Watershed Restoration Projects
Instream Habitat Improvement Projects
Restoring and improving instream habitat for coho salmon is by far the highest priority work that the Elk Creek Watershed Council does. In the last 10 years, we have planned and implemented more than 15 habitat improvement projects which restored more than 10 miles of coho habitat. These projects have used logs and boulders (or a combination of the two) to construct structures designed to slow water, capture gravel, and create deep pools for juvenile salmon.
Fish Passage Improvement Projects
Improving or restoring fish passage can be one of the most cost-effective restoration actions that we can do. In many cases, literally miles of suitable coho habitat can be gained by removing or replacing a single culvert. The Elk Creek Watershed Council has replaced many culverts that were blocking fish passage. Some were replaced with larger, more “fish-friendly” culverts, others with railroad cars or concrete bridges.
Riparian Improvement Projects
Riparian improvement projects generally remove invasive species such as blackberries, and replace them with native trees and shrubs. Native trees and shrubs are much more effective in stabilizing stream banks that may be eroding, and in the future, as they fall into the creek, they will provide the large wood that the stream needs to slow water and create high-quality salmon habitat. We have worked with many landowners to help control erosion and to establish a healthy riparian area along their streams. In cases where fencing was required to exclude livestock from the newly planted areas, the council worked with landowners to develop alternatives for livestock crossing and watering systems. There are also sources of state and federal cost-share funds to for these projects.
Upland Improvement Projects
Healthy uplands are important in the watershed, since this is where the water starts as rain. In well-managed pasture or forest land, the rain soaks into the soil and slowly makes it way down to the stream. In poorly-managed or over-grazed uplands, the water moves quickly through the sparse vegetation, picking up particles of soil as it goes. This sheet and rill erosion carries away the valuable topsoil making it even less productive and prone to more erosion. On steeper hillsides, with little vegetation to hold the soil, deep gullies can form.
Many of the projects that the watershed council has completed in the uplands have been to help landowners better manage their livestock. Bridges and culverts have provided for livestock crossing through fenced riparian areas, and alternative watering systems have provided clean water for livestock that previously had to enter the creek for water. One project constructed a series of check dams and grass waterways in a pasture to slow water and stop erosion in a deep gully.