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Red Clover Creek Restoration Project

Feather River Region

Red Clover Creek Restoration Project

  • Location: Red Clover Creek, eastern Plumas Co, Upper Feather River Watershed
  • Project Sponsor: Plumas Corporation, Feather River CRM
  • Time Frame: 2004–2008
  • Cost: $1.1 million (State Water Bond, Proposition 13)
  • Project Objectives:
    • Eliminate severe channel erosion
    • Create functioning floodplain and improve meadow hydrology
    • Improve water quality (temperature and sediment)
    • Enhance fisheries and aquatic habitat
    • Increase forage for livestock and improve livestock management

The Red Clover/McReynolds Restoration Project encompasses a 775-acre area of privately owned and Plumas National Forest land. This portion of Red Clover Creek drains an area of 84 square miles and is tributary to Indian Creek and then to the East Branch North Fork Feather River. The combination of road and historical railroad features, past grazing, and a 1950s beaver eradication effort resulted in severe incision (downcutting) of the stream channel through Red Clover Valley. The extensive gully lowered groundwater levels in the meadow and changed plant communities from riparian grass and willow species to sage. This in turn resulted in loss of meadow productivity, diminished summer base flows, and increased sediment transport from channel bank erosion. A 1989 NRCS report found that the Red Clover Creek Watershed was the third highest sediment-producing tributary to the East Branch North Fork Feather River. In 1985, the Feather River CRM completed its first erosion control demonstration project in this area, using a series of check dams to raise water levels in the stream and create a functioning floodplain area.

Initiated in 2004, the Red Clover/McReynolds Creek Restoration Project was a cooperative effort by the Feather River CRM, the private landowner George Goodwin, and the Plumas National Forest. Field surveys were completed by CRM staff to establish flood frequency information and prepare a Hydrology and Geomorphology report. A TAC reviewed the project plan and design. Construction began in July 2006 using the pond and plug technique to return streamflows to remnant channels and original meadow/channel elevations. The existing gully was filled and compacted using material from excavation of adjacent ponds. Three and three-tenths linear miles of entrenched, eroding stream channel were treated. Additional fencing for livestock and a grazing management plan also were made part of the project.

The pond and plug technique addresses floodplain function as the fundamental precursor to all other project objectives (i.e., reduced bank erosion, improved water quality, improved fish and wildlife habitat, reduced floodflows, and increased base flows). After 22 years and completion of 60 restoration projects, it has been the experience of the CRM program and staff that once full floodplain function has been restored, other project objectives are more effectively achieved, because in a riparian ecosystem, they are inextricably linked.

Post-project monitoring has been performed each year subsequent to project completion. Monitoring parameters include flow above and below the project, sediment and turbidity, vegetation changes in the meadow, and surveys of fish and wildlife in the project area. A complete report on project monitoring can be found on the CRM website, but in summary, data and observation show that there has been a remarkable change in Red Clover Valley, and project objectives are being achieved.