FINDING A FIX FOR COLDSTREAM CANYON
Surveying a fresh set of tire tracks cut deeply into the mud in Coldstream Canyon, Beth Christman and Cyndie Walck explain the challenges of working in one of Truckees most troubled watersheds.Weve looked at the whole Cold Creek watershed and know there are tons of problems. Its the problem child dumping tons of sediment into the Truckee river, said Christman, program manager with the Truckee River Watershed Council.The Truckee River is considered impaired by sediment, and the Donner Basin is considered a major contributor, but Christman said within the Donner Basin, Cold Creek is really the problem.The issue stems from a combination of the natural topography of the canyon and human interference, said Walck, a fluvial geomorphologist with California Department of Parks and Recreation.Coldstream is one of the most hammered watersheds Ive ever been in, Walck said. The railroad blew out a lot of the canyon, its been logged repeatedly and mined for gravel.The naturally steep, silty watershed originally fanned out before joining Donner Creek, giving sediment time to settle out, but that deposit was the perfect place to mine gravel for Teichert Aggregates, which years ago cut the stream into a deep, fast-moving flow, causing erosion, Christman said.But now, as Teichert looks forward to potentially developing the old mining site, the aggregate company, the watershed council and state parks are partnering up to make some needed fixes.Working with a $91,500 grant from the Sierra Nevada Conservancy, the groups are tackling a eroded channel of Cold Creek and a former gravel pond further up the canyon, Christman said.First up are ponds in Coldstream Canyon formerly used for gravel mining, and stripped of surrounding top soil, she said. Replacing that top soil this summer, they will be able to recreate riparian habitat in the watershed, Christman said.Lower down, a stretch of Cold Creek with sheer banks running both through Donner Memorial State Parks and Teicherts property will be targeted for flood plain widening, in an effort to slow down the water, settle out some sediment, and create additional stream-side habitat, Walck said.
The Truckee River Watershed Council has also received grants for work on Negro Canyon, which empties into Donner Lake, and Prosser Creek, a popular fishing spot, said Beth Christman with the council.Using a $60,000 grant from the Bella Vista Foundation, the watershed council will be assessing what kind of work will be needed in the extremely eroded canyon that feeds Gregory Creek, emptying into Donner Lake, she said.And with a $35,000 grant from the Nature Fund, the council will be deepening the roughly 1.5-mile stretch of Prosser Creek from the dam to the Truckee River, she said.The shallow waters currently heats up to much to be a good place for fish spawning, so the deeper channel along with additional vegetation should keep the water cooler, Christman said.But with all the work the watershed council has done in the area, and these big projects coming up, Christman said theyve just scratched the surface.Weve basically restored one to three percent of the watershed, Christman said. The majority of the watershed could be helped and needs help, and the vision of the watershed council is, lets start working on it.
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