About this project

Sugar Creek is a tributary to the Scott River Watershed, which is listed as impaired under Section 303d of the federal Clean Water Act for excess sediment and elevated temperatures. This site sits amongst the Scott River Tailings reach, which has been heavily impacted by legacy mining in 1930-1950s.

In 2014, Scott River Watershed Council (SRWC), Dr. Michael Pollock from NOAA, Mr. Mark Cookson from USFWS, and Scott Valley landowners began a project that would install California’s first beaver dam analogue (BDA) and change the course of history for the Scott River Coho Salmon population. The initial two structures were built in 2014 with additional structures constructed in 2017 and 2021.

This specific project, which received approval under the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Habitat Restoration and Enhancement Act (HREA) in 2018, added 2 additional BDAs downstream of an existing BDA on Sugar Creek and above the mainstem of the Scott River.

The objectives of this project were:

  1. Maintain and expand the critically needed summer and winter slow water juvenile coho rearing habitat created by the existing Sugar Creek BDAs.
  2. Improve fish passage between the mainstem Scott River and upstream habitats, especially during drought and future climate change conditions, by creating a series of step pools for juvenile salmonids
  3. Provide stability for the existing Sugar Creek BDAs. This included making repairs to the existing primary BDA to address post placements lost in the high spring flows of 2017.
  4. Allow for ongoing adaptive management for current and future site changes. SRWC proposes to construct up to 15 additional BDAs during future years as the project site evolves. SRWC will submit annual workplans to the Regional Board and CDFW for review and approval for all future BDAs.

Monitoring activities include fish utilization, surface and groundwater elevations, stream temperature, dissolved oxygen, riparian vegetation, change in habitat abundance, macroinvertebrate production and beaver activity. Click here to see a great video of juvenile Coho Salmon in 2021!

During the fall of 2021, SRWC hosted a BDA workshop aimed at giving other restoration practitioners hands-on experiences in building BDAs. People from across the state gathered for this three-day event and four additional structures were constructed at this site. See video of one of the BDAs being constructed. This series of BDAs was funded by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.

Over the years the project has been funded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Bella Vista Foundation, Coho Enhancement Fund (CEF) administered by the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), Humboldt State University (HSU), California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), and Scott River Watershed Council, with countless hours of volunteer work by people and beavers.

Beaver occupy this site and have fully taken responsibility for the maintenance of one of the structures and have constructed their own dam, without SRWC’s help, within the project reach.

Permitting Tips for Similar Projects

  • Ask for the maximum discharges (posts, willow, berming material, etc.) you think you might need, and then double it.  You don’t have to use the materials, but if you haven’t allocated them in the permit you will have to do a revision.
  • Make sure to account for adaptive management (see adaptive management plan at the end of the Notice of Intent, starting on page 69 of this PDF)
  • Scott River Watershed Council has frequently delineated a “project area” that is a linear footprint around the stream, rather than calculating square footage for each BDA, road, etc.  This also provides flexibility for placing additional BDAs in the future as needed.


Scott River Watershed Council (SWRC)


The initial two structures were built in 2014 with additional structures constructed in 2017 and 2021.

Type of project

  • Beaver dam analogue
  • Stream and riparian habitat and upslope watershed sites

County or Counties

  • Siskiyou


Scott River

Project size

Under 5 acres/500 total linear feet

Project documents

Permitting pathways used

Project photos