The Marys River Watershed Council focuses its Model Watershed Program restoration efforts in the tributaries draining off Marys Peak including: Shotpouch Creek/Tum Tum River, Woods Creek, Greasy Creek and Beaver Creek. These creeks are home to native cutthroat trout, the unique sand roller and a growing abundance of beaver in mid-valley stream locations. Unfortunately they also have a large number of impassable culverts that create fish passage barriers and a lack of in-channel complexity in its headwaters, as well as insufficient riparian canopy cover on the valley floor. The small parcels along these creek corridors are also a limiting factor, requiring a door-to-door, neighbor-to-neighbor approach to develop projects with optimum impact.
The Marys Watershed Council has found that as more landowners engage, it creates a tipping point of broad support in the community for on-the-ground restoration. The Council is dedicated to neighborhood outreach and education activities in the watershed. Getting the word out by hosting community events, sharing watershed information and knocking on doors has proved invaluable in expanding their partnerships.
The Council’s rapid bio-assessment of Beaver Creek, conducted in 2009, identified the watershed’s “anchor habitats”—those places along the stream that have the potential to support all life stages of cutthroat trout at all seasons. It also highlighted places where beaver might play a significant role in creating ecological uplift without harm to local infrastructure. The bio-assessment prioritized a series of seven passage barriers, blocking trout access to anchor habitats and beaver focus areas.
In 2010, the Council collaborated with private landowners and Benton County to replace five problem culverts and remediate two others, opening up 5.4 miles of spawning and rearing habitat on Beaver Creek tributaries, Duffy and Starr Creeks. The next step is to increase channel-floodplain connectivity in Duffy Creek and to replant historic beaver flats with vegetation that will provide forage and dam construction materials. The restoration plan includes a series of large wood placements, alcove reconnection, fencing and riparian planting to benefit beavers and shade the stream. The Council will work with neighbors on mainstem Beaver and Starr creeks to develop a win-win strategy for both local landowners and nature’s engineers—the beaver.
Building restoration plans from the bottom up is a slow process, based on relationships of trust. Snorkel inventory-based rapid bio-assessments draw people in, and sharing the “cutthroat perspective” on watershed function at neighborhood meetings and individual site visits engages people further.
In 2009, the Council worked with Shotpouch Creek landowners to create a watershed-wide restoration strategy, culminating in 18 of 21 streamside landowners agreeing to work in concert to restore their stream. Implementation began in 2010 with a small livestock management demonstration project. The Council began implementing the watershed-wide plan in 2011 aimed at redirecting the trajectory of Shotpouch Creek toward improved stream function.
The Shotpouch Creek strategy calls for planting low densities of larger plant stock and mechanical/non-chemical weed control. The Council plans to compare the cost and effectiveness of this method with other program projects in similar sites that use high density, smaller plant stock with mechanical/chemical weed control.
—Xan Augerot, Executive Director, Marys River Watershed Council