Sleeping Child/Rye Creek - Sediment Reduction

Location

Sleeping Child and Rye Creek in the Sapphire Mountains (Bitterroot National Forest)

Goals

Reduce sediment pollution in Sleeping Child and Rye Creek by restoring 20 miles of dirt/gravel road in a ~2,000-acre area in the upper drainage area for these creeks.

Reasoning

The Bitterroot National Forest (BNF) land where the creeks lie was previously private property where owners developed dirt roads to ease timber removal. In 2000 intense fires severely damaged the landscape and caused dumptruck-loads of highly erosive soils to pour into streams. According to the Montana Department of Environmental Quality, the creeks needed a 63% reduction in the amount of soil entering the creeks from the nearby roads.

 

These creeks are essential habitat to native Westslope Cutthroat trout and Bull trout. With these degraded stream conditions,  native insects and fish cannot thrive. Sediment build-up fills deep pools in creeks that fish use to lay eggs, ultimately smothering eggs and impairing survival. Excess sediment also kills insects in streams that fish rely on for food. 

Recontouring these abandoned, deteriorating roads restored hydrologic function, allowing for rain and runoff to be stored in the ground instead of washing out the road surface and into streams.

Project Description

  • The Water Forum hired a local contractor to de-compact and recontour abandoned roads

  • The road was recontoured to match the natural slope of the area before it was covered by weed-free straw mulch, fertilizer, and native seeds

  • 42 stream crossing culverts were removed from the abandoned roads

  • These culvert-free stream channels were re-connected and restored to a natural contour, removing fish barriers and the potential for future blowouts

Timeline

2014 - 2016

Partners

Bitterroot National Forest, Bitterroot Chapter Trout Unlimited, Montana Department of Environmental Equality, Future Fisheries

Cost

$200,000

Article by Ravalli Republic