Donner Basin Watershed Assessment

cbec, joined by a consulting archaeologist and ecologists, conducted a watershed assessment of the Donner Basin, a 29.5 square-mile sub-watershed within the Truckee River drainage located just east of the Sierra Nevada crest.

As a major transportation corridor, recreation destination, water supply source and population center, the Donner Basin experienced numerous environmental impacts over the past 150 years. To assess the watershed’s health and to develop a restoration strategy, the multidisciplinary project team integrated numerous fields including geomorphology, hydrology, water quality, ecology, and archaeology. For example, an Erosion Hazard Analysis characterized upland sediment loading patterns due to geology, transportation development and historic logging, while an Engineering and Land Use Pressure Index provided an understanding of development impacts to physical processes and riverine habitat. These, and other assessment tools, provided the project team with an understanding of the interplay of numerous factors from the basin’s mountainous rim to its outlet at the Truckee River.

Leveraging these findings, an opportunities assessment was conducted to identify and prioritize restoration projects and management actions. Four stakeholder meetings conducted throughout the project enabled further development of project opportunities in light of interests ranging from habitat restoration, conservation and water quality, to water supply, recreation, local business, and K-12 education. By working across disciplines and missions through an iterative process, the project team developed a restoration strategy that will not only rehabilitate upland, lacustrine and riverine habitat but also create outdoor classrooms, reduce flood risks, mitigate infrastructure impacts and enhance recreation.