Pebble Creek Restoration
Pebble Creek, once a stronghold of threatened Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout in the Portneuf River watershed, has been degraded over time. Impaired water quality, loss of habitat, reduced stream flow, and streambank degradation has occurred due to historical poor land use practices.The overall goal of this project is to restore Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout (YCT) spawning habitat by improving water quality and overall stream health, and to recover YCT populations in the Portneuf watershed – specifically in Pebble Creek, a key habitat area for YCT. The conservation goal is to complete large-scale riparian and bank restoration along a one-mile section of lower Pebble Creek. In addition, this project will be used to strengthen Trout Unlimited’s SEIFF chapter by recruiting volunteers and new members, and will provide an outlet for public outreach and education.
Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout face challenges throughout their native range. Reduced stream flow, excess water temperature and pollution, and loss of habitat have contributed to decline in YCT populations. As YCT populations decline, fishing opportunities for these iconic western trout become threatened. Projects like the Pebble Creek Restoration Project hope to reverse these trends and provide increased opportunities for native cutthroat.
Work on the Pebble Creek Restoration Project will consist of utilizing heavy equipment to recreate the original Pebble Creek channel. After channel construction, work will begin on riparian restoration. Re-vegetation along the one-mile section of stream will occur through a combination of whole willow clump, sedge, and other riparian transplants, sod mat transplants, willow staking, and re-seeding of native grasses. Efforts will be made to use local, adjacent vegetation (willows, sedges) wherever possible. Fencing (four-strand barbed wire) will be constructed along the Pebble Creek stream corridor to protect restored riparian vegetation from grazing pressure. Additional fencing along the Portneuf River (three-pole buck and rail fence) will protect adjacent lands owned by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. Additionally, off-site stock water troughs will be constructed.
To date, TU has accomplished a great deal of work on Pebble Creek. Over 3,000 feet of stream channel has been restored. The newly constructed stream channel features complex habitat for YCT and other aquatic organisms – riffles, runs, pools, undercut banks, and woody debris. Approximately 1,800 feet of buck-and-pole fence along Pebble Creek has been built, primarily by volunteers, in order to exclude livestock from sensitive riparian areas. TU has also completed extensive re-vegetation using native willows, sedges, and grasses. In addition, the landowner has modified grazing and watering of livestock to ensure that riparian areas are protected. Work on this project continues during 2013, and it is expected that the newly constructed stream channels will see immediate use by spawning cutthroat trout!
R. Chad Chorney, project manager, TU Idaho Water Project