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Utah's Watershed Restoration Initiative
Utah's Watershed Restoration Initiative
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Huntington Creek Limiting Factor Analysis
Project Status: Current
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Need for Project
The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (UDWR), Southeastern Region staff are seeking a drainage-scale stream habitat assessment in the Huntington Creek drainage. Huntington Creek is a former Blue Ribbon fishery that was devastated by fire in 2012. The Seeley fire burned large portions of the watershed, leading to degraded stream habitat conditions and the extirpation of fish from much of the stream. Restocking efforts (Brown Trout and Colorado River Cutthroat Trout) have taken place since 2014; however, little to no natural reproduction has been observed and the fishery is maintained by continued stocking. Consequently, the UDWR would like to use a drainage-scale habitat evaluation to identify limiting factors responsible for poor natural recruitment to the fishery. Of particular interest to managers are quantifying the current availability of spawning substrates to stocked fishes and whether barriers to movement may be preventing fish from moving into suitable spawning reaches. The completed habitat assessment will guide future trout management work in Huntington Creek.
Provide evidence about the nature of the problem and the need to address it. Identify the significance of the problem using a variety of data sources. For example, if a habitat restoration project is being proposed to benefit greater sage-grouse, describe the existing plant community characteristics that limit habitat value for greater sage-grouse and identify the changes needed for habitat improvement.
The goal of this assessment is to inform future trout management in Huntington Creek. Specific objectives that relate to this goal are to: 1) Identify factors limiting natural reproduction (e.g., lack of spawning gravels) and recruitment (young-of-year nursey habitat) to the fishery. 2) Identify barriers to fish movement throughout the watershed that limit dispersal from stocking locations and prevent movement into remaining suitable spawning habitat. 3) Evaluate quantity and quality of aquatic invertebrates for food availability.
Provide an overall goal for the project and then provide clear, specific and measurable objectives (outcomes) to be accomplished by the proposed actions. If possible, tie to one or more of the public benefits UWRI is providing.
Ecological Threshold - Threats and Risks
The Huntington Creek drainage contains several small isolated populations of Colorado River cutthroat trout. Native cutthroat are found in Tie Fork, Crandall, and Scad Valley Creeks. These native cutthroat trout populations play a critical role in the UDWR Colorado River Cutthroat Trout Conservation and Management Strategy. A population of Colorado River cutthroat trout in Nuck Woodward Creek was extirpated by the Seely Fire and its after effects. Maintaining or improving fish habitat within the mainstem will provide, refuge and security for long term persistence of fish populations when fires, droughts, and habitat changes displace fish. If sufficient connectivity is not maintained within a watershed between mainstem and tributary habitats the threat of extirpation increases.
Describe the potential risk of the project area crossing an ecological threshold to a point where future restoration would be more difficult, cost prohibitive or even impossible. An ecological threshold can be defined as "boundaries in time and space between two states that are not reversible on a practical time scale without management intervention" (Friedel 1991).
Relation to Management Plans
State of Utah Resource Management Plan. This plan specifically talks about maintaining fisheries and riparian areas. This project will help to achieve the following objectives *The State will seek to protect, conserve, and improve Utah's fish and aquatic wildlife and the habitats upon which they depend. *The State will seek to provide for the varied demands of fish and aquatic wildlife recreationists. *The State supports ensuring the persistence of the diversity of native fish and aquatic wildlife in Utah while at the same time providing excellent opportunities for anglers and other recreationists. *Encourage the use of flood structures, dams, catch basins, gully plugs, and reseeding of grass ways to help reduce erosion during and after storm events. *The State supports implementing active management and restoration projects on federal lands to restore sinuosity, vegetation, and to re-seed/revegetate burn areas as soon as possible post-fire to mitigate sedimentation in streams and riparian areas *Active management should be used to improve and enhance riparian resources to provide for appropriate physical, biological, and chemical function. *Prioritize and manage riparian areas to attain desired future conditions for riparian related resources (e.g. fishery habitat, water quality, wildlife and livestock forage, and soil stability). *The State supports the use of structural and non-structural improvements in unstable water courses to restore riparian areas properly functioning/desired future conditions. *The State will engage with federal land manage agencies to support active management of healthy riparian areas on federal land.
List management plans where this project will address an objective or strategy in the plan. Describe how the project area overlaps the objective or strategy in the plan and the relevance of the project to the successful implementation of those plans. It is best to provide this information in a list format with the description immediately following the plan objective or strategy.
Riparian areas can act as a fuel break. Since riparian areas are green and have high fuel moisture throughout the whole growing season unlike the uplands which can be very dry and flammable at time of the year. The uplands areas within the Huntington Creek drainage are characterized as moderate to moderate/high in the Utah Forestry Fire and State Lands Wildfire Risk Portal.
If applicable, detail how the proposed project will significantly reduce the risk of fuel loading and/or continuity of hazardous fuels including the use of fire-wise species in re-seeding operations. Describe the value of any features being protected by reducing the risk of fire. Values may include; communities at risk, permanent infrastructure, municipal watersheds, campgrounds, critical wildlife habitat, etc. Include the size of the area where fuels are being reduced and the distance from the feature(s) at risk.
The Seeley fire resulted in portions of Huntington Creek downcutting, the result of this erosion is large pulses of sediment being transported downstream. As a tributary to the San Rafael, sediment flows during flooding are carried through to the main river channel. The San Rafael River is currently 303(D) listed as an impaired waterbody with a Total Maximum Daily Load for Total Dissolved Solids (TDS). Reduction in erosion and trapping sediment to agrade the streambed will effectively reduce the amount of both suspended and dissolved solids. Adding complexity and roughness to a stream through large woody debris (log structures) has been shown to trap sediment and promote healthy sediment transport. Aggrading the streambed through these activities will reduce the salt loading and TDS in lower Huntington Creek and the San Rafael River.
Describe how the project has the potential to improve water quality and/or increase water quantity, both over the short and long term. Address run-off, erosion, soil infiltration, and flooding, if applicable.
A stream alteration permit with Utah Division of Water Rights was received in 2021 for stream restoration projects. Previous project proposed sites are on USFS land, USFS and have completed NEPA compliance.
Description of efforts, both completed and planned, to bring the proposed action into compliance with any and all cultural resource, NEPA, ESA, etc. requirements. If compliance is not required enter "not applicable" and explain why not it is not required.
1. Design a sampling plan that identifies stream habitat availability and barriers to movement (in relation to trout) throughout the entire Huntington Creek drainage. 2. Implement the sampling plan during late summer & fall 2022 and collect data relevant to the project goal and objectives. 3. Organize and upload digitized raw data to a UDWR shared drive that can be easily accessed by UDWR biologists. 4. Provide a final report (spring 2023) detailing key findings in relation to the stated objectives. Provide recommendations on habitat improvement projects that address natural recruitment to the fishery. 5. Create a GIS-based database with reach-scale habitat conditions and barriers identified throughout the Huntington Creek drainage.
Describe the actions, activities, tasks to be implemented as part of the proposed project; how these activities will be carried out, equipment to be used, when, and by whom.
Yearly fish population surveys have been completed on Huntington Creek since 2002. According to the DWR Southeast Region Strategic Sampling Plan, the Huntington Creek drainage was scheduled to be surveyed in 2020. This will allow biologists to collect pre-project fish population data. A drainage wide fish population survey is scheduled again in 2026, allowing biologists to collect post-project fish population data. Additional electrofishing sites will be added to estimate fish densities and metrics of fish health before and after project implementation. Other monitoring data collected will include a summary of macroinvertebrates, and channel monitoring including cross sections and longitudinal profiles. Channel monitoring will occur before and after construction and after flood events.
Describe plans to monitor for project success and achievement of stated objectives. Include details on type of monitoring (vegetation, wildlife, etc.), schedule, assignments and how the results of these monitoring efforts will be reported and/or uploaded to this project page. If needed, upload detailed plans in the "attachments" section.
Manti LaSal Forest is the land manager within the project area and are supportive of improved angling opportunities and improving ecological conditions in the project area. Trout Unlimited has been involved with this project from the beginning and is supportive of improved trout habitat and angling opportunities. UDWR has developed this project and would like to see improved fish habitat, additional angling opportunities and overall healthy ecological conditions.
List any and all partners (agencies, organizations, NGO's, private landowners) that support the proposal and/or have been contacted and included in the planning and design of the proposed project. Describe efforts to gather input and include these agencies, landowners, permitees, sportsman groups, researchers, etc. that may be interested/affected by the proposed project. Partners do not have to provide funding or in-kind services to a project to be listed.
The purpose of this assessment is to guide future trout management in Huntington Creek. Specific management implications include: 1) Guide future location planning of habitat restoration work. 2) Guide the removal of barriers to movement based on prioritized habitat suitability. 3) Guide decisions on future stocking locations by taking into account suitable habitat and barriers to movement. 4) Guide decisions on future trout management by taking into account suitable habitat and barriers to movement.
Detail future methods or techniques (including administrative actions) that will be implemented to help in accomplishing the stated objectives and to insure the long term success/stability of the proposed project. This may include: post-treatment grazing rest and/or management plans/changes, wildlife herd/species management plan changes, ranch plans, conservation easements or other permanent protection plans, resource management plans, forest plans, etc.
Sustainable Uses of Natural Resources
Fishing has historically been a primary recreational activity in the canyon, improving fish habitat and holding more fish near access areas will boost recreation. Restoration of a resilient population of CRCT in Huntington Creek is dependent on the success of restoring aquatic functional tributaries. Additionally, brown trout populations that frequently exceeded 2,000 fish per mile were essentially wiped out below the fire scar. Fish densities and distribution must be significantly increased to restore a sustainable fishery in Huntington Creek. Huntington canyon is an open allotment, livestock is found within the canyon. There will be no changes for the permittee.
Potential for the proposed action to improve quality or quantity of sustainable uses such as grazing, timber harvest, biomass utilization, recreation, etc. Grazing improvements may include actions to improve forage availability and/or distribution of livestock.
Project Summary Report
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