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Utah's Watershed Restoration Initiative
Utah's Watershed Restoration Initiative
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Sheeprocks Beaver Dam Analogues Phase 3
Project Status: Completed
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We built 10 new BDAs and repaired about 20 old BDAs, We started construction in late summer of 2019 and completed in the Spring of 2020. We had the water rights to build 35 new BDAs but we wanted to be sensitive to the water users concerns and perceptions that BDAs take water even though the science indicates that they actually increase water storage. So we reduced the number we bult of new ones and mostly focused on repairing existing ones. We also planted 12 sections of wetland sod mats in areas that sediment had built up behind the dams to help stabilize the soil.
We installed additional beaver dam analogue structures (See Attached Documents for More Info on BDAs) in the Vernon, Little Valley Creeks and got the permit for Bennion Creek BDAs to improve the habitat for wildlife. We will continued to repair about 20 existing BDAs that have already filled with sediment and we built about 10 new BDAs. The sage-grouse population in the Sheeprocks SGMA is struggling to survive and wet meadow habitat is one of the limiting factors in this arid environment. Many of the creek banks have been eroded and historic wet meadow habitat has been lost. This project will repair these eroded banks and raise the stream bank back up. This will increase the vegetation along the creeks banks and increase the wet meadow habitat that is important for brood rearing sage-grouse and other wildlife. This project will also improve the habitat within the stream channel for fish and other aquatic species. By improving the riparian and wet meadow habitat we will also increase the amount of forage available for big game and livestock. One of the most important habitat types for sage-grouse is wet meadow habitat (Forbs, Green Grasses, and Wetland Vegetation). This habitat type provides high nutrient vegetation and insects which are crucial, especially for young chick development. Because sage-grouse have high mortality rates and are not long-lived birds, it is important to recruit as many new individuals to the population every year to maintain population numbers. Vernon Creek, Little Valley Creek, Bennion Creek, and Harker Canyon Creek are located within prime brood-rearing habitat. All of these creeks have been degraded and channelized in spots from human causes, livestock damage, and erosion. This channel incision results in steep and deep banks that are dangerous for livestock and wildlife and make it difficult for animals to drink. It also causes more water to be lost from the system and less vegetation to grow along the banks that could be used by livestock and wildlife. The creeks in this area historically likely had beavers that would dam the stream and slow the water so it would not erode as heavily and cut as deep into the ground. These beaver dams would also create meanders, and flooding the stream banks which would water more plants. This flooding would increase soil moisture across a larger area and produce more wet meadow vegetation along the banks. This natural meanders also helped to reduce channel incision and erosion which results in a loss of habitat. The loss of this habitat has likely attributed to the decline in sage-grouse. Beaver re-introduction in some areas is not always plausible politically or biologically. This area is one such area that may not be a good candidate for re-introduction. Instead we plan to build man made beaver dams called beaver dam analogues or BDAs to replace the lost ecological function that would exist if beavers were in the system and to repair damage that has been caused by other means. This action will greatly enhance the habitat for sage-grouse and many other wildlife species and livestock. BDAs are also beneficial to the local economy and to help preserve the livelihood of ranchers. This is accomplished by catching sediment that will fill up reservoirs and clog pipelines. Also, BDAs may help store water longer in the watershed so that water will not just all come at once in a big flow, but will last longer into the summer in a more steady and consistent flow.
We will continue to monitor and repair BDAs and build more in the future until we have successfully aggraded the stream bed back to historical condition.
Project Summary Report
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