Phone: (707) 682-6262

Upslope Restoration

Although a certain amount of erosion is natural and desirable in any watershed, unnatural volumes of sediment introduced into a salmon bearing stream destroy pool habitat and smother spawning gravel. Improperly maintained roads and stream crossings are a major source of preventable sediment pollution in the Eel River.

Surface erosion is one way that roads contribute sediment. The bare soil exposed when a road is built is highly susceptible to the impact of rainfall. This direct impact causes erosion. While the volume of sediment from an individual site may be small, the cumulative contribution of many roads with many individual sites is potentially staggering.

Before decommissioning Cumming Creek Road
was eroding into the stream.

Improperly placed and sized culverts are another common medium for road-related erosion. Tantamount among improperly placed culverts are so-called “shotgun” culverts. These culverts jut sharply out of the road on the downhill side. There may be a two-foot or larger gap between the culvert outlet and the ground below. The impact of steadily flowing water combined with the energy gained from falling two feet is often enough to turn an otherwise stable hillside into a steep-walled gully.

The scars left in the hillside by these culverts are immediately visible, deep gashes with bare, near-vertical walls riddle the hillside. At their worst, these gullies can be 20 feet wide and 20 feet deep, delivering large loads of sediment to streams.

Fortunately, funding now exists for organizations like ERWIG to assess these road-related problems. Landowners who would like to improve their roads may contact ERWIG to complete an evaluation. After its initial evaluation, ERWIG applies for funding to accomplish a detailed assessment of roads within interested landowners' rural subdivisions. ERWIG techs survey each road in the subdivision, recording data on potential and current sites of erosion. We then make recommendations for improvement. All of this information is assembled in a report, which is submitted as a proposal for funding to accomplish the suggested improvements. If all goes smoothly, improvements will be made to the roads the following year, preventing literally tons of unnaturally eroded sediment from entering the waterways.


Cumming’s Creek Road Decommissioning and Improvement Project

Before The old road needing decommissioning on the left.

After The old log bridge was removed and the banks re-sloped to a natural grade.

This project reflects the united efforts of landowners committed to restoring their stream to a more healthy and natural state while solving their own access problems caused by a bad road. The effort began in the spring of 1996 when all the landowners in the watershed first met to form the Cummings Creek Watershed Advisory Counsel. At that time, frustration was high and answers to their road problems were few. During the winter residents were forced to walk the last half mile to their homes because the failing road could not support vehicle traffic.

Formation of the Cummings Creek Watershed Advisory Council, which included PALCO and Eel River Sawmills, allowed the landowners to speak with a unified voice. CCWAC decide to focus on the restoration of their once productive salmon spawning stream and considered themselves a watershed restoration group as opposed to a roads association. This opened the door to restoration funds.

Through the corporation and financial donations from large timber companies, grants from the National Fish and Wildlife foundation and the Department of Fish and Game, and funds from the California Commercial Salmon Stamp money, the failing road has been updated and relocated away from the creek, two new bridges were installed, and an interpretive trail has been installed along the former road site.

As a result of the road improvements, there is much less sediment entering the lower river. The stream has down-cut, cleaning the gravel, lowering the bed load and improving salmon habitat. Migrating salmonids are now able to access the lower channel nearly two months earlier than they’ve been able to in the last 6 years!


Livestock Management Fencing
The purpose of livestock management fencing is to prevent livestock from degrading streams.

When livestock have unrestricted access to streams, vegetation becomes trampled and the banks can become unstable. Without vegetation to anchor the stream bank, the amount of sediment entering the stream is increased, causing streams to become wider, warmer, and shallower. When these changes occur, the result is a loss of sensitive spawning habitat for salmon.

Livestock exclusion fencing

Restricting livestock access to creeks helps to protect the riparian zone, which is critical in maintaining and restoring the integrity of stream ecosystems.