September 2021 Newsletter

President’s Message:

I assume I am not alone in feeling a bit let down and disoriented at the end of what many of us thought was going to be a summer of “reopening” and finally escaping Covid’s ghastly grip. Back in June, it certainly seemed that way as infection rates plummeted and restrictions eased after many dark and difficult months of being in the pandemic tunnel. Assuming we were on the cusp of “normal”, we booked a banquet venue for early April 2022 and breathed a premature sigh of relief! But here we are just three months later with Delta surging, booster shots being considered, and much uncertainty about what the future holds. Of course, it’s not just Covid that has many of us on edge about our collective future. If this summer’s extreme weather hasn’t overcome any lingering doubts about climate change, I don’t know what would. Out West, the number and severity of fires increases yearly while a mega-drought continues unabated. Here in the Northeast, we have had one of the wettest summers on record with our beloved Battenkill running much higher than usual making it difficult to complete a major conservation project which had assumed the typical low late summer flows of 200 cfs or less. The one upside is that all that water has mitigated the dangerous overheating that often occurs in low flows. But despite the uncertainty and challenges of this past year, our chapter is committed to soldiering on, preaching the gospel of conservation and walking the talk through our hands-on work in the field. And yes, some of us have also found time to fish and tie some flies! Below is an update on what our chapter has been doing recently, plans for future activities and opportunities to volunteer in coming weeks.

Conservation Updates – as reported by John Braico

  1. from Working on Camden Creek: Our 2019 HRI studies on Camden Creek found a cold clean moderately unstable stream with wild trout. Localized bank erosion, localized channel incision alternating with channel infilling were common – with the biggest limiting factor being excess gravel recruitment from upstream sources that compromised adult, juvenile & reproductive habitats. USF&W recommended a full rebuild of riffles, runs, pools and glides in the lower section for 2020, matching good findings well upstream using toe wood for 4 pools and rock grade controls – cautioning that the biggest challenge would be to handle the very high gravel loads coming from upstream sources as it could overwhelm any restoration work.

The geomorphic restoration in 2020 was initially excellent, but with several high flows, it gradually infilled with gravels. USF&W advised us on minor tweaks to the project and agreed with a trial of adding 40 pieces of large wood to the next section upstream. Both were completed in mid- July with the upstream work targeting habitat formation, reconnection of the stream with its floodplain & trapping excess sediment. (We also worked with the Green mountain National forest service in VT as they have extensive experience with strategic additions of large wood.)

Unfortunately, just two weeks later, a 50 year flash flood swept through, undoing much of the work on the lower reach as it blew out 3 riffles & again infilled the pools. However, it did work magic on the upper reach – digging out new pools, increasing sinuosity, narrowing the stream and forming new healthy depositional bars – just what we were hoping for. This gave us good sediment trapping in what had been a sediment source upstream and with flood plain reconnection, reduced flood energies. Given this improvement in sediment storage & rebalancing flood energy, USF&W again advised us to fix the recent flood damage --reasoning that might be enough to tip it into a self-maintaining condition.

Well, subsequent two heavy storms proved that to be correct as both the upstream 1700’ wood treated reach and the downstream 1400’ geomorphic restoration reaches only got better! Most pools deepened, all riffles & runs recovered and wild trout were seen throughout both reaches. ( Nope, no more troubles from excess sediments – it was all handled in the large wood treated section!)

So the key lessons are: 1) Strategic large wood additions can be a low cost, effective technique to boost trout habitat AND restoring sediment transport balance needed to maintain a resilient stable stream. 2) It may be well worth considering low cost strategic large wood additions along with reconnecting the stream to its floodplain before tackling any needed geomorphic restorations.

Large wood addition caused this nice scour hole to start to form – note the very good gravel/cobble deposition bars

Another nice result from strategic large wood introduction

A fine example of the excellent condition of a large deep toewood pool in the geomorphic restoration reach

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