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The project objectives were to restore the natural meadow hydrology to a 2600-acre wetland that had been severely degraded by decades of channel alterations and poor management. Ash Creek lies along the Pacific Flyway, and is critical habitat for innumerable migratory waterfowl. The project spanned several years, beginning with the downstream reaches and working upstream toward the top of the CA Department of Fish and Wildlife property. Over 27.5 miles of incised gullies were erased using Pond-and-Plug methodology where borrow material from excavated open-water ponds is used to fill the deep gully features. Over one million cubic yards of material was required to fill the deeply cut gully features. Primary flow was restored to remnant channels across the broad floodplain (over 3000' width in most areas). Ongoing monitoring of shallow groundwater wells (piezometers) indicate the project is meeting or exceeding expectations. Periodic bird counts indicate waterfowl usage has also increased dramatically.
Bear Creek is the only surface flow drainage to the Fall River, a blue ribbon trout fishery. The 1960 channelization of Bear Creek just upstream of the Fall River confluence exposed the meadow to excessive erosive forces that gradually cut deeply into the soft alluvial soils of the meadow, inundating downstream Fall River trout habitat. The project objectives were diverse, but targeted to reduce the accelerated rate of sediment influx to Fall River. After a long battle with local opponents of the project, construction was completed in Fall 1999. A 2.2 mile reach of incised gully was filled with approximately 250,000 cubic yards of borrow material from a series of ponds along the gully. Flow was restored to small remnant channels that flood frequently. The project is reviewed annually and continues to spread the energy of peak runoff flood events across the broad floodplain, preventing channel incision.
In the mid 1900's, a system of railroad spur lines were installed to feed lumber into a mill located near the project site. A stream crossing on one such spur line became blocked with debris during a flood event and initiated the formation of 2-mile long gully running parallel to the railroad grade. The historic channel was abandoned and the gully continued to erode both vertically and laterally until the bed elevation had cut over 13 feet below the floodplain at the upper end of the project. A plan was developed to restore flow to the historic remnant channels and enhance the wetland resources of the 500-acre meadow. Since Bear Creek is a perennial channel at this location, the meadow response to the restored flow elevation was immediate. Once the deep gully was plugged at the upper end of the property, water began to flow subsurface through gravel substrate and emerged in the downstream meadow. The recovery of the wetland has been rapid and robust.
In order to meet the fill volume required to erase the deeply incised gully, the primary flow was routed through the uppermost pond before passing into the small remnant channel below. This decision turned out to be erroneous, as bedload sediment transport processes were interrupted by this pond, causing the channel downstream to cut into the bed. Much has been learned from this mistake, and effort are currently underway to stabilize the 700-foot reach where erosion is most evident. While the project continues to perform as design in all other aspects, the upper channel erosion threatens to impact the project success by lowering the water surface elevation. It is anticipated that an agreement and funding can be secured to treat the issue in Fall 2018.
Dry Creek is a tributary to Putah Creek that enters near the town of Winters. It is an important source of spawning gravel for Putah Creek, as Lake Berryessa (Solano Project) has interrupted the natural bedload supply process. However, the accelerated rate of lateral bank erosion along the deeply incised channel threatens farmland, orchards, and homes. A design was developed to reduce lateral and vertical erosion rates while enhancing the sediment transport capacity of the channel. A series of rock structures (J-hook vanes, cross-vanes, and w-weirs) were installed to direct flow to the center of the channel, reduce effective channel width, maintain sediment transport capacity, and reduce the power of flood flows to erode the exposed banks. While this technique cannot be referred to as "restoration" it has proven to be a very effective method to slow the collapse of the vertical banks along the urban reach of Dry Creek.
This small mountain meadow system had been high degraded by a deep gully formation that caused a decrease in groundwater elevation. The consequence is a predictable loss of soil saturation and subsequent encroachment of conifers across the former wetland. A project was implemented by NRCS to stabilize the erosional processes by placement of log structures within the gully. This project met objectives to slow erosion and capture some sediment behind each structure, but the log vanes began to deteriorate and another method was sought that would have greater longevity. In 2011 a project was constructed that placed the primary flow back into remnant channels within the meadow and filled portions of the gully using Pond-and-Plug methodology. A rock step-pool system was constructed at the lower end of the meadow to step flow back down to the lower elevation. The project continues to meet the objective to allow for frequent floodplain inundation and restore the form and function of the small stream channel.
Rising River is a spring-dominated river with little seasonal change in the hydrograph. The banks have been protected from grazing impacts, but non-native muskrat burrowing continues to create instability in many areas. Gradual bank erosion from collapsing burrows created over-widening of the river, loss of sediment transport capacity, and accelerated influx of fine sediment that impacts spawning beds for native rainbow trout. Large woody debris (cedar logs with attached root wads) were used to approximate the historic bank edge. After setting the log bank edge, the eroded bank area was back-filled and covered with riparian sod transplants. During construction, as the fill material approached the log, a layer of coarse gravel was inserted to form a barrier to future muskrat burrowing. The logs and root wads add habitat diversity and areas for juvenile trout to escape predators.
This tributary to Goose Lake is a very important spawning reach for the Goose lake redband trout, a species of special concern. The Goose Lake Fishes Working Group has been instrumental in support of actions to enhance the fishery and prevent Federal listing of the species. StreamWise designed and implemented a project along Lassen Creek to eliminate 1.25 miles of incised gullies using Pond-and-Plug methodology. The flow was returned to a small remnant channel near the center of the meadow. The project has met objectives to reduce accelerated rates of vertical and lateral erosion, restore the historic meadow hydrology, reconnect channel and floodplain function, and improve fishery habitat for the Goose lake redband trout. In addition, culverts at the main road crossing were converted to a bottomless concrete structure that is fish-friendly.
The Solano Land Trust purchased 1039-acre Lynch Canyon Open Space in 1986 in response to encroaching urban development. Since that time, SLT has worked to build hiking and horseback trails, improve grazing practices, and stabilize eroding stream and spring channels that have been impacted by 150 years of intensive agricultural practices. In addition to stabilization of the stream channels, SLT continues to work towards control of invasive weeds that reduce habitat diversity. Future work includes similar actions to restore aspects of the adjacent Brown Ranch that was recently acquired.
At some point in the late 1900's, a complex of spring channels east of Eagle Lake in Lassen County were modified in an attempt to raise sturgeon as a commercial enterprise. The spring channel was excavated to form a series of ponds divided by wooden flashboard dividers. It is not clear why this operation failed to succeed, but the modifications were left behind, degrading the pristine spring channel and lowering the water surface elevation in the remote wetland meadow setting. As part of efforts to support greater sage grouse populations, this meadow and spring system were identified as important components of the ecosystem. StreamWise developed a plan to restore the historic form and function of the spring channel by reducing the pond width and raising water surface elevation. By placing local juniper and rock materials a new bank edge was created within the pond areas that mimics the historic form of the spring channel banks. The new inset floodplain areas were filled and sod transplanted to stabilize the disturbed areas. The project was completed in May of 2018.
This remote stream was named for Peter Lassen, an early settler in Lassen County. In the 1900's, a series of 10 check-dams were constructed across this mile-long stringer meadow situated between two rock bluffs. Ostensibly, the earthen berms were intended to retain open water behind each structure for use in late summer when water was scarce. The unintended result of the berms was repeated blowouts of the check-dams whenever capacity was exceeded. Of course, a failure of one upstream dam would result in rapid overflow and erosion of each subsequent dam. After numerous attempts to repair these chronic failures the berms were abandoned, but continued to concentrate flow through eroded bypass channels that flanked the structures. By concentrating flows, gullies had begun to form that tended to desiccate the meadow and reduce vegetative vigor.
In 2013 StreamWise removed all of the berm structures and applied innovative technique known as riffle augmentation to restore the dimensions of the incised channels to historic, functional condition. Rock from nearby sources was used to reverse the erosional process and bring the elevation of the streambed back to pre-disturbance elevation.
Work on the Pit River Shaw property was targeted along two prominent meander bends that were eroding at an accelerated rate. the lower meander was particularly problematic due to the location of a bridge structure at the lower end of the bend. This bridge was in danger of collapse, if the erosional processes were allowed to continue. A series of boulder J-hook vanes were constructed along the outside of the meander to direct the energy of the high-velocity core away from the exposed bank (and bridge pilings) and more toward the center of the river channel. A narrow bench was built along the base of the vertical bank to allow for operation of the excavator to construct the vanes. After 11 years, the structures remain intact and functional with dramatic recovery of the bank vegetation.
Pleasants Creek - Hoskins Solano County, CA 2009-2017
Ethel Hoskin was one of the early supporters of stream stabilization along her mile of Pleasants Creek near winters, CA. she began working with the Lower Putah Creek Coordinating Committee and StreamWise to develop solutions to slow the rate of bank collapse and land loss evident throughout her property. As with all Putah Creek tributaries, Pleasants Creek has become deeply incised as a result of the lowered base elevation of flood flow that is now captured within Lake Berryessa. StreamWise began to apply principles of stream energy dissipation to the reach by reshaping vertical banks, adding grade control structures, and redirecting erosive forces away from steep, bare banks by using rock structures. In this way we were able to work with natural hydrologic forces, rather than imposing engineered impediments to flood flow. Not all areas have been treated, but those that have show excellent stability and vegetative recovery despite several significant runoff events.
This site was very challenging as erosional processes left a vertical bank nearly 40 feet high with an undercut oak tree dangling above the stream. After years of delays to obtain the permits for the project, the steep bank was regraded, a bench feature built at floodplain elevation, and a series of rock vanes installed to redirect the energy of peak runoff flow away from the exposed bench and bank. The bank continues to recover with vegetation now covering the entire bank. The rock features remain functional after significant runoff events.
Building on our original work at Hoskins/Nichols property, additional funding was secured to stabilize the vertical incision and retain accelerated sediment volumes in the lower six mile reach of Pleasants Creek. To achieve these goals a series of rock cross-vanes and other rock structures were established at intervals along multiple properties from the uppermost reaches to the confluence with Lake Solano. This effort was expedited following the severe fire destruction of the watershed in summer 2020. Baseline topographic data will supply valuable information when compared to similar elevation survey of the stream bed following seasonal runoff events.
Putah Creek Solano County, CA 2014-2018
As with the other Putah tributaries, each of the three major stream have downcut significantly in response to the lowered flood elevations due to containment of flood flow behind Monticello Dam. This instability is causing ongoing disruption of downstream resources, including burial of spawning bed areas critical to the trout fishery of the IDR. Cold Creek, Thompson Canyon, and Bray Canyon all show erosional tendencies near the confluence with Putah Creek. In Thompson Canyon, this incision reaches far upstream. Assessment of these issues is complete and plans for stabilization of the tributaries are being reviewed by stakeholders.
Within the IDR are several side-channel features that were enhanced in 2017 to allow for restored flow volume. Side-channels have been identified through biologic monitoring to be critical habitat for juvenile trout. These additional areas are expected to enhance survival of young-of-the-year and juvenile trout by offering more diverse and protected areas for cover.
This one-mile reach of Putah Creek was the focus of a major reconstruction project to narrow the width of the stream channel, speed mean velocity, increase mean depth, lower water temperature, and enhance the channel/floodplain connection. Permits required a complete diversion of all flow prior to construction. Solano County Water Agency hired Ghilotti construction as the primary contractor implementing the StreamWise design plan. The team effort proved to be effective to complete the project within the budget and schedule constraints. The riparian corridor continues to recover from the grading work thanks to the efforts of the Lower Putah Creek Coordinating Committee and Putah Creek Council volunteers who stage multiple native planting days from their greenhouse propagation program.
Most Putah Creek projects share similar objectives:
Enhance native species aquatic habitat
Facilitate self-maintaining stream form and function
Promote a healthy riparian ecosystem by re-establishing native vegetation
Stabilize the accelerated erosional tendencies
In the past decade, StreamWise has worked with Solano County Water Agency and the Lower Putah Creek coordinating Committee to implement many projects along the main stem of Putah Creek that targeted those objectives. These projects include:
Dry Creek Confluence
While these projects have helped to move Putah Creek toward a more functional condition conducive to the recovery of the native species that depend upon a healthy riparian ecosystem for survival, many more sections of the stream have been assessed for future projects to stabilize, protect, restore, or enhance the natural resources of the stream. Through a California Proposition 1 Grant, the Lower Putah Creek Coordinating Committee is directing a working group to explore and prioritize 34 key sites along Putah Creek and it's tributaries for future consideration.
This small spring channel was the site of a diversion that supplies water to a CA DFW fish hatchery. The diversion dried out the channel below, eliminating habitat for a critically endangered species of crayfish. The 2016 project was designed to relocate the diversion downstream and restore crayfish habitat to an additional 700 lineal feet of restored spring channel.
Several projects within the Greater Sheldon Hart Basin have been assessed for potential habitat enhancement for the Greater sage grouse. The basin covers territory in three states and includes the following project sites:
Cowhead Slough near Ft. Bidwell, CA
Fee Property near Ft. Bidwell, CA
Mapes Ranch near Susanville, CA
Vya Ranch - 2 sites near Vya, NV
Willow Creek - 6 project sites near Valley Falls, OR
The projects investigate feasibility for restoration and/or enhancement of wet meadow ecosystems that support the sage grouse life cycle. The assessments evaluate spring and stream conditions with regard to their ability to maintain critical wetland resources. All of the above sites have been altered by past water management efforts were not designed to protect the associated riparian wetland component. StreamWise design alternatives are intended to offer cost-effective actions to maintain agricultural uses while improving sage grouse habitat conditions. At the close of 2020, three sites at Wilow Creek, Oregon have been fully implemented and are in the recovery phase, and all sites and phases of the Vya, NV have now been completed and are entering into the recovery and monitoring period. Implementation of the other property proposals is pending completion of landowner agreements, funding, and permit processes.
Due to a variety of factors including water impoundments and diversions, the Truckee River fishery has suffered from decline of suitable spawning and pool habitat. Much of the gravel substrate has become embedded and cemented with fine sediment and many deeper pool reaches have converted to flat, shallow stream beds. Projects were implemented in 2016 and 2017 to adjust the configuration of large boulder material to create convergent flow patterns that tend to offer more diverse habitat features. Three primary structure types were used:
Each structure was modified to fit the individual setting and utilize in-stream rock materials. Structural design was applied from Wildland Hydrology specifications following many years of research into natural channel behavior and hydrologic science. The rock structures continue to provide excellent fish habitat without inducing bed or bank erosion.
Click Project Name for Photos of the above projects.