River restoration projects mostly fine despite runoff — The Leadville Herald Democrat

Arkansas River Basin -- Graphic via the Colorado Geological Survey
Arkansas River Basin — Graphic via the Colorado Geological Survey

From the Leadville Herald Democrat (Danny Ramey):

Heavy spring runoff did not have a major impact on several river restoration projects in the Arkansas River basin.

Members of the Lake County Open Space Initiative toured the three different projects on Thursday, July 10. Each of three projects used a different method to help preserve or restore the river.

Last year, Colorado Parks and Wildlife worked to maintain and build habitat along the Arkansas River near Hayden Meadows. Logs and sod mats were used in the project to help stabilize the river banks while still allowing the river some space to move.

“That’s a natural thing rivers want to build,” Greg Policky, biologist for parks and wildlife, said. The goal of the project was to ensure that there is adequate habitat for each life stage of trout, Policky said.

During the spring, the Hayden Meadows area saw higher than average flows. Normally, flows measure around 300 to 400 cubic feet per second on that stretch of river. This spring flows reached up to 900/cfs, Policky said. Despite the heavy flow, most of the structures parks and wildlife put in held. However, there were a few problem areas. In one spot, the river ripped out the log supports and created a channel.

“It didn’t quite like everything we did,” Policky said.

The runoff also caused some erosion of the river banks in the 4-mile project area. Crews will be coming in near the end of July to maintenance the project. They will also extend the project another mile down the river.

Meanwhile, river restoration further up on the Arkansas River and the Lake Fork saw very little disturbance from the runoff.

Restoration work along that section of the river was done mostly with rocks to lower the chance of something coming loose and washing downstream.

“I put something in that I’m confident that I won’t move,” Greg Brunjak, who worked on the project, said.

Willows and logs were also used in parts of the project to stabilize the banks.
That particular project was performed mostly on private land along the Lake Fork. One of the project’s goals was to help eliminate erosion along the banks of the river and help maintain livestock habitat in the area.

The structures can withstand up-flows of about 800/cfs, Brunjak said. That portion of the Lake Fork saw flows of around 200 and 250/cfs this winter, which were still higher then normal.

“We’ve got a pretty good flow we haven’t seen for awhile,” Brunjak said.

The Union Creek Project, located on a tributary off of the Arkansas River, saw minimal impact from the runoff as well. One of the main goals of the project was to stabilize a portion of the Old Stage Road. Union Creek had been cutting into the hill and destabilizing the road. The project was performed by Colorado Mountain College. Soil lifts and willows were used to help stabilize the bank of the creek below the road.
The one issue from the runoff came from a log structure built to help get water to some of the willows used in the project, Jake Mohrmann, assistant project manager of the CMC Natural Resource Management department, said. The structure ended up being too tight and was plugged by debris from the runoff, which caused the area behind the structure to dry up slightly. When crews unplugged the structure it caused a lot of sediment to flow through, Mohrmann said. The structure then plugged up again a few weeks later.

“We will need to remove it and find another way to get water to the willows,” Mohrmann said.

More Arkansas River Basin coverage here.

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