Tahoe environment: Restoring 40 acres of Martis Valley floodplain
September 30, 2016
For more information about the Truckee River Watershed Council, or to volunteer for Truckee River Day on Oct. 16, visit truckeeriverwc.org.
TRUCKEE, Calif. — Motorists driving along Highway 267 through the Martis Valley may have noticed a lot of changes being made to the area.
That's because the Truckee River Watershed Council has been busy trying to restore 40 acres of the Martis Valley floodplain to its original state.
"That area would still be functioning as an alluvial fan if there were not a road there," said Truckee River Watershed Council Director of Restoration Programs Beth Christman.
The term "alluvial fan" refers to the area at the mouth of a river or a creek where sediment builds up. The sediment carried by the water is distributed in a triangular shape, which is why it's referred to as a fan.
"The creek has been channelized, so it can't access what we call the fan's surface," she said.
To correct this, the Watershed Council is redirecting the flow of Martis Creek to counteract damage from the construction of a dam in 1972 as well as Brockway Road, now known as Highway 267.
In other words, the creek was moved and the Watershed Council is leading the effort to put it back on its natural path.
According to a statement from the council, the project will restore the Middle Martis Creek Wetlands, located north of Highway 267. It will also, according to the statement, reduce erosion and improve water quality, help preserve wetlands south of Highway 267 and protect nearby roads—part of that involves work on the main roadway to Waddle Ranch.
"Because we're restoring flows to the Waddle Ranch part of the roadway, we need to make sure the flows can pass across the road," said Christman.
And while fish will not be stocked in the creek once the restoration is complete, they are expected to make somewhat of a comeback.
"We won't plant fish in the project area, but some of the work we are doing will help increase fish passage along the middle-Martis channel," she said.
That's because the creek's original diversion created dry-spots where there wasn't enough water for fish to pass through. While the creek will still dry up during certain times of the year, the current restoration project is expected to improve fish passage.
"The problem is the stream goes dry, but fish will be able to move through it early in the season now that we've done the project," Christman said.
But rebuilding an entire watershed is a large undertaking, and the current project that the council has been working on this summer is just one of many.
The 2012 Martis Watershed Assessment, which was funded by the Martis Fund and the Bella Vista foundation, identified 20 different projects in the watershed where work was needed, Christman said.
The design phase of the restoration, she added, was funded by several groups including the Martis Fund, the Truckee River Fund, American Rivers, the Truckee-Tahoe Airport District and Northstar.
American Rivers, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Lahontan Water Board, Liberty Energy, the Martis Fund, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Overall Family Foundation and the Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation as well as TRWC donors contributed funding for the project to redirect the creek.
TRWC has been working on the current project since August, and they expect to wrap up by the end of next month. They're seeking volunteers to come out and help on Oct. 16 for the 21st annual Truckee River Day.
"We'll have several sites in the area working. Folks can go online and pick a site to volunteer for and we'll do our best to match them with something they want to do," said Christman.