Winter Floods and Mild Temps

The winter and spring rains have kept us inside quite a bit, but we’ve kept our eye on the restoration area. The most notable flood event was December 27-30, 2015. Our on-site rain gauge measured 7.64 inches in the three day period, and water depth on the USGS gauge read at 19 feet for December 28, 2015! Check out the slideshow of in-stream flood pictures below.

The flooding reached into Archey Creek Park, covering the field and spilling into the bathroom and concession stand. Our restoration is not meant to prevent this type of flooding. Floods like these will naturally occur periodically because Archey Creek Park was built in the floodplain with the purpose of accommodating the flows of a fairly large water system. Flooding allows the fish community and other aquatic species to access the floodplain, typically a terrestrial and disconnected land. By allowing flood waters to access the floodplain, aquatic species get to gorge themselves on frogs and other critters that are usually unavailable to them.  As a byproduct they fill the pond as well – better fishing!  The nutrients from the water also nourish the land, making the grass greener and trees healthier. For a natural ecosystem, flooding is a wonderful thing, but for joggers and ball players, we understand that it is a bit of an inconvenience. This is one way that humans and nature coexist within a river’s boundary.

Despite all of the high water, the restoration site is still doing stellar with all structures performing just as expected. A section of the new walking trail, however, was…well…compromised. Unfortunately, this segment of the trail was placed too close to the stream bank, and the flood waters undercut the pavement. It was pretty impressive and a reminder of how powerful water can be, particularly in places without large tree root systems already established.

Needless to say, repairs are underway and set to be completed by May 2016. The trail has been moved farther from the stream to protect it from flood damage like this. Pavement has already been poured, and Geocell, an erosion control product, will be installed on both sides of the trail. Geocell is a honeycomb shape of welded, high-density polyethylene strips. It will eliminate rutting around the trail edges and still allow water to drain through. Because so many visitors frequent the park, there are plans in the making to expand the trail system. This will allow walkers and nature viewers to access more of the park, see more views of the restoration project and river scenery, and raise that heart rate!

After these spring rains and the Geocell is installed, we should be in good shape for the summer. We’re looking forward to seeing you on the trail soon!

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A red-shouldered hawk hunts for prey along the j-hook structure.

Super Harvest Moon

During the restoration process, we use game cameras to monitor the site to see how our structures perform during flood events, capture footage of construction work, and track wildlife usage. The pictures and videos are used in presentations, reports, and social media outlets such as this blog. On September 8, 2014, we experienced not only a harvest moon but also a supermoon.

Behold, the Super Harvest Moon!


This video was taken in Phase 1 Bend 1, looking downstream from the j-hook structure.

http://earthsky.org/space/harvest-moon-2#super offers more information on what occurred this particular date as well as definitions of a harvest moon and supermoon.

Biological Monitoring with ADEQ

One way that we will measure success of the restoration effort is to monitor the fish community. Why? Well, for one, Archey Fork used to be a place where you could cast a line from the bank or a kayak, and we hope to regain that relaxing recreation. Fishes are used as indicators of habitat quality and water chemistry. So many factors affect the presence and abundance of certain fish species such as oxygen levels, substrate type, and water velocity. One of our many partners in this project, the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ), sampled the fish community this fall for the first, post-construction sample, and we already notice a difference! Yellowcheek darters have been missing from this stretch of the Archey Fork Little Red since the channelization occurred in the late 1980’s, but this fall – less than a year after installation of the enhanced boulder riffle in Phase I – we discovered a Yellowcheek living there!! This is an amazing find since the species is an endemic and endangered species. An endemic species is one that is only found in a specific location. The Yellowcheek is endemic to the Little Red River system.

Yellowcheek Darter

Yellowcheek Darter

A barge shocker was used to collect fish species in pools, and a seine net was used to collect species in riffles. A seine was used in the riffles because the most sensitive, threatened, and/or endangered species in the upper Little Red are found in riffle habitats, and electroshocking units can stress these fishes. They’re tender little fellas, so we have to sample their habitat gingerly and return them to the stream as soon as we identify them.

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Aquatic insects, or macroinvertebrates, were also sampled in these sites. Macroinvertebrates are used as biological indicators just like fishes but sometimes can tell a different story. Think of an ant verses a grasshopper. If if kid spills a slurpee in a park, the grasshopper could simply fly or hop away. The ant is so tiny, though, and it takes longer for it to move out of the area. Macroinvertebrates are somewhat stuck where they are due to limited mobility, whereas fishes can migrate long distances. Also, the lifetime of a macroinvertebrate is shorter than that of a fish. Sampling both of these groups will give a more comprehensive, short-term, and small-scale story. This biological monitoring project will track changes and developments in the fish and macroinvertebrate communities for the years 2012 (pre-restoration), 2014 (post-Phase I construction), 2016 (post-Phase II and potentially Phase III), and 2018 (post-Archey Fork restoration). We hope to find a higher species richness and a stronger showing of sensitive, threatened, and/or endangered species each year in Archey Fork, in addition to habitat for many of the game fish that made this stretch of river quite a popular fishing spot in the past. It looks positive so far, and the town has every right to be proud of it’s work in progress.

Spring is a Success!

Phase I restoration efforts continue to amaze us. After a couple of big rains and a bankfull event (just a short 4 months after construction was finished), our structures are maintaining and performing wonderfully. As with any stream restoration project, the river will make its final touches in order to settle in with the new alterations. Needless to say, we like what we see. The toewood is holding strong, protecting the banks from further erosion as water flows around the bend. Point bars are building on the inside of the bends as water deposits gravel and sand in lower velocities. The boulders in our riffles have settled in nicely with small scour holes around them creating refuge for fishes and aquatic insects. It all looks great!

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Toewood and j-hook structures give immediate protection to the stream banks as trees and grasses have the chance to recolonize and serve as the long-term protection tool against any future stream instability. The roots from these plants protect the banks from erosion even after our structures are gone. The survival of these transplanted trees is key to our restoration efforts. It is always a concern that uprooting shrubs and trees and replanting them will cause too much stress, and the plant may not survive. This project was particularly interesting because we were able to use trees from the immediate restoration site that were already accustomed to the soil, temperatures, amount of sunlight, and rainfall that occur on the banks of Archey Fork. We are seeing a lot of growth from both the transplants and live stakes; however, to ensure their survival throughout the summer, our crew has installed a small irrigation system. If there is a drought, these birch, willow, alder, and sycamore trees won’t have to go through additional stress.

 

 

Thanks for checking in on Phase I. We’ll be gearing up for Phase II before you know it!

 

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Little Rock Garden Club field trip March 18, 2014

 

Ground-Breaking Ceremony A Success

Thank you to everyone who joined us for the Archey Fork Restoration Project ground-breaking ceremony on June 28th. We kicked everything off at 10:30am and were lucky to have fairly decent temperatures. Hey, it’s summer in Arkansas…what can you expect?

Archey Fork Restoration dedication_June 2013_Simon

Among the speakers were Scott Simon, The Nature Conservancy of Arkansas director, Mark Boling, President of V+ Development Solutions, Don Richardson, former Mayor of Clinton, and Joy DeClerk, the restoration project leader. After the ceremony, Joy led a field trip around the site to explain more of the project.

You will be seeing some action in the next couple of weeks, as we continue to transport equipment and materials to the site. Thank you to the local landowners that have donated approximately 200 tornado-damaged trees so far to the project. Construction will begin once the transportation of materials is complete.

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We are so fortunate to have such great partners and a supportive and welcoming community in Clinton. Thank you again to our partners and friends!