area located at the confluence of Francis Creek and Salt River is a critical component to managing sediments originating in the upper Francis Creek and ensuring project longevity. The Salt River Ecosystem Restoration Project also includes a long-term Adaptive Management Plan to manage and maintain the Project.

Project update

The Salt River Ecosystem Restoration Project and the William Creek Restoration Project have, since late 2021, been on hold with no estimated date for implementation. Salt River is restored to the Highway 211 Bridge; this is a stable location, and the six miles of restored Salt River channel implemented to date is expected to continue to function. There are several challenges to completing the remaining 1.2 miles of Salt River, which will reconnect approximately 57% of the watershed, including Williams Creek, Coffee Creek, and the upper Salt River. These challenges include a property boundary dispute that leaves the HCRCD with no clear options for placing the channel and the need to place a sediment management area on Williams Creek to capture the sediments that will compromise the function of the Salt River. Williams Creek plans are 30% complete.

Salt River Watershed Council

The Salt River Watershed Council is a community based nonprofit that encourages long-term cooperative watershed management practices to sustain, protect, and improve water quality, drainage, aquatic and riparian habitat, and other natural resources while contributing to long-term economic, agricultural, and community sustainability in the coastal Salt River Watershed.

The views and opinions expressed by the Salt River Watershed Council do not necessarily represent those of the Humboldt County Resource Conservation District.

Organizational Information

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Does HCRCD still have funding to complete the projects?

A: No, secured project funding expired. Due to several challenges including a property boundary dispute and hydrologic and permitting requirements, the Salt River Ecosystem Restoration Project and Williams Creek Restoration Project have been on hold since late 2021. When the project is ready to proceed forward, funding will be sought.

Q: Where is HCRCD in the design process of the Salt River Ecosystem Restoration Project and Williams Creek Restoration Project?

A: Salt River’s design plans for the remaining 1.2 miles are at 90% complete. The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) evaluation is complete, and permits are secured.

Williams Creek design plans are at 30% complete. CEQA is not yet complete. Permits are NOT secured.

Q: How will the Frances Creek Sediment Management Area (SMA) be maintained?

A: Previously, HCRCD utilized construction funding to clean out the SMA during other implementation phases of the Salt River Ecosystem Restoration Project; those funding sources are now depleted or expired. In 2023, HCRCD successfully secured Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) disaster funding to clean out the SMA. Despite this, the future availability of funds for SMA maintenance remains uncertain. In late 2023, HCRCD submitted a proposal seeking additional funding to clean out the SMA for another year, but its approval is not guaranteed. Securing financial support for the ongoing maintenance and management of the project is a challenging task.  In light of this, HCRCD would like to explore collaborative partnerships with local landowners and Humboldt County to develop a more community-based solution.

Q: Can landowners dig out channels or manage vegetation themselves?

A: Within the footprint of the Salt River Ecosystem Restoration Project, there are permits and a Salt River Adaptive Management Plan outlining the procedures for maintenance activities in the area. To receive environmental compliance and regulatory permit coverage associated with the project, all maintenance activity requests must be included in an annual work plan developed by HCRCD, or other responsible parties. If you wish to undertake maintenance within the Salt River Ecosystem Restoration Project footprint, please complete the Landowner Request for Consideration of River Maintenance form and email it to It’s important to note that, currently, there is no environmental compliance or permit coverage for maintenance in the Williams Creek project area.

Q: Can the Salt River Ecosystem Restoration Project be completed without Williams Creek being restored?

A: No. Recent modeling has indicated that, given the high sediment loads from the Williams Creek watershed and the limited capacity of the Salt River to transport a portion of those sediments, the risk of significant sediment deposition in Salt River is too great if the connection to Williams Creek was completed without a Williams Creek sediment management strategy upstream. A Williams Creek Sediment Management Area is necessary to capture a portion of Williams Creek sediments and reduce this risk. Therefore, restoration of the last mile of Salt River and Williams Creek must occur simultaneously. See Williams Creek Alternatives Analysis.

Looking for Watershed Reports & Documents?

Check out our Reports and Documents page for environmental compliance documents, Adaptive Management Plan, and monitoring reports.