The Carman Watershed Restoration Project Phase 2 Post-Project and Adaptive Management Monitoring Report summarizes early season (February-March 2020) post-project condition of the Carman Watershed Restoration Phase 2 projects. Phase 2 project sites include Site #1 Folchi Meadows, Site #2 Folchi Meadows Railroad Grade, Site #4, and Site #8. 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
The Carman Creek Watershed Restoration Phase 2 project was funded under a California Department of Fish and Wildlife Proposition 1 Grant (P1796015) with the Sierra Valley Resource Conservation District (SVRCD) as grantee, in cooperation with the Carman Valley Watershed Partnership, and the TNF Sierraville Ranger District. 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.
Project construction was initiated during July 2019 and completed in September 2019. Meadow and floodplain restoration included reconnecting natural channels and floodplain features by filling eroded gullies (full gully fill) 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 Carman Watershed.
Extensive pre-project baseline and construction monitoring was conducted at all four restoration sites during 2016-19. These monitoring efforts documented pre-project vegetation and hydrology data, photo monitoring, and construction activities and are included in the Carman Watershed Restoration Project Phase 2 Monitoring Report (K.A. Smith Consulting, Inc. 2020).
Post-project monitoring was conducted during February-March 2020 to assess restoration effectiveness and determine whether adaptive management measures are necessary to ensure long term project success. As the CDFW grant required all monitoring and final reporting to be submitted by March 31, 2020 it was not possible to collect first growing season vegetation and hydrology data during the height of the growing season (July 2020). Early season (February-March 2020) post-project monitoring implemented at Site #1 Folchi Meadows, Site #2 Folchi Meadows Railroad Grade, Site #4, and Site #8 indicated that gully fill, wetland vegetation replacement, and access road and borrow area rehabilitation efforts were successfully implemented with no significant erosion or site instability observed.
Early season (February-March 2020) post-project monitoring of hydrologic response at Site #1 Folchi Meadows included surface water overland flow from existing raised peat bog springs expanding across gully fill areas and the associated meadow floodplain. Groundwater observed in constructed and retained water features confirmed a rise in the water table level. Flows within the enhanced Carman Creek channel were at bank full allowing successful hydrologic improvement of adjacent floodplain meadows and peat bog spring complexes. Successful hydrologic response observed at Site #4 included a rise in groundwater levels observed in retained open water features and soil saturation spreading throughout the re-connected meadow. Successful vegetation response was observed at Site #1 Folchi Meadows and Site #4 where salvaged wetland vegetation was replaced over gully fill areas during construction implementation.
Restoration goals and objectives attained/expected to be attained in the long term as a result of successful project implementation 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.