Coldstream studied after 200 years of abuse
January 3, 2007
Coldstream Canyon has endured bouts of environmental intrusion for more than 200 years. And now, with development in the area imminent at Planned Community 1, an assessment of current conditions may not only prevent further detrimental impacts, but may also lead to the restoration of the canyon.The Truckee River Watershed Council, River Run Consulting, Inc., and California Department of Parks and Recreation will present their findings from a recently completed assessment of Coldstream Canyon watershed conditions on Jan. 16. Coldstream Canyon has a long history of environmental disturbance, beginning with the construction of the Union Pacific railroad in the 1800s. From the 1960s through the early 80s, logging in the area caused severe impacts and deforestation. Also from the mid-60s to the mid-80s, Teichert Aggregates mined gravel near the mouth of Coldstream and in the valley, said Mike Isle, project manager of Coldstream Planned Community 1, a Teichert project. Roads constructed for logging and mining purposes messed up the flow of the watershed, said Beth Christman, Truckee River Watershed Council program manager.Coldstream has gone through periods of massive disturbance and recovery, Christman said. Right now (Coldstreams) in a bit of a recovery period.The process of assessing the current conditions of the canyon began in spring 2006, led by Truckees River Run Consulting, Inc. The study includes a detailed analysis of Coldstreams hydrology, glacial history, and stream formations, Christman said.The assessment is important because of the long-term benefits to the area, Isle said. Whether Teichert will be involved in restoration is unclear.At this point were evaluating the (assessment) recommendations, Isle said.
The increase and decrease of road activity in the area is clearly visible by examining a big picture view of Coldstreams history through aerial photographs from the 30s, 60s, 80s, and 2005, Christman said. Though many of the roads have since revegetated, the natural flow of the watershed has been altered because of mining roads, Christman said. Coldstream Canyon has also experienced floods which have wreaked havoc on the streams habitat, she said. In 1997, an extremely big flood event occurred, Christman said, and a powerful winter storm in December 2005 resulted in the fine sediment erosion of 990 tons from the stream bank, according to the watershed council. Christman also said Cold Creek flows through a culvert built in the 1800s that goes beneath the railroad tracks. She said the culvert is too small, hasnt ever been replaced, and during a winter storm a big slug of water passing through the narrow culvert acts like a fire hose, creating a high-pressure situation that may lead to a flood. The good news, Christman said, is that there is actually a fair amount of work we could do to fix the problem.
The Coldstream housing development project, Planned Community 1, will serve as a model for the reclamation and reuse of land previously utilized for mining, Isle said. Although Teichert has participated in all of the stakeholders meetings, Christman said, nothings set in stone as to whether the developer will be involved in the restoration of Coldstream Canyon.The restoration project will give Teichert and the watershed council an opportunity to combine our efforts, Christman said.Planned Community 1 planner Dale Creighton, of SCO Planning & Engineering, said the developers will be considering a joint effort in the restoration work after reviewing the assessment results. However, no restoration work must be completed in order to move ahead with Planned Community 1 plans, he said. Creighton said he didnt know yet whether Teichert will contribute any sort of funding to the Coldstream restoration project.The Teichert development team is also working with Donner Memorial State Park personnel, as development plans for Planned Community 1 run close to the state park. Creighton said developers are working with the state park with plans to build a 40- to 50-foot buffer between the western edge of the development and the park. Developers will reshape the banks, revegetate the area, and create habitat islands by breaking down berms. The whole canyon has changed and the big issue is channelization and erosion of the stream, said Don Schmidt, Donner Memorial Park State Park ranger. Schmidt said he has attended past meetings involving Planned Community 1 plans, and Teichert seems willing to listen regarding matters of restoration, he said.