Why Partnerships Between Industry and Conservation Groups Matter

This is a re-post we’d like to share from Mark Boling, President-V+ Development Solutions at Southwestern Energy.  Mark describes our collaboration well, we’d like to thank him and the staff at SWN once again for recognizing the Archey Fork Little Red River as the important resource that it is for the community of Clinton.  See the posting here https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/why-partnerships-between-industry-conservation-groups-mark-boling?trk=prof-post 

Mark Boling at a site visit to the Archey Fork in 2013.

Mark Boling at a site visit to the Archey Fork in 2013.

A great dedication of Phase 2

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A great time was had last Thursday with our Archey Fork partners and friends in Clinton. The city of Clinton kindly hosted us all to a fantastic fish fry, following the dedication of the project, and we can’t say thank you enough. We are lucky to work in such a great community!

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The project tour promptly followed the dedication where the methodology for restoring the river was explained.  All the new structures in the river, including the toe-wood, J-hook, and boulder riffles were showcased and their function in the river described.  If you missed it, no worries!  As mentioned at the event, The Nature Conservancy will continue to monitor the project, irrigate the newly planted vegetation, and fund-raise for Phase III of the project over the next six months.  If you are interested in volunteering in any of these efforts, please email Joy DeClerk (jdeclerk@tnc.org) we are always looking for new friends in the community that are interested in getting involved!   Thanks again to the City of Clinton for the wonderful fish fry and to Southwestern Energy, without your substantial contribution this project would not be a reality.

June 11th Dedication of Phase II and Spring Update

We are long overdue for an update and have lots to share!  It may take several posts to catch everyone up to speed on progress, spring floods, growth, and park enhancements.  First, let me invite everyone to the park on June 11th for a dedication of Phase II of the project, funded in majority by Southwestern Energy Company.  Please click the link here for the Phase II Dedication Invitation. We will gather at Archey Fork Park, rain or shine, at 10 am for brief remarks, refreshments, and a tour of the project along the city’s new River Walk Trail.  We hope you will join us, you’ll be amazed at the river’s new look!

This new boulder home for the yellowcheek darter held well during all the May floods.

This new boulder home for the yellowcheek darter held well during all the May floods.

We concluded Phase II construction in February/March of this year and proceeded to plant over 200 trees along the river banks.  Thanks so much to Carol Corning and the Clinton High School students and especially to the Southwestern Energy employees who dedicated time towards our planting efforts along the river and making enhancements along the Archey Fork Park trail.

AR TNC prescribed fire crew helping us for the day!

AR TNC prescribed fire crew helping us for the day!

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Thank you Carol Corning for bringing these Clinton High School students to help plant trees!

Although it was a stormy day, 16 Southwest Energy employees came with shovels and wheelbarrows in hand on May 15th to help with park enhancements along Town Branch at the east end of the park.  The rain didn’t deter these folks as we brought in stone from Stevens Stone Supply and proceeded to make stone tree rings that we later mulched.  These were not easy to build and everyone worked hard, thank you SWN!

After all the rain these planted trees have had in the last several weeks, they are sure to do well in their new environment! As always though the heat and summer dryness will eventually come and we’ll be prepared.  Despite only using our irrigation system once or twice last year, we will set it up again and every 10 days it doesn’t rain, we’ll pump a nominal amount of water out of the river to irrigate the newly planted trees.

SWN employees volunteering their time to enhance the trees planted along Town Branch in Archey Fork Park.

SWN employees volunteering their time to enhance the trees planted along Town Branch in Archey Fork Park.

As many of you have seen for yourself, Dwight Wilson with the City of Clinton has been hard at work extending the walking trail into the newly acquired park area and along Phase I of the river restoration project.  Thank you to Charles Wilson for clearing the area and Dwight for creating a way for people to see and learn about the restoration work we have completed, the trail looks great!

The new addition to the River Walk Trail

The new addition to the River Walk Trail

We hope to see everyone at the June 11th event so you can see the good work for yourself.

Joy DeClerk

New Year Bankfull Flows

As I end the day by gazing at a big full winter moon in the sky, I think to myself what a wonderful, cold, yet sun-shiny post-flood day I got to spend outside.  Since December, 2009 I have spent most Christmas holiday breaks watching the weather, precipitation gauges, and stream gauges anticipating high river flows for the stream sites we’ve restored.  This often brings feelings of excitement and anticipation… and perhaps a little anxiety as I wait to see how Mother Nature will respond to our attempt to restore the right dimension, pattern, and profile to the river.  On December 21st, 2013 one short day after completing Phase one’s construction, Clinton received a large amount of rain on already saturated soils and our project was put to the test.  This holiday break proves to be no less exciting than last years!

After loading up the family this sunny and frigid morning and heading north, I knew it was the perfect time to visit the Archey project.  Mr. Steve Bone, after checking the rain gauge onsite, let me know that after 3.5 days of rain we received 8.04 inches in total!  Looking at the South Fork Little Red River gauge, it was on the falling limb of a very large spike in flow – almost 10,000 cfs!  I couldn’t wait to check game cameras, take pictures, and see it for myself.  The clouds cleared and I was able to take great pictures and video of all our structures under high flow.  I couldn’t be more pleased with our results, so I raced back to my computer to download the footage and get it posted ASAP….

First, you can view this short clip of construction of the toewood structure in Phase II ending with the flood event of January 2-3, 2015.  You will notice the water rose almost up to bankfull elevation and well above the toewood structure onto the transplants on the first bench.  One of our cameras upstream even went under water!

Finally, check out these photos taken today on the falling side of the flood starting from upstream in Phase I, going all the way through 5 riffles and 3 pools to the downstream end of Phase II.  Notice all the great riffle boulder habitat that creates the large waves, perfect for boating, during high flows.  This also happens to make great habitat for the Yellowcheek darter and many other riffle obligate fish!

As we wrap up our work on Phase 2 of the project, you’ll be sure to see more of our construction footage and subsequent floods.  To complete this year’s work, we are teaming with the City to remove the invasive species Chinese Privet that has taken over much of the park area.  We will replace that area with large hardwood tree transplants from other areas of the river corridor.  This will insure the long-term stability of the stream banks once the larger tree roots take hold.  We are also helping to layout the additional walking trail that allow people to walk the entire restoration project and see the good work that’s been done from upstream to down!  Feel free to pose questions and/or comments on the project here on our weblog!  Thanks for your continued support and interest!

– Joy

Flooding footage over toe-wood structure in Phase I

We are long past due for an update, but we’ve been hard at work on Phase II of the restoration project which is now nearly complete!  First – check out this short slide show that captures several flood events that have occurred since last years work.  You will see how great the toe-wood structure functions to keep the high velocities of the river in the center of the channel sparing many river birch and sycamore trees from being eroded away into the river.

Also, read this great story written about the project this month in the Arkansas Times!

http://www.arktimes.com/arkansas/restoring-the-little-red-and-more/Content?oid=3566137

Lastly, look at a few photos of how great our transplants of alder, willow, sycamore, and river birch survived and thrived after the first growing season, a great success!

Sneak Peak!

The day has come and Phase I of this project is complete!  Take a sneak peek and click on a few photos below to see the finished project following a significant flow event that occurred just one day after construction was complete!  Stay tuned for a full post including more details of the last month of project construction as well as photos and video during high flows.

-Joy DeClerk, Project Lead

November Project Update

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Project construction is nearing the end!  In the months of October and November, we’ve completed two, 500+ linear feet toewood structures and transplanted nearly 50 trees on the outside banks of the Archey Fork river.  These trees consisted of willows, alders, sycamore, and river birch – all extracted onsite!  Image

We held field tours of the project site on October 22nd for the Clinton Chamber of Commerce group and guests, and again on November 19th for The Nature Conservancy Board of Trustees and members of The Nature Conservancy’s North America Management Team.  Joy DeClerk also delivered a project update to the Upper Little Red Audubon Society on the evening of October 22nd.

We want to thank the local people of Clinton for engaging with us as we implement this project.  We have been excited to see your active involvement, questions, and enthusiasm for what we anticipate to be a big enhancement to the City Park, the floodplain, and the river and all of its inhabitants.  Please see the series of photos for the work that has been completed to date.

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As we begin to butt up against mother nature’s plans for this winter with rain, ice, and snow accumulating over the last week, we are focused solely on our last task at hand – the J-Hook structure.  This is the last structure we are building before finally opening up the channel and allowing the main flow of water through the newly constructed river bends.  Once weather allows, we anticipate this final structure complete within a week’s time.

Week Two

We have made some serious progress folks!  Ok, here’s the skinny: The toewood structure begins with laying foundation logs at specified angles to the tangent lines along the curve of a stream bank (see first diagram).  Following this, root wad logs are cantilevered over the foundation logs with the root wads facing the stream, a.k.a. prime fish habitat! (see diagram 2)  Then we place trash wood (tree tops, limbs, etc) on top of the root wad logs and back fill with soil.  That is where we are as of today.  The rest of this week will be spent backfilling, sloping and grading the new stream bank.  Please take a look at the structure diagrams & photos below, and compiled game camera shots we’ve put together for you (our video is live at: http://youtu.be/gaFRi-ech4s our second video is live at: http://youtu.be/SnO19kJX20A ).  Follow along as we progress through the completion of this structure.  We are excited about our quick progress and look forward to keeping you posted as we continue!

Joy DeClerk – Project Lead

Week One Photos

After several months of hauling material on site, completing the project flood model, processing & receiving permits, and ordering equipment rental, we finally arrived to the start date – appropriately the day after labor day!  This day has been long awaited by all of the TNC team members, partners, and local Clinton advocates of the project.  A big thank you again to Mr. Dwight Hutto for donating the tornado damaged trees from his property to be used for such an important purpose.  We not only got the pleasure of meeting and befriending Mr. Hutto, but also hearing many of his stories, often leaving us in belly laughter!

As many of you are probably wondering, what is the order of things for the project implementation?  Well, first the important things – Erosion Control!  The first groundbreaking was to dig a sediment retention pond.  We are in a nice dry spell right now with extremely low flows – just what the Dr ordered!  But, if this summer is any indicator of weird & unusual weather, we know to be prepared for anything.  So, although we are working in a very dry and small channel, we developed a series of levees to block all drainage from our construction area.  From these levees and thus isolated ponds we can pump to the sediment retention pond if needed, should water rise, or rainfall come, so that the turbid water can settle out before we return it to the main channel.  We also use hay bales at the outflow of each pond to further filter any running water.  Bonnie mounted a rain gauge onsite and began documentation of our activities and best management practices – all important requirements of our state and federal permits.

Finally digging began.  To install the toewood structure, it requires excavation of the existing bank – why?  So when the rootwads are placed facing the stream, they are as low in the channel as possible to prevent premature decaying and so we can use the material we excavated as much needed back fill and good river soil to nourish our plantings and transplanted trees and shrubs.  More info and pictures to come on this as we begin to build the toewood structure – stay tuned!

The amount of dirt to dig was a lot and we needed backup – so we ordered one more excavator onsite to help us get the job done quickly – Thank you Clark Machinery for providing a great machine on short notice.  Aside from feeling a bit like digging in a giant sandbox (who doesn’t love that?) it took patience, planning (where are we putting all of this?), and persistence.  Thanks to Aaron Reid (Reid & Sons Construction) who always has an eye for preparing for the next step, we are now in a place where we can begin building the first toewood structure.  Take a look at our pictures from this first excellent week of work and stay tuned as we keep you updated along the way.  Thank you for your interest in our project – our goal is to provide a quality river restoration project that eliminates excessive erosion of land, re-establishes much needed habitat for the fish and critters we love to see and catch, a project that we can all be proud of; a place where we can fish, swim and play.  We appreciate the warm welcome many of you have given us as we begin this project and look forward to meeting more of you along the way!

Joy DeClerk – Project Lead