Yankee Fork Fish Habitat Restoration Work Wrapping Up for 2020

For Immediate Release: Oct. 30, 2020

Winter snows have already made an appearance in the Yankee Fork Salmon River Watershed and project managers have finished construction work on the Bonanza Stream Restoration Project for the year. The project, which is located near the historic Bonanza town site, seeks to restore a portion of the Yankee Fork impacted by the dredge mining to a more natural condition. 

Between 1940 and 1952, about 5 ½ miles of the Yankee Fork were mined with a large dredge. While this mining operation was effective at extracting gold from the valley floor, it significantly altered the Yankee Fork, streamside vegetation, and the floodplain. Although 80 years have passed since the dredge mining started, the Yankee Fork has been unable to revert back to a natural condition and the ability of the area to support fish remains impaired. The Bonanza Stream Restoration Project will help correct this problem by re-establishing natural stream channels, native vegetation, and functional floodplains in a portion of the dredged area.  

Work on the three-year project began in 2018.  The first year was focused on removing excess tailings from the project area. In 2019, project work focused on re-establishing the stream channels and floodplains on the western side of the project. This year, managers completed the major construction elements of the project by creating the remaining stream channels and floodplains and finishing soil restoration work. Re-planting native vegetation will be accomplished during the spring/summer of 2021.  Approximately 7 acres of tailings near the Yankee Fork dredge have been left in place to help preserve the mining history of the area.

The project has numerous benefits. These include restoring fish and wildlife habitat, increasing watershed health, improving parking near the Yankee Fork dredge, and supporting improvement to the Yankee Fork Road.  During the 2020 construction season, as well as in previous phases of the project, large portions of the project work have been contracted to local businesses and individuals, providing substantial economic benefits to the region.  

Managers will continue to monitor stream conditions and fish use within the project area for several years. Streams flows are one thing they will watch closely . Since the newly created stream channels have not yet had the opportunity to naturally seal from sediments delivered during regular spring run-off events, the stream channel within the project area is expected to experience low and/or intermittent flows at certain times. When this occurs project managers may assist fish with their regular migration patterns through the project.

“While the major construction phases of the project have been completed, it will take some time for the vegetation to become established, the stream channel and flood plain to mature, and the flows to stabilize,” said Bart Gamett, Fisheries Biologist for the Salmon-Challis National Forest. “Naturally dynamic and healthy systems don’t just happen overnight and we’ll be keeping an eye on it to make sure things are moving in the right direction.” 

The 46-acre project area is located on private land owned by the J.R. Simplot Company and national forest lands administered by the U.S. Forest Service.  The project is a joint effort between the Bonneville Power Administration, Bureau of Reclamation, Custer County, Idaho Governor’s Office of Species Conservation, J.R. Simplot Company, National Marine Fisheries Service, U.S Fish and Wildlife Service, Salmon-Challis National Forest, Shoshone-Bannock Tribes, Idaho Department of Fish and Game, and Trout Unlimited.  

 “Simplot is very pleased with the work performed by the project partners under very challenging regulatory conditions. On projects completed on the Yankee Fork previously, it is amazing to see how rapidly Mother Nature recovers when given a well planned and executed boost,” said Vic Conrad, Director of Land, Water & Asset Recovery with the J.R. Simplot Company. “We look forward to working with this group of partners on the next one!” 

The Yankee Fork Interdisciplinary Team began implementing stream restoration projects in the Yankee Fork watershed in 2012 with the goal of improving fish habitat and increasing Chinook salmon and steelhead abundance.  The Bonanza Stream Restoration Project is the eighth restoration project implemented by the team.    

Project managers would like to thank visitors and patrons of the Yankee Fork Watershed for their patience and support as this project was implemented.  

For additional information on the project, please contact Caselle Wood – Trout Unlimited at caselle.wood@tu.org, Mike Edmondson – Idaho Governor’s Office of Species Conservation at Mike.Edmondson@osc.idaho.gov, or Bart Gamett – U.S. Forest Service at bart.gamett@usda.gov.