Salt River Restoration
This episode is brought to you in part by the folks over at native ecosystems native ecosystems incorporated as a full service ecological restoration firm based in humble county california. They focus their work on the restoration of altered. Ecosystems and design and implementation projects that restore ecosystem function providing critical habitat for flora fauna and humans. They provide assistance with all aspects of restoration projects from the design and planning phase alway through the construction maintenance and monitoring their staff has experienced designing and implementing habitat restoration projects throughout california and the pacific northwest a specialize in preparing wetland oak woodland and grassland restoration. They are biologist. Ecologist and ecological labor's native ecosystems is a california licensed contractor and certified ecological restoration practitioner. I have personally seen the work. they do. Not only are they professional. They truly care about what they do. Welcome to another installment of resonant restoration amir moderator delving into drams and diagram ecological disturbance down dapper speed project-based delicatessen in the form of restoration projects. The way my name is shawn. And we're bringing you this podcast. From traditional territory and humble county california it is paramount to understand how we interact with land in our everyday life and in our histories futures mixed in with the past and the present. The goal of restoration is often to return to conditions. Crear million pre settlement or those reference conditions are entwined with indigenous land management practices excited for this episode. We're looking at large-scale riverina restoration project that in close proximity location. Although it was recorded on soon because all that stuff going on. They're aiming our restoration labeled go carts to the area ferndale. California salt river is where. We're going and doreen hanson from the humboldt county resource conservation district is going to be leading our virtual vacant. It's a multi phase project spans seven miles. This episode is brought to you by the lovely supporters over at patriotic. When they're helping we continue to go down. These rabbit holes explore restoration projects around the world. Thank you to j. michael simone. Arnie and garin. This show is also brought to you by you are wonderful listeners. We will also post a longer addition of this episode dimitri on for our subscribers information conversation i hate not to have it out in the inter. Ether web another way to support us the telephone about her show. We also now have pay pal button on our website. I resident restoration dot com. If you want to support the show bit. Don't let the sound of recurring donation and we are starting to create video. Can't find on our youtube channel. Next goal is to get a drone to get some electable overhead footage of restoration efforts. Now that we got those pesky logistics out of the way. Let's move on. Let's talk about what's blooming phonology. We're bringing it back. Bring the segment back as say it is the timing variation the patterns and they're always going to look at plus. We are quickly full. Sprinting towards springtime. I don't know if that i was gonna say gopher it's not a go for. I don't know if that groundhog thought shadow or not but that doesn't really matter. It's a wonderful time of year. I've also noticed that it's a good time to look at creeping bent. Grass grasses which is bent grass is for difficult identification one of the traits that distinguishes creeping bent grass. Is that observation of the stolen. 's above ground runners. Sometimes it's not all that apparent especially in crowded grassland communities with compacted soils and other disturbances right. Now they're making a break for it and it seems to be more apparent as far as what is blooming around here. I have seen bermuda. Sorrel a bright yellow non-native that one might mistakenly called clover. It does not produce seeds but forms many persistent bulbs and as an invasive rank of moderate. The cal p another non native that is blooming is vinca major another early season plant. It's also known as periwinkle. This one can be especially problematic and riparian zones it can sprout from fragments and forms robust clusters crowding out native plants. It has invasive rank of moderate for grasses. I haven't seen much blooming. Notice that the non native sweet vernal grass is starting to flour or barley was coming up in one location as well. Common harbinger of spring are cicis or daffodil has been making some appearances as well. Another harbinger and native. Plant is cardini california or milkmaids. I also recently read that. The flower closes its pedals in the late afternoon and will bend before rain to protect. Paul and who heads is pretty amazing. If i don't say so myself this is a great time of year for watching phonology. I love seeing the season progress lately. When i've been walking my dog i've been opting for alleys for one. Delectable reason people don't tend to mow or manage their alley interfaces as much as their front yards is a great way to see what grasses are in your neighborhood and see what potential non native plants might be in the vicinity right and moving on. Let's see what's going on with the resource conservation district over in ferndale california with the salt river. Get at it paid or powder as one might be inclined to say prior to a transition and welcome to the podcast. We have doreen from the rtd. And can you tell us a little bit about your background and your self everybody. I'm during johnson. A work for the humboldt county resource conservation strict a roundabout way Getting into this particular type of resource habitat restoration. I actually Roger waited with an advanced degree in and natural resource economics. And i was really interested in marine fisheries in worked in that or about ten years after my my degree and i ended up having to work for the forest service up in the sierras and started doing a lot of fishery work there but more stream stream restoration stream monitoring and then came into the humble area and worked. Ihs you for a while. I was an associate professor and also an associate researcher and some marine fisheries than kinda bounced back and forth and then ended up at the humboldt county resource conservation district being a watershed coordinator doing a lot of monitoring coordination That dealt with the cherie stream restoration and so just seems like some of my background was able to work with work with a lot of resource oriented folks who basically used the land. Use the ocean and you know make their livelihood off about and you know you are impacting resources so we need to make sure that we're being careful around things. We can sustain gain either fish and wildlife and sustain likely at and i worked with the humble county are cd for a little bit. A temporary seasonal. You know just having fun watching construction happen. And i really enjoyed it so i'm a little biased towards the ours cd and i think he has great work. Great with all that derek with rescue stations. Perfect i was just looking back at a bunch of old pictures. I had For this episode. And i have a bunch of pictures of the piles of dirt. Recently we did have an episode with california association of resource conservation districts talking about virtual conferences. And things like that but for those who didn't hear that can you explain a little more. About what an rc. D. is because it is kinda confusing. It's not governmental but it is governmental. Ray yeah an impact me a couple of years to figure out. What are we a nonprofit. 'cause we work a nonprofit in some ways and so the are. Cd is basically estate agency. It's special district it's through. The state. oftentimes most are cds yet funding through property taxes however are cd formed in the late nineteen eighty s. And either we weren't proof. Were using the property taxes at that time or we were too late and that are or of directors and our cds are all governed by their board of directors. So six nine two from bosses that i have in their usually landowners and those border directors opted not to take any tax on hayne as well so we operate under of hooghly grant faced funding situation. Which can be challenging at times which makes us focused on very certain projects in their special districts that her all across california. If you're part of a community water distinct that's a special district. They do exist in different forms. That are cds. There are cds pretty much in every single county and every single state irresponsible. I formed as the soil conservation district during the dust bowl era and has all evolved into the resource conservation. Awesome and we're here to talk about a large project you guys have been doing for a number of years called the salt river ecosystem restoration project. Is that correct. That's right. I i always have to think about it. Can you kind of talk about the history of the salt river. And what are the sources of impacts and why. You guys are doing that project. Salt river is located in the eel river delta. It's basically the eel rivers last. Tributary before it ops on into the shan and the salt river is really more like a slew. Channel at its headwaters are in its tributaries and there's about five different tributaries that feed the saw river dot com out of the wildcat hills near ferndale that certain geologic area is merely highly orissa. And there's so much cinematic coming out of the wildcat hills that it's basically one of the highest sediment loads in all of the united states so Historically the salt river and all its tributaries would sorta me on your across the entire flood plain of the eel river delta areas with filipowicz sediment and tributaries we just kinda move around and make this really beautiful thing and as settlement started happening in the mid eighteen in that area people kinda needed that service security of knowing where are tributary was gonna go and where the salt river was gonna go so they really wanted those places to be stack. Some of them would build houses right along rivers and tributaries like everybody wants to have riverfront property. They also started What they call claiming or claiming the estuary area of the river delta that start cutting off blood a tidal prism and so previously sediment in the area used to just not flow onto the land and deposit or could be easily transported out the tributaries and the salt river out to the eel and then out into the ocean. But as you have more and more folks working up in the hills in the wildcats area that already has tremendous backgrounds of sediment lead into the tributaries people wanting to keep those combined into their channels and a lot of those channels. Go along people Property lines now. You have straight runs of channel. Though what's been happening i would say over. The last seventy years is the salt river had agreed with sediment build an and filled in and filled. and where there really wasn't a channel through a majority about seven miles of the channel out of the thirteen there and then a lot of those tributaries that feed the salt river. We're starting to go to greeted incised. A lot of these tributaries are disconnected from the salt. River sabet started flowing. Oliver people's properties as well basically the whole hydrologic system became dysfunctional and people were starting to get really really impacted. Single year. casseus a little rain. That happens every year. One to two enshrines with just fled people's houses of people's properties. There's a lot of erie's down. There has usually in the summer like this beautiful pastoral grassy grasslands and during the winter it's it's a lot of ponding and that finding can persist up to seventy eight months which caused a lot of economic abbott and roads get closed for many months as well. And there's a issues with us or emergency vehicles. And in fact the reason why they are seeing this is because the landowners in that area got together and said they needed a needed some solution for the salt river and developed the first rcd humboldt county. Hannah is called the ill. River are cd and then later on about ten years later. Warm back more formal. Humble county our cd. So when did the projects for the salt river start. When did you hit the ground running so really back a little bit. So it's that. I'm in the late. Nineteen eighties through our cd form announced. Start the salt river project minnesota. It was thirty years in the making of dubin. Studies doing studies doing studies and along a monitoring a lot of fundraising a lot of planning eventually working with the community working with agencies lot of regulatory agencies and then finally getting all the permits and the funding lined up. The salt river finally dug its first load of dirt in two thousand thirteen in fifteen we started with The lowest part of the project which was down in an estuary. So just to give you background on. What the project totally is it is. It covers seven miles of the excavating river channel. Along with associative flood plains. And that's all trying to keep the water in the river and that it doesn't jump out and go all over people's properties and then an also provides the phone or flooded properties to drain into and so there's seven miles of restored channel bus in the ashbury portion where you're getting closer to the mouth of the eel it used to be historically a An organic area and that was always really fighting hard with sort of like the the wetland features that really wanted to be there to the east of the estuary. So we've restored about three hundred acres of an adjacent to the salt as well and that kind of all kind of works together. The designers of this project were pretty amazing on what they could. They would use restoration features or the story is very very important. Part of keeping the whole system. I'm not too familiar with the estuary design. I've been out there. And i remember know. It's it's beautiful but was there any design or reinforcement put into the design to kinda hold the estuary still. Or how do you prevent that meander that would occur from sediment right. You don't want it to migrate towards people's property because all around the project area Are working dairyland or at least cattle ranching. Eric reclaimed tidal areas as well. And they're fighting just as hard with a lot of the weltman features they want to keep those in production and so in order for the project to basically function as an estuary but not impact the landowners next door. There was a two mile setback from built along the land side of the perimeter of the project area in heaps a saltwater from intruding into other people's property and then within asked Portion is there used to be a lot of levees dikes that were built to keep the salt river front flooding into the pasture lands. And so we remove a lot of those levees and dikes in that area. We removed a tide gate as well also and then recreated using a lot of the Sleep features that were already present on the land we can enhance those and belted out. Miles of slough channel have brings 'em titled waters and brackish water into that system. So yeah everything's really well contained. We don't have that migration of of tidal marsh wanna purpose weren't intending to participate. Yeah this project was an excellent example of balancing habitat and stakeholders it's I was amazed to see how well people work together and the effort that went into you know putting that emphasis on stakeholders and getting solutions on the ground. So can you speak. What are the major goals of the project. yeah The major goals is really to return object functionality back to the watershed entire saw river watershed was optional. It's part of it's delicious. 'cause we you know. This is a really big projects or not quite finished. We have about a mile laughed. And we've been working almost every year to restore a portion of the river. We start from the bottom and move our way up and so over the last seven eight years. We've been plugging away so restoring hydrologic functionality. Back to the area which means you know getting the rivers connected again giving the tributaries connected to the salt river developing that drainage once again and providing fish and wildlife habitat and primarily fish passage. Is you have the project and the salt river. The whole ill- lower eel river estuary. A lot of those estuary lands have been converted to areas. And so were used to be like this incredible salmane Reporting habitat area a lot of. That's a lawsuit so we've been seeing that every time we restore portion be the tidal estuary or even just a movie like a mile up the river every single year. Maybe we don't connect to a tributary. They're still water in the channel. We every year we find coho chinook other steelhead juvenile's in areas that the had been in for at least fifty years so it's pretty impressive. It is true when you build a official come and we've been we've been finding every single year so definitely fish and wildlife habitat. Shawn's like a total. And i like plants that i don't know as much plant habitat but certainly The salt river even didn't really exist because it was completely a great. There was some right karan corridor in that area. The right curium corridor had sort of evolved into this really homogeneous willow thicket and maybe there might have been some older so the project is trying to bring in a lot more diverse species having different Canopy layer and we're hoping that bringing also bringing in this new right korean buffer zone not only helps a lot of coho it also or and other fish of course not only. Does it help like if in that were Hoping not diverse. Plant how it will help him. Climate change because some native species will be more resilient than others. So we're hoping that a planting with more than maybe just two species of criterion A lot longer and be more healthy. Yeah that brings up the idea of redundancy and trying to bolster your bulwarks if you will and you know have those safeguards in place were you know. You don't know how things are going to go into the future and you want that redundancy to provide some offer you know the cost to date for the project it's a lot. It's a lot a lot. I mean the the studies. I can't even imagine almost thirty years of studies and permitting planning how many millions of dollars have gone into that each year. It seems like what just construction itself and the planning for that. Construction season is about real million dollars. So how many years we've done at least six years so at least eighteen million dollars is probably definitely has gone into that so it's expensive and then some of that funding has also more on the flood prevention or drainage side of things and resiliency and not has been proving to work so just to quickly get a little bit more each section of the project as it gets built. We see the system really really functioning. Well there is last ponding and flooding areas. The salt river that used to be not even present is now able to deliver a lot of water and sediment back out to the ill river so we're not having a lot of flooding out of the salt river itself whereas will use to just get flooding immediately. It's definitely we're seeing Folks who have thought they would have to get out of their agricultural business because they were bidding flooded annually and they were really tired of it after. The salt river was constructed in their area in the experienced. Drainage offered a really long time of not having any drainage they have reinvested in their agricultural operations. Emily nice to see them. Visually older folks who have a maybe adult children who are really happy to be able to give that agricultural operations assets and see us continue on our generations ice so circling back a little bit too with all that sediment moving through what has been the strategy for containing it in the salt river. This strategy is there's multiple prongs to that one is to try to control it at the source so we've been partnering with the resource conservation service which is an our cs for the acronym. They work with a lot of private landowners. Everywhere and netflix. They work with a lot of private landowners in the upper watershed of river. Where a lot of that sediment originate. So they do a road rehabilitation. They do a lot of banks ability projects with landowners. Fancying keeping cattle out of the streams in that has helped a bit with the sediment coming down though there's just backgrounds gets a lot of it and it's hard to control that and so there's always going to be side of coming down those tributaries into the salt river though we are developing these things called sediment management areas in your also called sediment basins basically an area where you kind of slow down the waters in very strategic places and those areas will fill up with sediment and then the resulting water coming out of that sentiment management area or based will become More clean and less turbine with sediment so we have these catchment areas where we know the sediment is going to be captured and we ban during maybe the summertime or something when we see that these areas are getting filled up with sediment and those are manually mechanically we're just capturing sediment in the lower watershed upon It used to function in a more controlled manner. That's where people who live in this area. We have to control. It's going on right. So catchment basins really really help with capturing lot thousands tens of thousands of cheek yards of sediment. Sometimes they philip and when year depending on how severe winters with the amount of rain. That's coming down which triggers a lot of sediment lead into the tributaries and sometimes it takes three years to fill it up we. We've built one very large one on this creek called francis and it's been dugout two times this past year it actually only build maybe a quarter of the way so we kind of were letting it sit and see what happens this year. The shears a little weather than we thought it was. We thought it was going to be more of drought era. But we've been having significant wanted to enshrine event so we keep an eye on it and see if we need to figure that out this year so okay. so that's one. Sediment management areas is one way to capture sediment and not let it go into the salt river. 'cause we try to put these sediments the sentence in tributaries before into the salt river and in another way that we manage settlement is by developing these very large flood plains adjacent to the river channel and they split planes fill up with turbine water and a lot of the water will go onto the flood. Things slow down a lot of that sentiment drops out and returns back into the river channel cleaner so those are two two ways so the planes in the sediment management and really the third way is just the design of the channel itself. There is a main active channel that carries the water through most of the year and that channel is designed in a way to a small enough to keep that velocity going and keeping transport transported settlements occurring that also big enough to where you have enough volume to transport sediment more on the design. Can you talk about what features have been included for habitat. Not only are we building a river like a river channel for fish. So i'm assuming you're talking about fish. How not so a week. Do you have these features in the channel which you see most amnesty russian projects as well is we have a lot of wood structures that are put in the channel with structures that serve two purposes a sickly fish it provides habitat provides cover 'em allies which structures will scour nice deep pools for them but the structures are also laced in strategic areas of the channels to move water around where we want them to. So say there's any somewhat structures at the entrance of lead plane and so when waters get really high as which structures push the water out onto the flood plain to flood not up Sediment raw their structures for that were fish in that one habitat component we also on some of the connections to tributaries the way those tributaries come in to be at a higher slope when they get into the salt river. So we've been developing weirs basically juncal's that allow fish to be able to us over from the salt river and up to one of the two. So there's a lot of design in those jump cools that gets there and then sometimes we have off channel habitat and they're just like small little alcoves that are doug on the side of the channel the refugee area especially with high velocities when the flow gets pretty high so they can sufficient jump jump off to the side. And just kinda hang out. And there's usually would structure in there and not provide just some rusting habitat for them as well in the asteroid portion again. There's more which structures down there but there's also a lot of that. Sorta off channel habitat. We utilized a lot of previous relationships dairy ditches and let those persists we didn't fill them and so that's a lot off channel habitat. That's pretty extensive. So those tend to get a lot of a lot of fish hanging out there especially a lot of smaller ones like tightwad obese or an endangered fish. That seems to persist in the area now. Yeah and just a letter. Recruitment and so with all the work you've done and on the sections that have been completed have you. What are the results. What are the flood impacts. Now are better drainage you know. What have you seen return. As far as fish or other species. We are seeing that. This is really draining draining. Well but a pastures aren't underwater as much on then we also we see a lot of drainers. Leads will still happen. Especially when the river gets really high but those impacts don't persist as long as they used to Like i said if they could be underwater pastures could be underwater are inaccessible or multiple months out of the air. And now we're getting off and a week if it's about athletics season or less. Actually we're not seen as much flooding in the immediate area around the salt river because they're actually the river there so that has been really hopeful as well as far as like fish and wildlife goes especially in the estuary titled worship. We've been not only doing a lot of fish monitoring but we've also been doing a lot of heard honoring and so previously. We had a lot of sort of pastoring birds and the tidal marsh area. Because it was a it was a dairyman. It has completely evolved into a lot of waterfowl and brands case down there in aleutian geese as well they like pastures. We're getting a lot of waterfowl. Shore birds down there and and it seems like we have a lot more diversity in the areas where we are starting to develop more and more ripe parent the diverse pantene calif but then of course the exciting part i think is the fish as we are getting so many coho coming up last year where we left off construction. We left off in with a large pool. And that pool contained three hundred fifteen cocoa juvenile's. Yeah that's really exciting to hear what have been some of the lessons learned. Oftentimes they feel like i'm working with landowners are the key components of this whole situation. I mean they. They are the ones who are allowing us project to happen on their properties. Sometimes these landowners are more elderly so they have Representatives represent them in the family and then of course the patriarch to make your are the ones who have the last day and so really trying to keep them in. The conversation i feel is really really needed for sure and to keep them up to speed about what's feasible not feasible also another big Into my another lesson. Learned is the expectations about for everybody. Not just for for us as the are cd but even for regulators expectations to be able to control invasive species is. I don't know how you can really do it to worry. You're getting them or not allowing them to come back said with the fish for the sacramento. No throughout the entire eel river estuary in will river. There is a point where we thought we could eradicate them from the salt river system. And it's just it's just not gonna happen. It's just you know we do it. We can we eat the nice on the ones that we come across during for surveys are known how you can get rid of them there. It's a really really heartbreaking thing and and you're just sitting your head against the wall. I think when restoration projects promised something like fat. It's it's really. I wouldn't say you're you're saying that through your teeth but it really assists not going to happen and for regulators to require that as well as unrealistic but it is heartbreaking to see some of these invasive species come in in just not having the means or the funding every single day every single year. Yeah i think. That's where adaptive management and long term maintenance have to come into play. There's really no other way. It is. Yeah and i am. What's so hard about adaptive management. I mean you can perform at the so much of it is really you need money to do. It and a lot of funding agencies are funding programs on build something the necessarily fund maintaining and. I'm hoping that day. So many areas of at least northern california will be restored and then eventually these funding programs are going to want to maintain them in the long run. Yeah definitely Having ended after management plan it gives you the framework of how to maintain that project that. Sometimes you do need that being becca. Yeah well i mean i. I hate to leave this conversation on such a sad note. Rose i'm gonna ask you one last one in that is what is your favorite plant. Oh my favorite plant. Does it have to be on the project site. No whatever you want anything. I usually plants that. Provide some sort of Reward like a free three. So i quite lie that i do battle with injury. I like that. It's especially good for avian species feel like yeah and the reckons in the sense that only fix before you even get to. I like my victory all right. Well thanks for doing this. It's been a pleasure sean. For raking out How could i talk about it. And it is a a release special project and there are definitely republic access areas. There's a number of bridges that the solver goes under so encourage anybody who's in the her area to take a peek off. Some of the brinson. See what it looks like and you guys have a website right. Yes it's it's humbled are. Cd dot org. I hope everybody stays safe healthy and happy out there and thanks for having me sean. Thanks for reaching out. Thank you the music on this. Podcast was quiet fury by the music teller you can find him at the music teller dot com the best way to support our podcast is a like minded friend or colleague. Human interaction is important. You can also visit our web page at resonant restoration dot com and sign up for our newsletter and find links to our patriot on page. You can also find us on social media such as instagram facebook and twitter so stay tuned for resonant restoration and thank you for listening.