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Posts Tagged ‘restoration’

An article in yesterday’s Times-Standard described a sediment removal project that Humboldt County will undertake to control flooding in the lower reach of Jacoby Creek. The project is acknowledged as a stop-gap action, but it’s what the County can do with the access and means it has to bring the problem under some measure of control for a time.

Behind this is, also as acknowledged by the County, an entire watershed management challenge. Over the years, like in so many other watersheds, the upper reaches of the creek have been logged, which causes erosion to dump more sediment in the stream; the middle and lower reaches have become increasingly constrained by culverts and bridges which can block fish passage and where the sediment can accumulate; and the lower reach has been developed for human use with considerable loss of the wetlands and meanders that used to provide seasonal flood storage.

Associated problems, besides flooding, include increased turbidity (murkiness) of the water, increased temperature from the lack of shading in logged areas, and disappearance of deep pools and riffles, factors which are harmful to aquatic species and particularly to salmonids native to the creek (Chinook and coho salmon, steelhead and cutthroat trout); as well as erosion-related landslides.

Solutions to the issues threatening the health of the watershed will inevitably be multi-pronged and comprehensive. Components include excavating sediment behind bridges and obstacles, removing or upgrading culverts there, managing logging activities to control the amount of exposed slope area, creating protected forest areas, and restoring wetlands and in-stream habitat, etc.

In order to get these components to work together rather than at cross-purposes, it is essential to plan at the watershed level and to involve as many of the interested parties and agencies as possible. Single-issue approaches (e.g., focusing only on one location or one problem), even the best intentioned, cannot address the scope of the problem. Nevertheless, the County’s sediment removal is a necessary part of the response at this time.

Some links of interest:

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Copyright 2006 Sophie Lagacé

Copyright 2006 Sophie Lagacé

I dropped by my new office last week to say hello and ask about what projects I’ll start on when I begin next week. Interestingly for me, it looks like my last nine years of experience working with 25 Native tribes or tribal organizations will serve me well: the company is working on the permitting and design of a remediation project that involves, among other stakeholders, a tribe. And everyone told me: “We could really have used you this summer!” as they are just wrapping up the permitting phase and found it convoluted and frustrating.

Tribal work rarely registers on environmental engineers, scientists, and planners’ radar screen. Consultants tend to think of tribes as a small local government like a county or city, and treat their projects as “business as usual.” In addition, funding is often a challenge for tribes, so the long wait between phases and funding cycles can be discouraging. In truth, most consultants are woefully unprepared to work with tribes, and consequently provide them with unsatisfactory service.

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A large aquatic habitat restoration project has been announced for the mouth of the Nisqually River; it will provide habitat for South Sound chinook salmon, a federally-listed threatened species as well as a state candidate species. Some 762 acres (308 hectares) of saltwater estuary habitat will be restored by removing the old levees isolating them from the Puget Sound and opening them to tidal action; more than 21 miles of tidal sloughs and channels will be returned to their natural condition.

The project is a partnership between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), the Nisqually Indian Tribe, and Ducks Unlimited. The three partners have worked together before on extensive salt marsh restoration in areas adjacent to the project limits. Other funding comes from Washington state salmon recovery and Puget Sound restoration funds.

Estuaries provide feeding grounds and resting areas for young chinook and chum salmon. Ecodiversity is extremely high in these zones, where the fresh water from rivers meets the salt water of ocean bodies, providing good food sources. Streams slow down as they widen, meander and split upon reaching marine bodies, providing twists and turns for young salmon to take cover and rest. Salmonid species are genetically conditioned to live at different salinity levels as they change life stages; this means that at certain periods of their life cycle, if there is insufficient habitat of that particular type available, a significant number of young salmon will not be able to make it to the next phase of their life and will therefore never return to spawn another generation of salmon. Mudflats in estuarine areas area also a formidable breeding ground for the small prey favoured by shore birds.

Sadly for bird-watchers and other nature lovers, the restoration will necessitate the removal of the 5.5-mile (8.9 km) trail that currently tops the old levee. However, new trails and boardwalk will be created to provide visitor access by 2010. This is a good reason for visitors to go hike or bike the existing loop trail while it’s accessible; there is extremely good birding to be done there. Watch out for American bitterns, double-crested cormorants, several species of mergansers, and the ubiquitous great blue herons.

The articles I read did not offer a discussion of potential changes in flood storage capacity. This is always a sensitive issue when removing old dikes and levees. During extreme flood conditions, the Nisqually River overtops its banks upstream of the Refuge, on the south side of the I-5 bridge. The Comprehensive Conservation Plan and Environmental Impact Statement (CCP/EIS) prepared for the project states that the alternatives which restored the majority of the diked area and eliminated cross-dikes along the McAllister Creek side of the Refuge also reduced flood impacts to the Refuge. These alternatives allowed flood waters from the McAllister Creek overflow channel to empty unimpeded into the McAllister Creek tidal system, instead of emptying inside of diked habitat. However, diked areas in all alternatives were still flooded by flows from the overflow channel at the southeast corner of the Refuge.

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