Friday, August 11, 2006

5Does the Big Wood need more wood?

Wood River Land Trust to construct engineered logjam to benefit fish

Express Staff Writer

The Wood River Land Trust?s Kathryn Goldman, left, and intern Rachel Goetzelman collect baseline data in preparation for an upcoming Big Wood River enhancement project, which is set to begin next Tuesday. Among other things, Goldman and Goetzelman are collecting data on the river channel?s depth, width and pool-to-riffle ratio.

Work on a first-of-its-kind riverside habitat enhancement project on the Big Wood River near Bellevue is back on track and set to begin next week after a roughly five-month delay.

The project, sponsored by the Hailey-based Wood River Land Trust, was delayed earlier this year due to high springtime river flows that took place during the months of April, May and June.

On Tuesday, workers hired by the Wood River Land Trust will begin building both an "engineered log jam" and a "bank barb" along the banks of the Big Wood River at the land trust's 12.57-acre Howard Preserve. The work should be completed by Thursday.

The bank barb will consist of several large logs submerged perpendicularly to the main river channel by large boulders. Bank barbs are used to deflect water flow away from sensitive areas and to create pool conditions.

In an interview earlier this year, Kathryn Goldman, project coordinator for the Wood River Land Trust, said strategically placing natural materials in the flood channel creates pool habitat and cover for fish, traps gravel fish need for spawning, stabilizes the river channel and introduces additional nutrients into the aquatic system.

"It gives them cover from predators. It gives them places to rest," she said, adding that the benefits of in-stream wood for fish are clear.

To conduct the work, the land trust had to secure permits from the Idaho Department of Water Resources, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Idaho Department of Lands. The Idaho Department of Fish and Game was also a partner in reviewing the project.

The Howard Preserve project will only add to the many great benefits the Big Wood River witnessed earlier this spring as high flows radically reshaped the river system.

"Yeah, we had a big year, but the project is still valuable," Goldman said.

Besides the obvious habitat benefits, she also emphasized the educational benefits that will be realized as part of the project. The Howard Preserve's close proximity to town could encourage visitors to stop by and learn about the many benefits of in-stream wood.

"It's an educational site," Goldman said.

The land trust chose the Howard Preserve as the site for the demonstration project because of its easy accessibility and for the site's fairly benign hydrology. "We obviously wouldn't want to choose an area that would harm other property owners," Goldman said.

The land trust, the city of Bellevue, the Howard family and others partnered in 2004 to protect what is the largest undeveloped riverfront property in Bellevue. The preserve's combination of cottonwood forest and wetlands provides valuable wildlife habitat near an urban area. Located west of downtown Bellevue, the Howard Preserve also provides opportunities for fishing and other recreational activities.

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