Restoration in the Cache River Watershed

JVP logoAfter a century and a half of ditching, draining, over-logging, soil erosion, sedimentation and habitat loss in the Cache River watershed citizens and agencies formed the Joint Venture Partnership (JVP) and began the work of restoration.

As affirmation that the long road ahead to recovery was worth the effort the Cache River region was designated as a “Wetland of International Importance” at the 1996 Ramsar  Convention on Wetlands. Only 26 wetlands in the United States share this distinction.

Working together, the JVP and citizens created the Cache River Watershed Plan, which formed the foundation for C2000 project work to restore habitat, reduce sedimentation, and restore connectivity of the disconnected river.

water retention pon

Water retention ponds, constructed in the Big Creek watershed, have helped to reduce sediment load into the Lower Cache River from over 12 inches a year to less than an inch a year.

To date, landowners have protected and restored 13,500 acres of wetlands through NRCS’ Wetland Reserve Program.  Agencies and organizations have acquired 35,000 acres, reforested 22,000 acres, and restored 9,000 acres of wetlands.

Using various forms of conservation practices, landowners have reduced soil loss on 31,500 acres and built 90 water retention structures in Big Creek watershed. Approximately 9,000 feet of river has been dredged to restore water flow.

riffle weir

Riffle weirs, man-made rock structures that mimic natural river riffles, slow the flow of water thereby reducing stream bank erosion.

Agencies have also built 48 riffle weirs to stop stream bank erosion and 13 gully plugs to prevent adjacent wetlands from being drained. The Upper Cache River bank has been stabilized with gabion baskets to stop severe erosion that was threatening Heron Pond.

 

Although much has been done over the past two decades to restore habitat and reduce sediment a very important piece of the restoration puzzle still needs to be put into place—Connectivity Restoration. Tracy Boutelle Fidler, Restoration Coordinator for the JVP explains, “The Cache, like other rivers, needs free-flowing water to be healthy. A gentle current brings oxygen and dissolved nutrients, while also moving pollutants out of the system. For the Cache and adjacent natural places to remain healthy for future generations, some amount of flow must be re-established between its upper and lower segments.”

The next Cache blog will take a look at a plan to restore connectivity that considers the conservation need alongside the public need – protection from floods.

Source: Cache River Watershed Joint Venture Partnership

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