Archive for the ‘Fall River News’ Category

Coming up on June 8th, 2017 Water Talks educational presentations – Spring Rivers Restoration and Science

/ June 2nd, 2017 / Comments Off on Coming up on June 8th, 2017 Water Talks educational presentations – Spring Rivers Restoration and Science

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Water Talks Event June 8th in  McArthur

Spring Rivers Restoration and Science: Fall River and Hat Creek

Known for their crystal clear water and challenging angling, the Fall River and Hat Creek exemplify what spring creek fisheries are all about. With impressive numbers of wild trout they attract anglers from all over California who come to fish and enjoy the exceptional scenery.

Unfortunately, habitat conditions these iconic fisheries have deteriorated. Both rivers are suffering from habitat degradation caused by over-sedimentation and the collapse of native aquatic plants.  California Trout and the Fall River Conservancy have been working to restore habitat conditions in and around these streams and learn more about Fall River wild trout populations.

The public is invited to hear about these projects at an educational Water Talks presentation, “Spring Rivers Restoration and Science.” The Water Talk will take place on Thursday, June 8th from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm at the Fall River Lions Club Hall, located at 44256 CA-299, McArthur, CA 96056. The program is free and open to everyone. There will be time for questions after the presentations.

“Spring Rivers Restoration and Science” will feature the following presentations:

  • “Three years of Fall River PIT Tagging – What have we learned about trout in this spring river?” and “Assessing geomorphic changes in Hat Creek large wood restoration” presented by Carson Jeffres, Field and Lab Director, UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences
  • “Introduction to the Hat Creek Restoration Project” by Andrew Braugh, Shasta-Klamath Region Director, California Trout
  • “Hat Creek Riparian Restoration : Integrating a Holistic Ecocultural Implementation Approach” presented by Marko Bey, Executive Director, Lomakatsi Restoration Project
  • “Pilot Project to Restore Aquatic Vegetation in the Fall River” by Phoenix Lawhon Isler, Program Coordinator at Fall River Conservancy

Carson Jeffres is a research ecologist at the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences. His research focuses on how physical processes drive ecosystem function. Recent studies range from geologically derived nutrients in spring-fed rivers in the Southern Cascades to restored and multi-benefit floodplains in the Central Valley. Although he is interested in all parts of rivers and watersheds, his real passion lies with the native fishes of California. He is a key team member for both the Fall River PIT tagging project to track wild trout and research on how adding large woody debris (logs) to Hat Creek can improve habitat.

“I’m looking forward to discussing our work on monitoring Fall River wild trout, which we have been doing for the past three years, as well as presenting on the geomorphic changes resulting from adding some large wood to Hat Creek,” said Jeffres.

Andrew Braugh has been working for California Trout on Hat Creek restoration since 2009 and is thrilled to see this project, which integrates habitat improvements, recreational enhancements and hands-on participation of local youth from the Pit River Tribe, come to fruition.

“California anglers remember Hat Creek as one of the great spring-creek fisheries of the West. With Hat Creek, our restoration site rests on the sacred ancestral lands of the Illmawi Band of the Pit River Tribe. This project is about a lot more than fishing – the deeper meaning of restoration lies in reconnecting a new generation of Illmawi youth with their ancestral lands,” he said.

Marko Bey will discuss how Lomakatsi Restoration Project partnered with California Trout to develop a riparian planting plan in consultation with Illmawi and Atsugewi Band Elders from the Pit River tribe. Over 5,000 plants were installed at variable spacing to develop dense streambank root networks and promote diverse riparian habitat. Planting strategies work to address the reestablishment of culturally significant plants utilized for subsistence purposes by Illmawi Band members. To carry out the restoration work, twenty-five Tribal members were employed through Lomakatsi’s Ecological Workforce Training and Employment Program. During the program, crew members gained hands-on experience in ecosystem management as they conduct riparian revegetation, oak habitat restoration, erosion control, noxious weed abatement, trail maintenance and monitoring.

Said Bey, “Lomakatsi is committed to tribal partnership initiatives like the Hat Creek project, with a focus on workforce training and development to make sure there are local tribal people in rural communities with the skills and access to employment opportunities on the land.”

The Fall River Conservancy has done projects ranging from monitoring of Fall River Wild Trout to working with local landowners on streambank restoration. Phoenix Lawhon Isler will share the latest project that FRC is currently developing.

“We’re planning a pilot project to understand how in-stream restoration can help improve habitat for aquatic plants that have been impacted by sedimentation in the upper river. Vegetation is a key part of the river ecosystem, providing habitat for bugs and fish alike,” she said.

Water Talks are an ongoing series of informational and educational presentations where local and regional experts sharing their knowledge with the public on a range of water-related topics. Water Talks is a project of California Trout. California Trout is a nonprofit organization dedicated to solving complex resource issues while balancing the needs of wild fish and people.

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Streambank Restoration Well Underway

/ December 15th, 2016 / Comments Off on Streambank Restoration Well Underway

Our work on streambank restoration began in 2015, when we completed an assessment of bank-damage in the river and a prioritization process that looked at which sites would benefit most and be most feasible for restoration. In partnership with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), we began working with a willing landowner on the Fall River, who was open to put in cattle exclusion fencing, stock-watering facilities and riparian planting on their property.

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As of late 2016, exclusion fencing on over 4 miles of streambank has been completed and plans are underway for riparian planting to restore native vegetation along the river bank next spring. Cattle on this property now receive water from new stock watering troughs instead of the river, protecting the river banks from trampling and the cattle from getting stuck in muskrat holes and unstable banks. Streambank restoration helps improve water quality in the river by reducing sedimentation, erosion, and nutrient runoff from unstable banks.

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FRC is now moving into phase 2 of the streambank restoration project, moving to the next priority property along the river. Issues on this property include severe bank degradation, muskrat holes and cattle trampling, and a lack of native vegetation. Addressing these issues will require stock watering facilities, cattle exclusion fencing, and a major revegetation effort to stabilize the streambank. We are looking forward to continuing this work which is fully part of FRC’s mission to its mission to preserve the biological, scenic, cultural and agricultural heritage of the Fall River Valley by conserving for present and future generations the Valley’s extraordinary lands, waters and wildlife resources. We strongly believe working agricultural landscapes are an integral part of the heritage and future of the Fall River Valley that need to be preserved as well.

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Three Years of PIT tagging – What have we learned?

/ December 15th, 2016 / 1 Comment »

In 2013, the Fall River Conservancy, California Trout, the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife launched the Fall River Wild Trout Pit Tagging Program. It’s been three years since the PIT tagging program was launched and thus far it has provided a wealth of interesting data that will be useful for management decisions to keep this fishery healthy.

How much data have we collected?

  • Completed 5 PIT Tagging events, and tagged 1859 native Fall River trout with Passive Integrated Transponders (PIT tags)
  • Measured all 1859 trout’s length, weight, and growth rates. The average fork length for Fall River rainbow trout to date is 12 inches!
  • Photographed each fish, and taken fin samples for genetic analysis at the UC Davis genetic lab
  • In 2015-16, four additional PIT detection arrays have been installed at strategic locations on the Fall River.

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Program Findings: Genetically different sub-populations of Fall River Trout

Analysis of the genetic data has determined that there are genetically different sub populations of Rainbow trout in the Fall River.  These sub-populations encounter each other in the main Fall River system, but are segregated in spawning locations with very little gene flow between populations.

UC Davis researchers estimate that the Fall River trout system has two distinct spawning locations:

  • 70-100% fish that spawn in spring-fed habitat and
  • 0-30% fish that spawn in snowmelt-dominated habitat, depending on water year and Bear Creek spawning ground availability.

Different Spawning Timing between Bear Creek and Spring Sub-Populations:

The PIT detection arrays have observed 328 fish (17.6%) of the PIT tagged fish, in over 250,000 individual detections by these fish.  This has allowed researchers to estimate spawning initiation and duration periods.

  1. The Bear Creek subpopulation has been observed spawning in the standard spring time spawning period for rainbow trout – late February through March.
  2. However, in the spring-fed spawning group in the Fall River, spawning has been observed from September to June.

As a result of these spawning patterns, we see distinct age classes in the size distributions of snowmelt spawning fish, but not the spring-fed spawning fish, which are able to breed over a longer period.

What is driving distinctly different spawning periods for the two sub-populations of trout?

The genetically distinct sub-populations of Fall River fish experience different hydrological conditions, and understanding these conditions will ultimately lead to better management.

The spring-fed system has a consistent year-round flow of cool, nutrient-rich water that has allowed diversification of spawning timing in the spring-fed spawning group. This group is constrained by area but not by water condition. With good water conditions and access to spawning grounds year-round, this population is resilient to climatic conditions and can support the fishery during harsh droughts.

The snowmelt spawning group, in contrast, is constrained by the timing of snowmelt, but has additional spawning habitat. The reliance on snowmelt on variable availability of water leads to a “boom or bust” style pattern which leaves this sub-population especially vulnerable to prolonged drought and changing climate.

Multi-year drought has caused perilous conditions for Bear Creek fish, as the creek was disconnected from the Fall River early in the season. This stranded many adults and it is likely that there was too short of a time period for juveniles from Bear Creek to outmigrate. The years 2013, 2014, and 2015 could be a little to zero recruitment years for Bear Creek. UC Davis researchers collected fin clips for genetic analysis on adult mortalities retrieved by DFW, and the morts were scanned for PIT tags – surprisingly, none had PIT tags.

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Wild Trout Monitoring Program Results

/ December 18th, 2015 / Comments Off on Wild Trout Monitoring Program Results

History of the Wild Trout Monitoring Program:

In 2013, the Fall River Conservancy, California Trout, the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife launched the Fall River Wild Trout Pit Tagging Program. To date, the team has tagged and collected genetic analysis on 1561 Fall River rainbow trout with passive integrated responders, or P.I.T. tags, that help researcher’s track the movement of wild trout throughout the river.

For each fish, we measure fork length, take photographs, insert a uniquely identifiable PIT tag, and take a small fin clip for genetic analysis in a UC Davis laboratory. We then release the fish unharmed at the same location where they were captured.

Now that we have tagged over 1500 fish, there is some early data to look at:

Now that we have accomplished several tagging “events” we occasionally recapture fish that already have tags in them. This is particularly exciting because it gives us insight into the growth rates of that particular fish, and for Fall River trout in general. Slides 1 and 2 below  summarize the fork lengths for all wild rainbow trout that been tagged to date in slide 1, and the growth rates of the “recaptured” fish in slide 2. One thing we know for sure is that Fall River trout grow extremely fast: a 2013 eight inch trout almost doubled in size in just over a year!

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Another exciting part of this research is learning about how trout move through-out the springs and rivers that make up the Fall River Watershed. Slide 3 below shows where current PIT tagging arrays exist on the Fall River. These arrays are what detect the unique PIT tags within the tagged fish as they swim by.

 

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As of October, 2015, 188 (12%) of the 1561 tagged fish have been detected at least once at the 1000 Springs, Bear Creek, or Graybarn PIT arrays since the arrays were installed in February, 2014. This is shown in slide 4.Slide8

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The more that the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences gets into this data, the more there is to learn. Each time one of the arrays picks up a unique fish ID as it swings by, it helps to identify patterns in individual fish behavior (such as redd building or staging before Beak Creek migration) and/or group social behavior (such as spawning aggregations). An example of this is depicted in slides 5 and 6. Slide13

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Wild Trout Monitoring Program Moving Forward

These results are only the tip of the iceburg as far as what will be unveiled as our data collection and analysis are expended. The Fall River Conservancy and our important partners CalTrout, UC Davis and CDFW are committed to ensuring that important research like this continues on the Fall River so that we can better understand the ecological issues with real science findings. To ensure this happens, we need your continued support to ensure we make this program happen in 2016 and beyond.

 

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FRC Launches Major Stream-bank Restoration Project

/ September 29th, 2015 / Comments Off on FRC Launches Major Stream-bank Restoration Project

Stream-bank Restoration:

River and stream restoration involves the modification of a disturbed condition to re-establish physical channel and bank features of riparian plant communities bordering a particular river or stream reach. On the Fall River, stream-bank restoration is a priority conservation issue due to the severity and frequency of highly degraded and eroding stream-banks through-out the watershed. One of the central issues of concern is that the Fall River lacks a healthy riparian corridor where riparian trees and shrubs stabilize the banks, shade the river and provide habitat for birds and other species of wildlife. Picture2

It can be problematic for riparian vegetation to establish and grow in many areas in the river, especially where cattle graze and have un-restricted access to the river for water. At the Fall River Conservancy, it is the goal of our stream-bank restoration program to restore these riparian areas, while also working with farmers to ensure the needs of their cattle and their herds are met. We believe that true conservation comes from partnerships that create mutually beneficial outcomes.

Developing Mutually Beneficial Solutions to Conservation Issues:

For farmers across the United States and in the Fall River Valley, ensuring cool, clean and reliable access to water for livestock is one of the most important considerations for herd management. When livestock are allowed access to drink directly from the river, there can often be negative consequences for the river and the cattle themselves. It is common for cattle to trample and erode stream bottoms, stream banks, and stream-side IMG_0377 (2)vegetation as they seek water to cool themselves and drink. Overall, this can result in increased sediment, erosion and nutrient runoff, while decreasing stream-bank stability. On the Fall River, the issue of cattle trampling is compounded by the presence of massive muskrat burrows that collapse when trampled by cows repeatedly. Collapsed muskrat holes and unstable banks can be problematic for cattle because of the increased likelihood of leg injuries, or issues regarding cattle getting “stuck” in collapsed holes.

One solution to these issues are to work with willing landowners to put in cattle exclusion fences, and stock-watering troughs. The riparian fencing restricts (either permanently, or intermittently) cattle from accessing the river, and instead provides reliable clean and cool water at stock-watering troughs that are located off of the river. This creates a conservation practice that is mutually beneficial for all partners, and allows the riparian corridor to re-establish trees, shrubs and ecological function.Picture1

 

Prioritizing Project Locations:

The first step in assessing stream-bank restoration needs was to complete an assessment of bank-damage in the river. The Fall River Conservancy mapped the river on a coarse level by assessing visually the perceived stream-bank damage through-out the river. This was an important step that helped us identify where priority conservation actions are needed, and how we could work with landowners to create meaningful conservation solutions. It is important to note that streambank damage in the Fall River is not only attributed to cattle, but a multitude of natural and non-natural factors that in concert contribute to the overall health of streambanks.Picture3

Project Identification and Goals:

After prioritizing several areas of the river for stream-bank restoration, the Fall River Conservancy began working with conservation partners to assess where we could create meaningful restoration for the river. In partnership with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), we began working with a willing landowner on the Fall River, who was open to put in cattle exclusion fencing, stock-watering facilities and riparian planting on their property. This is a great example of the Fall River committing to its mission IMG_0382 (2)to preserve the biological, scenic, cultural and agricultural heritage of the Fall River Valley by conserving for present and future generations the Valley’s extraordinary lands, waters and wildlife resources. We strongly believe working agricultural landscapes are an integral part of the heritage and future of the Fall River Valley that need to be preserved as well. It is with this partnership moving forward that the Fall River Conservancy has committed to:

  • fencing over 3.5 miles of degraded stream-banks on the Fall River
  • replacing river access for cattle with stock-watering facilities
  • replanting riparian shrubs and trees

We are excited to put your conservation dollars to work on this important project and we look forward to providing updates as this project progresses.

 

 

 

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Fall River Food Web Dynamics and Wild Trout

/ September 29th, 2015 / Comments Off on Fall River Food Web Dynamics and Wild Trout

Partners in Conservation

The Fall River Conservancy partners with a variety of organizations to leverage conservation dollars, and ensure the best scientific minds are tackling the issues at hand. One important relationship is with the USDA Western Regional Research Center who has been partnering with the Fall River Conservancy to analyze the food web dynamics on the Fall River.

Fall River Conservancy has been actively involved by providing on-the-river support. FRC founding Board Member Art Teter has been collecting fish gut contents from wild trout on the Fall River for several seasons now. By pumping the gut and preserving the contents, researchers are able to find out what macro-invertebrates, or bugs, the fish have been eating. This information is critically important in understanding what species of macro-invertebrates are being seen on the Fall River still, and their relative abundance. It also helps researchers understand food web dynamics on the Fall River.

Here are the general findings:

The data indicate that fish gut contents at the upstream most site are dominated by Baetid and Ephemerellid mayflies. Samples from the next three sites downstream were dominated by Chironomid (midge) pupae and larvae. Samples from the downstream most two sites were dominated by Baetid and Ephemerellid mayflies as well as endemic snails (Fluminicola seminalis). Data summarized on the map below was collected in Spring 2015.

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Management Implications for the Fall River:

Why is this important? The Fall River Conservancy is interested in assessing the health of the food web dynamics on the Fall River. We have heard from our members and conservation partners that macro-invertebrate diversity and abundance is “not what it used to be”. Our approach to these observations is to engage the scientific community, and fund applied research that will help shape our understanding of these important observations with the goal of creating an adaptive management plan to address these issues.

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The Fall River Conservancy is currently putting together a cross-disciplinary team of researchers and applied scientists to begin research on IMG_2452the Fall River to look at aquatic vegetation, sedimentation, macro-invertebrate density and abundance, and water quality to help to answer these questions.

(Art Teter, FRC Board Member and Jeff Cook, Spring Rivers Ecological Sciences surveying the condition of aquatic vegetation in the Fall River. Summer 2015)

 

Over the coming months, the Fall River Conservancy will develop a comprehensive study plan to:

  • Assess the health and vigor of the aquatic macroinvertebrate populations in Fall River
  • Assess water quality in Fall River from the top to bottom of the reach as well as from the top to bottom of the water column at monitoring locations
  • Establish some water quality monitoring stations at particular points of interest where some of the localized conditions could be most affected by combined factors
  • Assess the condition of rooted macrophytes (aquatic vegetation) in the Fall River

Stay tuned to find out more as these research progresses over the following months.

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FRC’s Wild Trout PIT Tag Program Getting Noticed

/ April 28th, 2015 / Comments Off on FRC’s Wild Trout PIT Tag Program Getting Noticed

Recently the Fall River Conservancy’s Wild Trout Monitoring Program and our partnership with UC Davis, CalTrout and CDFW has received some great coverage.

Check out the feature article on the Fall River Conservancy in CalTrout’s Spring 2015 issue of The Current (click on the picture below):

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Watch this time-lapse video of what 45 minutes of Wild Trout Tagging looks like taken by UC Davis (click on the picture below):

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Fall River Supporters Step-up For The River

/ December 19th, 2014 / Comments Off on Fall River Supporters Step-up For The River

2014 FRC Fundraiser Success:

As we fast approach the holiday season, it is undoubtedly time to reflect on the year past. For the Fall River Conservancy, this year has been one of fishing, scientific research, strengthening our partnerships, and of course, securing funding to expand our conservation work.  In September of this year the Fall River Conservancy hosted the 2nd Fall River Conservancy fundraiser at the Family Club in San Francisco, and it was undeniably a success- all thanks to you. The night was memorable for many reasons, but largely because of those who made the great effort to be there to support the river they know and love.

Securing the Future of the Fall RiverPicture2

For those who weren’t there with us, some highlights from the night included: watching our 2014 Fall River Conservancy video, hearing about our conservation strategy moving forward from our new FRC Board Chairman Dave Powell, Sr., an update from our scientific partners at UC Davis Watershed Sciences Center, and recognition of the new California Trout Executive Director Curtis Knight. California Trout has been an important partner of the Fall River Conservancy since the beginning, and we are proud to have CalTrout’s support moving forward under Curtis’ leadership.

FRC Fundraiser Goal Matched with National Fish and Wildlife Funding

All in all, it was a great night and we thank you all for standing behind the Fall River Conservancy to make the work that we do possible. Due to the generosity of our donors and supporters, we raised over at $75,000 at this years fundraiser, and we have already matched this with grant-funds from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. This marks a great opportunity moving forward in 2015 and beyond for the Fall River Conservancy to expand it’s conservation mission by continuing to fund and support important conservation research that will lead to on-the-ground restoration of the Fall River.

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1300 Wild Fall River Trout Tagged for Monitoring and Genetic Analysis

/ December 19th, 2014 / Comments Off on 1300 Wild Fall River Trout Tagged for Monitoring and Genetic Analysis

History of the Wild Trout Monitoring Program:

In 2013, the Fall River Conservancy and it’s partners California Trout, the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife launched the Fall River Wild Trout PIT Tagging Program. To date, the team has tagged and collected genetic analysis on 1300 Fall River rainbow trout with passive integrated responders, or P.I.T. tags, that help researcher’s track the movement of fish throughout the river. 

For each fish, fork length was measured, a photograph was taken, a uniquely identifiable PIT Tag was inserted, and a small fin clip was taken for genetic analysis.  The fish are then released unharmed at the same location they were captured.

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Wild Trout Monitoring Program Highlights to Date:

  • Tagged, measured and taken genetic samples of 1300 Fall River rainbow trout
  • In the latest round of tagging, researchers “recaptured” four already tagged fish and learned that Fall River trout grow extremely fast: a 2013 eight inch trout almost doubled in size in just over a year!
  • For each fish, UC Davis researchers isolated DNA from its fin clip and then used cutting-edge DNA sequencing technology to decode its genetic information
  • Built upon the important conservation relationship with CalTrout, UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife

Early Genetic Research Findings:

  • The most obvious and striking result from our initial genetic analysis is that the Fall River contains two very genetically distinct populations of rainbow trout._DSC3325
  • These races essentially behave as independent populations with very little genetic exchange.
  • By cross referencing the genetics with  movement and collection location data, we determined that one population corresponds to fish that reproduce in Bear Creek and the other is fish that spawn within the spring-fed system.

 Another interesting result is that these two populations are not only genetically differentiated, but the genetic patterns demonstrate they are also adaptively differentiated with distinct growth rates:

  • Fish from the Bear Creek population contain gene variants that will make them grow faster than the spring-fed population. This is likely necessary to compensate for the colder water temperatures experienced by Bear Creek fish early in their life.

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Wild Trout Monitoring Program Moving Forward:

These results are only the tip of the iceberg as far as what will be unveiled as our genetic data collection and analysis are expended. The Fall River Conservancy, and it’s partners, are committed to ensuring that important research like this continues on the Fall River so that we can better understand the ecological issues with real science findings. To ensure this happens, the Fall River Conservancy has secured funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to continue this important work in the next couple years. Stay tuned for future FRC updates to stay abreast as this ground-breaking research project unfolds.

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2015 Stream-bank Restoration Planning and Mapping

/ December 19th, 2014 / Comments Off on 2015 Stream-bank Restoration Planning and Mapping

Fall River Stream-bank and Riparian Restoration

Two of the most concerning watershed-wide limiting factors for healthy wild trout populations on the Fall River are stream-bank erosion and the lack of riparian vegetation. Riparian vegetation is locally sparse, and banks are actively eroding due to decades of heavy grazing, lack of stabilizing plants and burrowing by introduced muskrats.

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Habitat Restoration Objectives

  1. Improve and protect water quality and quantity
  2. Sustain and improve aquatic and riparian (river bank) habitat
  3. Restore and improve stream channel and river bed
  4. Improve health and abundance of wild trout populations and other priority species

2014/2015 Fall River Conservancy Actions: 

In 2014 the Fall River Conservancy began work towards implementing photo 1 (2)stream-bank restoration efforts on the Fall River:

  1. Developed Fall River Conservancy stream-bank restoration committee
  2. Completed pilot restoration project on the CalTrout Island Road property
  3. Mapped important reaches of the Fall River for priority restoration sites
  4. Developed a comprehensive list of all potential riparian restoration projects
  5. Assessed permitting and environmental documentation needs

2015 Stream-bank Restoration:

In 2015, the Fall River Conservancy will prioritize stream-bank restoration projects for implementation based on those sites with the most severe degradation issues and that have the potential to have the greatest impact on the river. We will then work with the community, landowners and our project partners to develop the scope of the projects and ensure they meet the needs of all river uses. With projects developed, we will complete environmental permitting needs towards implementing our top priority sites in 2015.

With your continued support and funding we will be able to make to the long-term conservation and ecological health of the Fall River in 2015 and beyond. Look for future news updates that will inform you about the river restoration projects we will implement in 2015.

 

 

 

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