Due to the regional impact of the sitting of the rivers from the hydraulic mining practices and the impacts of more severe flooding on the valley lowlands, 1861 saw California assume direct responsibility for reclamation of the swamp lands by an act creating a board of five swamp land commissioners, each with an annual salary of $1,200 and appropriating $200,000 from the Swamp Land Fund. This authorized the appointment of an engineer to coordinate and assure that basic standards were met in the reclamation plans of the various districts. The owners of one-third of the district lands could petition the state to help in reclaiming their properties. The state would expend $1.00 per acre on the construction of their land reclamation project providing the land owners subscribed for the balance of the cost. Twenty-eight districts applied under this act including American Basin as No. 1, Sacramento Basin as No. 2 and Grand Island as No. 3. The first known reclamation construction project within Reclamation District #999 was completed in 1863. At that time, the Yolo Basin was Reclamation District 18 (now disbanded) and that District dug Tule Canal, one of our major water distribution/drainage waterways.
An 1866 Reclamation Act amended the 1861 act by abolishing the Board of Swamp Land Commissioners, and transferring their powers, duties and funds to the County Boards of Supervisors, with county surveyors acting as district engineers. The Reclamation Act of 1868 further defined the procedures of reclamation and its laws and, following this period, allowed the state to transfer through sales most of its swamp land holdings, as originally planned in 1850.
In 1878 the Sacramento River Drainage District was formed which included all swamp and overflow land in Sacramento, Solano and Yolo counties. The drainage district’s plan to deal with the surplus flood waters failed because there was no large comprehensive flood control scheme that included all districts of the Sacramento Valley and lowlands, which would have controlled all flood relief and reclamation work, including the damaging effects of the ongoing hydraulic mining siltation problem. it is of great significance that in 1878 the side draft clam shell dredge was re-invented (originally a Persian concept that lacked steam power — where was Robert Fulton when he was needed?) and allowed, for the first time, the missing link to reclamation—the ability to move great volumes of material a short distance at minimal expense.