Idaho creek facelift a boost for wild steelhead

A collaborative effort in Idaho has left one creek for the better.

What: Wimpey Creek is a tributary to the Lemhi River. Its confluence with the Lemhi is about 11 miles south of the Lemhi’s confluence with the Salmon River. Wimpey is one of three or four Lemhi tributaries that remains connected even in low water years and has a relatively robust population of wild steelhead that use if for spawning and rearing. It also supports juvenile rearing and is especially important for juveniles during hot summer months when the Lemhi gets warm with low flows from irrigation demands.

How: This project began four years ago when a Nature Conservancy project manager developed the idea and relationships with the landowners. He left for another position and Trout Unlimited took over the restoration process.

The work: The project involved restoring proper stream function to an area of Wimpey Creek that had seen decades of degradation due to cattle impacts. TU was able to treat about 1.1 miles of the most impacted parts of the stream and the area that has the most potential for steelhead spawning due to its relatively low gradient.

Treatments included full channel reconstruction, large woody debris jams, rebuilding eroding banks, step pool structures, riparian fencing and it will get planted with potted plants in the spring 2018.

Partners: Funding for the project came from Idaho DEQ 319, Pacific Coast Salmon Recovery Funds, Bonneville Power Administration, and Natural Resource Conservation Service. Partners directly involved were National Marine Fisheries Service,US Fish and Wildlife Service, US Forest Service, The Nature Conservancy, Idaho Office of Species Conservation, Upper Salmon Watershed Program, Idaho Department of Fish and Game, and the landowner. The Nature Conservancy was able to use Bonneville Power Administration funds to put an easement on the ranch on Wimpey Creek and adjacent Pratt Creek which means this restoration will be protected for ever and the ranch will remain whole.

By Shauna Stephenson.