HIGHLIGHTS OF 2019
Cutthroats Love Restored Stream, Partners Break Bread, A Multi-Year Project Wraps Up, an Ambitious New Project Breaks Ground, and More
UBC and our partners had a highly productive year. UBC funding went to several projects ranging from enhancing a small stream in the headwaters to a major riverbank restoration project on the main Blackfoot River.
Cutthroat Trout Spawning Doubles in Restored Stream
(1) and (2) Sheep Creek before and after restoration. Trout Unlimited photos
Restoring wild trout populations requires patience, sustained effort and luck. Stick with it and sometimes you’ll be rewarded with a dramatic success.
That’s what happened this year when the spawning survey by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) showed that big boost in the number of Yellowstone cutthroat trout using upper Sheep Creek.
Historically, Sheep Creek supported some of the largest numbers of spawning Yellowstone cutthroat trout found anywhere in the upper Blackfoot watershed. But the creek’s trout population went through a long decline to the point where very few fish spawned above the Lanes Creek Road.
UBC provided funding to Trout Unlimited and IDFG to restore the stream and plant willows. IDFG worked with the Bear Lake Grazing Company to provide alternative forage so the restored reach could be rested. The creek’s banks responded quickly, and its channel grew narrower and deeper. Luck came in the form of the high flows of recent years, which cleaned sediment out of spawning gravels.
The Blackfoot cutts clearly approved of the work and moved right in.
The project is not finished. The next phase of restoring Sheep Creek will focus on the meadow reach between the road and Lanes Creek.
Partners Break Bread by the River
(1) and (2) 2019 UBC field tour. UBC photos
Collaboration succeeds when people with different interests and skills pull together to achieve results that they all value. From its inception 9 years ago, UBC has focused on building partnerships with landowners, agencies, and non-profit groups that leverage its investments and make restoration happen on the ground.
The UBC’s August field tour was proof that collaboration in the Upper Blackfoot has not just stood the test of time but continues to expand its reach and grow stronger. About 50 people attended the tour, representing 19 different nonprofit groups, mining companies, congressional offices, natural resources agencies, the local grazing association, and Caribou County. Participants learned about the nuts and bolts of river restoration, enjoyed each other’s company, and left with renewed commitment to work together.
Allen Streambank Restoration Wraps Up Longstanding Project
(1) and (2) Allen streambank restoration. Trout Unlimited photos
Landowner Kent Allen knows the value of perseverance. For over four years, he has worked with the Natural Resources Conservation Service and Trout Unlimited to build a new irrigation diversion that provides fish passage and to restore fish habitat on his property along the Blackfoot River below the Narrows. The diversion project was the longest and most complex in UBC’s history.
Last fall, heavy equipment returned once more to Kent Allen’s property. This time, the work crews were recontouring the streambanks and placing wood and willow clumps that enhance habitat and bank stability along more than a half-mile of river bank.
The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and the Idaho Department of Fish and Game surveyed baseline fish population numbers within the project reach. DEQ also did a bank stability survey to determine how much erosion was occurring within the reach. That information will be very useful in post-project evaluation of the effectiveness of our work.
We thank Mr. Allen for his commitment to the project over the years.
IDFG Breaks Ground on an Ambitious Project at the Wildlife Management Area
(1) Blackfoot River Wildlife Management Area. (2) and (3) Restoration work at the 100 Tree Site. IDFG Photos.
The reach of river that flows through IDFG’s Blackfoot River Wildlife Management Area (WMA) is sinuous – full of the bends and loops characteristic of high-quality trout habitat. But take a closer look and you will see areas with eroding streambanks and streambeds with high levels of sediment. And, you’ll find relatively few undercut banks and deep pools that shelter trout. Over the last two years, IDFG has developed an ambitious project to provide the type of premier trout habitat that will draw anglers from across the region and beyond.
UBC funded the initial design work for the restoration project that will reduce erosion and restore the diverse and complex habitats that trout populations need to thrive. IDFG has since found several other funding sources to augment UBC’s investment.
Last fall, IDFG broke ground at the so-called 100 Tree site, upstream of the WMA headquarters. The agency prioritized work at this site because an eroding cut-bank there is a major sediment source affecting downstream reaches. The restoration work narrowed the stream channel, anchored trees to the bank, and recontoured the slope above the river. Click here for a fast-paced, time lapse video of the work completed this fall.
Chippy Creek Habitat Restoration Nears Completion
(1) and (2) Chippy Creek Bridge before and after. (3) Chippy Creek reconnect. (4) Chippy Creek streambank restoration. Trout Unlimited photos
The old culvert bridge across Chippy Creek in upper Lanes Creek was a long-time sore spot that produced an eroding stream channel, flooded the Lanes Creek Cut-off Road, and bled sediment into headwaters trout habitat. A cooperative project by Trout Unlimited, Caribou County, and the U.S. Forest Service replaced the culverts with a large box culvert bridge, recontoured and restored stream banks, and reconnected a cut-off oxbow. The project is now essentially complete, and the site looks great.
Diamond Creek Bridge Replaced
(1) and (2) Diamond Creek Bridge before and after. (3) Work on Diamond Creek Bridge. USFS photos
The UBC worked with the U.S. Forest Service road crew to complete the installation of a new modular concrete bridge over Diamond Creek in late October. This new structure replaced the dilapidated wooden bridge that had been causing erosion, sediment and flow constraint problems. The Caribou County Road and Bridge Department coordinated and paid for the installation crane that was needed to set the new bridge pieces in place.