In 2016, partners in the Lower Clark Fork (Kootenai National Forest, Lower Clark Fork Watershed Group, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, Green Mountain Conservation District, and Avista) implemented the Miners Gulch project, the second project in a collaborative watershed-scale approach to stream restoration on the Vermilion River. This project re-shaped the stream channel and reconnected the river to its floodplain, enabling riparian vegetation to establish and increasing instream habitat complexity to benefit native fish.
Often with large on-the-ground projects such as this, the “proof of the pudding is in the eating”. After two runoff events, the Miners Gulch project is performing as designed. In the photo above, taken at close to peak run-off in spring of 2018, the river is accessing its floodplains. This helps dissipate energy and drop fine sediment (important for the germination and establishment of healthy riparian vegetation). In the channel, the river runs over rock and log structures. The force of the water running over these hard surfaces scours the bottom of the channel, maintaining pools and diverse in-stream habitat. Furthermore, vegetation planted in 2017 has shown over 95% survival.
The Kootenai National Forest is developing a Post-runoff Monitoring Report for this project which will include data from the Miners Gulch Project and the previous Chapel Slide Project (completed in 2012). This report and ongoing monitoring will inform adaptive management of Vermilion River Restoration and directly influence an upcoming project immediately downstream, the Sims Meander Project, which partners plan to implement in 2020.