Project Synopsis: improved grazing management over the past decade in the lower Coal Creek drainage has resulted in gradual positive trends in riparian habitat conditions. This project will address degraded habitat conditions not directly related to grazing management and build additional trust and cooperation. The Thomas Fork Habitat Management Plan developed cooperatively by WGFD and BLM in 1979 “to preserve, manage, and enhance BCT habitat” identified sediment contribution from the Coal Creek road as an important issue. In 2010, WGFD hired a consultant to develop conceptual plans to address the large amounts of sediment contributed into the stream at eleven (11) key sites along a two (2) mile stretch of Coal Creek.
Although the intent is to ultimately address all the identified sediment and stream habitat degradations, our plan is to proceed with 2 phases. This project proposal constitutes phase 1 and will address the three upper most sites (1 on state land and 2 on private land) of the 11 sites evaluated and surveyed. Because the overall project involves multiple landowners, a phased approach is being adopted to build momentum by first addressing the relatively simpler sites on private and State land. Meanwhile, coordination with the BLM will continue to review concept design alternatives for the remaining sites, and begin permit applications and other steps necessary to implement phase 2.
Phase 1 addresses two existing low water road / stream crossings that will be replaced with bridges. A third similar crossing will be eliminated and approximately 250 feet of associated two-track road will be reclaimed and the stream banks stabilized. In addition, another approximately 305 feet of streambank adjoining the primary two-track road will be stabilized and revegetated. Implementation is planned for fall of 2011.
Cost estimates for implementation were drawn from estimates prepared by AVI, Inc. and listed in the final report, "Coal Creek Stabilization Project – Conceptual Planning Phase”. Specific acreages that will be revegated, etc. for each site will depend on the final options selected from the report. An implementation cost of $197,000 was calculated by summing specific options at each of the 3 main sites. Cost estimates from the Conceptual Plan were summed and rounded from Site 1 option 2B, Site 2-1 option 1, Site 2-2 option 2, Site 2-3 option 1, Site 2-4 option 1B, Site 2-5 option 1, and Site 3 option 2. An additional $5,000 was estimated for fencing materials, and $4,080 for implementaion assisstance.
Fencing will be needed to protect treated sites from livestock grazing until vegetation is stable and able to withstand moderate grazing pressure (estimated to require a minimum of 2 years of rest). Coordination with the landowners (BLM, private, and state) and permittees will be required to determine if small exclosures will be constructed to individually protect each treated site, or if longer segments of the entire stream reach can be fenced to include protection / restoration of adjacent riparian communities. The latter would be the preferred option where feasible.
The Coal Creek watershed (a tributary of the Thomas Fork / Salt Creek) provides critical year long habitat for all life stages of Bonneville Cutthroat Trout (BCT), a NSS3 species under the State Wildlife Action Plan. Numerous other aquatic and terrestrial species will benefit from improved riparian and stream habitat function.
This sediment reduction project is one part of larger, on-going, landscape scale efforts in the Lower Bear River watershed focused on the enhancement and restoration of riparian, stream, and upland habitats for all wildlife species that occupy this area. These large scale efforts include coordination and cooperation with numerous landowners, permittees, state and federal land managers, NGOs and others to enhance plant community health across the landscape through improved livestock grazing management practices and other best management practices. Improved grazing management over the past decade in the Coal Creek drainage has resulted in some gradual positive trends and this project will address degraded habitat conditions not directly related to grazing management. This will build additional trust and cooperation amongst partners. Reduced sediment loading and improved riparian / stream function in Coal Creek will benefit all native aquatic species that occupy this 2 mile reach of stream as well as downstream well beyond the immediate project area. Improved riparian habitat conditions will also benefit numerous terrestrials species found in this area. The primary aquatic species targeted by this project is the Bonneville Cutthroat Trout (BCT), an NSS3 species. Cover, spawning gravels, and food sources for BCT will all be improved. Other native aquatic species that occupy Coal Creek and will benefit include mountain sucker, mottled sculpin, Paiute sculpin, speckled and longnose dace, and redside shiner. The northern rubber boa is an NSS3 species present in this area that could benefit. Terrestrial species of concern that will benefit from improved riparian habitats include sage grouse, moose, and a wide variety of avian species. Increased forage availability and habitat quality in riparian areas will also benefit numerous other terrestrial species including mule deer, antelope, beaver, and elk.
Bonneville cutthroat trout have been petitioned as an endangered species. The District Court of Colorado dismissed the civil action initiated by the Center for Biological Diversity challenging the USFWS decision relating to the listing of Bonneville cutthroat trout as “Not Warranted” in early 2007. A court order in October, 2007 required USFWS to again consider this species for protection as an endangered species. Again, listing was determined “Not Warranted”. Large scale cooperative efforts to improve habitat for BCT, such as this project, contributed to the District Court’s dismissal of the civil action.