Fish Food Bid Program Practice Requirements

Program Summary

Currently funded by California Natural Resources and Bureau of Reclamation grants administered by Reclamation District 108, the Fish Food program focuses on reconnecting fish populations confined to leveed river channels with food sources that naturally occur in floodplain wetlands. This is achieved by flooding agricultural fields and managed wetlands for at least 3 weeks to allow aquatic invertebrate communities to grow. Fields are then drained back to the river (or priority fish bearing waterway), in a regionally-coordinated way, to subsidize food resources available to fish. Providing these additional food benefits to the river ecosystem during the period of juvenile salmon out-migration (December-April) can contribute to population recovery of these species.

This program requires participants to manage flooded acreage for a few weeks and return that flood water back to the river. The flood and drain cycle can be done multiple times on a single acre. Payments are awarded per flood/drain cycle. The Fish Food program can be completed on fields that are concurrently enrolled in both NRCS waterbird programs or the California Winter Rice Habitat Incentive Program (CWRHIP). Concurrent enrollment in these programs with Fish Food may require slight practice modifications and payment adjustments. See FAQs for more details on concurrent enrollment.

Key Program Details

Application requirements

  • Performance window: October-April
  • Target water depth: 10 inches
  • Minimum flood duration: 3 weeks
  • No straw management requirements
  • Regional coordination of drainage preferred
  • Contracts ranked by priority watershed, total inundated acreage, number of flood/drain cycles and ability to effectively deliver drain water to target fish populations.

Ineligible Applications

  • Concurrent enrollment the Drought Relief Waterbird Program

Ranking and Scoring Criteria

Bids will be scored and ranked by the Fish Food Selection Committee, which includes representatives from California Trout, UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences, the California Rice Commission, and RD 108. Ranking analysis will include consideration of bid price, total inundated acreage, drainage timing, number of flood/drain cycles, ability to measure water exported, proximity to existing drainage infrastructure, drainage distance to river, and regional participation.

The following items may result in higher scoring bids:

  • Shorter drainage canal distance from fields to priority fish-bearing channel
  • Gaged water discharge infrastructure
  • Deeper flood and more acreage managed together (encourage your neighbors!)
  • Ability to flood before November 1
  • Ability to drain after March 15

The following items may result in lower scoring bids:

  • Longer drainage canal distance from fields to priority fish-bearing channel
  • Minimal regional participation
  • Drainage only possible February 1- March 15, when Fish Food is relatively more abundant.

Field Conditions

No specific straw management is required for the Fish Food program. Fallowed fields, other crops besides rice, and managed wetlands may be enrolled in the program. Fields must be able to hold water at the target depth of 10 inches for at least 3 weeks AND drain the water back to the river (or a major fish-bearing channel, e.g., bypass, 2047 canal, Butte slough, etc.).

Water Management

Water must be maintained at the target depth of 10 inches for at least 3 weeks. Deeper is fine, shallower is not. After the flood period, water must be exported to the river (or a major fish-bearing channel, e.g., bypass, 2047 canal, Butte slough, etc.).

Priority regions for Fish Food enrollment include:

  • Sacramento River
  • Butte Sink
  • Butte Basin
  • Sutter Bypass
  • Colusa Basin
  • Sutter Basin
  • Yolo Bypass

Multiple cycles of flooding and water export are strongly encouraged, and participants who achieve multiple cycles are eligible for multiple payments. If concurrently enrolled in either NRCS or CWRHIP waterbird programs, payments may be reduced accordingly. See FAQs for more details on concurrent enrollment.

Scroll to Top