Salmonid Restoration Federation
Deep Roots — Celebrating 40 Years of Watershed Restoration
April 25 - 28, 2023
Fortuna, California

Elk River Stewardship: A Watershed-Scale Remediation and Restoration Program

26 April 2023
Field Tour Coordinators:
Darren Mierau and Katy Gurin, California Trout
Jay Stallman, Stillwater Sciences
Tim Metz, Restoration Forestry, Inc.
Bonnie Pryor, Northern Hydrology and Engineering
The Elk River watershed is currently the focus of intensive efforts to resolve complex land-use and water quality impairment issues. Beginning in the late 19th C., the watershed was subjected to 170 years of poor land stewardship and environmental degradation, first with harvest of the old growth redwood forests, railroad construction, and conversion of floodplains and wetlands to agricultural lands. In the recent past (1988-2000), poorly regulated timber harvest in Elk River left a legacy of sediment impairment, habitat degradation, and local property damage from frequent nuisance flooding. In response, this landscape-scale recovery effort – built on a foundation of biological and physical process analyses supported by hydrodynamic and sediment transport modeling and extensive outreach to landowner, agency, and academic partners – is finally ready to launch into implementation. The Elk River Recovery Program is focused on (1) rehabilitating miles of non-natal rearing habitat for threatened salmonid populations in Elk River tributaries, the mainstem, and the stream-estuary ecotone, (2) restoring floodplain connectivity and riparian vegetation diversity, (3) implementing a managed retreat strategy in the face of oncoming sea level rise through extensive tidal wetland restoration and drainage infrastructure improvements in the lower valley, (4) and addressing health and safety concerns for the rural residential communities living along the Elk River. This tour will feature stops at locations along the lower 13 miles of the mainstem Elk River and South Fork Elk River into the BLM Headwaters Forest Reserve. Featured discussions will include: 1. Current status of ongoing planning and design in the tidal and lower valley reaches, with overview of conceptual restoration designs, application of new “Cutting the Green Tape” permitting tools, and key habitat restoration components; 2. A focus on remediation of legacy sediment and reduction of nuisance flooding in the “impacted” lower reaches of the north and south forks, and upper mainstem; 3. Opportunities for expansive aquatic and riparian restoration at a privately-owned, 77-acre ranch on the South Fork Elk River; and 4. Recent accelerated recruitment treatments conducted by BLM and Restoration Forestry Inc., in the BLM Headwaters Forest Reserve.
Lower Elk Swain Main Sloughs