The Carman Creek Watershed Restoration Phase 2 project was funded under a California Department of Fish and Wildlife Proposition 1 Grant with the Sierra Valley Resource Conservation District (SVRCD) as grantee, in cooperation with the Carman Valley Watershed Partnership, and the TNF Sierraville Ranger District. Project sites are located in Plumas and Sierra Counties in the northern portion of the Sierraville Ranger District of Tahoe National Forest (TNF) approximately 2-miles north of Calpine, California. Phase 2 project sites include Site #1 Folchi Meadows, Site #2 Folchi Meadows Railroad Grade, Site #4 Carman Creek, and Site #8 Carman Creek.
Former TNF Eastside Watershed Program Manager (Randy Westmoreland) and Karri A. Smith, Professional Wetland Scientist/Restoration Ecologist (K.A. Smith Consulting, Inc.) were contracted by the SVRCD to complete final project permits and designs, conduct baseline and post-construction monitoring, and supervise restoration construction. Final project permitting was complete by October 2018.
Project construction was initiated during July 2019 and completed in September 2019. Channel and floodplain restoration included reconnecting natural channels and floodplain features by filling eroded gullies (full gully fill) and ditches and removing railroad grade berms. Approximately 10,000 lineal feet of gully was restored for all four sites combined with approximately 30,000 yds3 of upland and railroad grade borrow soil material placed into the eroded gullies and channels. Successful restoration of the degraded meadows and streams/drainages effectively resulted in direct ecological functional benefit of over 375 acres of mountain meadow and approximately 2 miles of associated stream corridor within the greater Carman Creek watershed area.
During 2016-2019 baseline photo monitoring was conducted at all four sites and baseline groundwater data was collected at Site #1 Folchi Meadows. During 2018-2019, K.A. Smith Consulting, Inc. collected pre-construction baseline vegetation data and pre-construction and construction photo monitoring. During 2020, K.A. Smith Consulting, Inc. and R. Westmoreland, in cooperation with the TNF, will conduct post-construction monitoring to assess restoration effectiveness, collect vegetation and hydrology data, and determine whether adaptive management measures are necessary to ensure long term project success.
Results of pre-construction baseline vegetation and hydrology monitoring indicated the project areas were in a degraded condition with meadow floodplains dominated by upland plant species. Site #1 Folchi Meadows total vegetation cover (77.3%) was comprised of wetland species (24.3%) and upland species (53%). Site #4 total vegetation cover (59.6%) was comprised of wetland species (28.8%) and upland species (30.8%). Site #8 total vegetation cover (55.8%) was comprised of wetland species (1.7%) and upland species (54.1%).
Baseline groundwater data collected during November 1-7, 2017 at Site #1 Folchi Meadows indicated average depth to saturated soils ranged from 72-110 inches with depth to water table at 85 to 119.6 inches.
Restoration goals and objectives attained/expected to be attained in the long term as a result of successful construction include: 1) Reducing or stopping active erosion and gully formation; 2) Restoring seasonal water table levels to support desirable meadow and riparian vegetation; 3) Improving wildlife and aquatic habitat quality and overall meadow and riparian ecosystem health; 4) Increasing ground water storage and extending seasonal flow regimes; 5) Reconnecting remnant channels and floodplains such that flood flow energy is dissipated reducing sediment movement downstream to Carman Creek and the Feather River; and 6) Increasing wildlife and livestock forage.
Secondary benefits include expanding and enhancing wetland an riparian habitat for sensitive plant and wildlife species including State Listed Threatened and Endangered (T&E) species such as the endangered Willow flycatcher (Empidonax traillii) and State and Federally listed Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog (Rana mucosa). Forest Service listed sensitive plant species such as Plumas ivesia (Ivesia sericoleuca) and sticky goldenweed (Pyrrocoma lucida) will also benefit from improved soil and hydrology condition. Peat wetland-dependent sensitive plants such as Botrychium spp., Meesia triquetra, and M. uliginosa may increase in frequency in hydrologically enhanced raised peat bog spring complexes located within the Folchi Meadows area.
Climate change resilience from increased carbon storage and sequestration is expected and fire threat will be reduced as a result of fire-adapted invasive plant species such as cheat grass being replaced by wetland-dependent native willows, sedges and rushes.