Thursday, August 21, 2008

Over the Bridge and Through the Woods

Greetings, faithful readers. I've returned from an impromptu journey around California to clear my head. Another post will be forthcoming on that...

For now, I want to highlight Drew's recent work with the Mattole Salmon Group. Over the last several years, he has been planning a large restoration project involving several neighbors, agencies such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the CA Department of Fish and Game (DFG), and the National Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) to remove a 12-foot tall concrete dam and replace several culverts along our own East Mill Creek to increase usable fish habitat, particularly for coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch). It seems that our little creek once had coho salmon in it, as DFG observed them in the 1960's in their widespread survey of Mattole River tributaries. The habitat is the preferred type, relatively light gradient, and very cold water, usually in the 50's even in the heat of the summer. Coho are our most endangered salmon species (in the Mattole) because they are most sensitive to warmer water temperatures.

A useful habitat stretch of the creek has been inaccessible to fish for many years due to a concrete dam.

I'm not sure of the original owners intent, but it has been silted in at the top, and I don't care how high they can jump, salmon can not overcome twelve feet! Fisheries biologists also determined that two culvert crossings, one above the dam, and another below (our driveway creek crossing), were not large enough for a 100-year flood event. So a plan was hatched to remove the dam, and replace the crossings with concrete bridges. Drew is the project coordinator for this unique Mattole event, and wrote for grants to fund it. This project has a budget of over $300,000. Here is a photo of our driveway's creek crossing before the project started...

Just before I left for my trip, Kiernan Construction delivered the bridge parts for our road. Drew and Ella and I went down to look at them and the excavator one evening after dinner...

While I was away, the excavator operator removed the culvert and placed the bridge in two days! We now have a 20-foot wide by 20-foot long concrete bridge across East Mill Creek on our driveway!

This last shot is looking in the same direction as the before photo. This is pretty cool, I think. Drew and his crew have moved on to excavating out behind the dam. This is a big project, requiring a lot of mud to get relocated, and it involves a bulldozer and an excavator. I'll have to post some more photos as they become available. Once the mud is moved, the excavator operator will remove the dam, place rock armor along the banks, and the crew will mulch, seed, and plant trees to retain the soil. Then they will move on to replacing the other bridge, which is 40 feet long!

For the fish!

No comments: