Sediment transport in the upper Yuba River watershed, California, was evaluated from October 2001 through September 2003. This report presents results of a three-year study by the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the California Ecosystem Restoration Program of the California Bay-Delta Authority and the California Resources Agency. Streamflow and suspended-sediment concentration (SSC) samples were collected at four gaging stations; however, this report focuses on sediment transport at the Middle Yuba River (11410000) and the South Yuba River (11417500) gaging stations. Seasonal suspended-sediment rating curves were developed using a group-average method and non-linear least-squares regression. Bed-load transport relations were used to develop bed-load rating curves, and bed-load measurements were collected to assess the accuracy of these curves. Annual suspended-sediment loads estimated using seasonal SSC rating curves were compared with previously published annual loads estimated using the Graphical Constituent Loading Analysis System (GCLAS). The percent difference ranged from -85 percent to +54 percent and averaged -7.5 percent. During water year 2003 optical backscatter sensors (OBS) were installed to assess event-based suspended-sediment transport. Event-based suspended-sediment loads calculated using seasonal SSC rating curves were compared with loads calculated using calibrated OBS output. The percent difference ranged from +50 percent to -369 percent and averaged -79 percent.
The estimated average annual sediment yield at the Middle Yuba River (11410000) gage (5 tons/mi2) was significantly lower than that estimated at the South Yuba River (11417500) gage (14 tons/mi2). In both rivers, bed load represented 1 percent or less of the total annual load throughout the project period. Suspended sediment at the Middle Yuba River (11410000) and South Yuba River (11417500) gages was typically greater than 85 percent silt and clay during water year 2003, and sand concentrations at the South Yuba River (11417500) gage were typically higher than those at the Middle Yuba River (11410000) gage for a given streamflow throughout the three year project period. Factors contributing to differences in sediment loads and grain-size distributions at the Middle Yuba River (11410000) and South Yuba River (11417500) gages include contributing drainage area, flow diversions, and deposition of bed-material-sized sediment in reservoirs upstream of the Middle Yuba River (11410000) gage. Owing to its larger drainage area, higher flows, and absence of man-made structures that restrict sediment movement in the lower basin, the South Yuba River transports a greater and coarser sediment load.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Use of sediment rating curves and optical backscatter data to characterize sediment transport in the Upper Yuba River watershed, California, 2001-03