WRO Staff / Monday, Oct. 3, 2022 @ 9:14 a.m. / Environment, Parks

Update on Prairie Creek Restoration Near Orick

Yurok Tribe Construction Corporation Watershed restorationist Roger Boulby and Aaron Martin, a Senior Restoration Biologist for the Yurok Fisheries Department, construct a wood feature in one of the slow-water refuges. | Courtesy of the Yurok Tribe

From the Yurok Tribe:

The Yurok Fisheries Department, the Yurok Tribe Construction Corporation and a slew of collaborators are working full speed on phase two of an ambitious environmental restoration project on Prairie Creek.

The Prairie Creek project partners include: Yurok Tribe, Save the Redwoods League, California Trout, Redwood National and State Parks (NPS), California Department of Fish and Wildlife, McBain Associates, GHD, SHN, Northern Hydrology and Engineering, California State Coastal Conservancy, Wildlife Conservation Board, California CCC, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Redwood Community Action Agency RCAA.

Over three years, Prairie Creek Floodplain Restoration Project (PCFRP) team will transform 11.55 acres of a former lumber mill and pasture back into biologically rich riparian and floodplain habitats for the benefit of salmon, steelhead and Pacific lamprey as well as eulachon and coastal cutthroat trout. Offering ample food, water and shelter, the new carefully constructed habitat on Prairie Creek will serve as a nursery for these fish species.

Located near Orick and within Yurok ancestral territory, Prairie Creek is a tributary of Redwood Creek. Much of Prairie Creek’s former riparian and floodplain habitat has been lost due to anthropomorphic activities, which have negatively impacted fish and wildlife populations.

At present, the multidisciplinary crew is installing 800 feet of meandering stream channel and a new 1.1-acre pond/slow-water refuge. Wood structures were added to the pond to provide places for fish to hide from predators. Similar to a water feature constructed last year, the pond will be planted with native vegetation and lined with a temporary barrier to prevent invasive plants from taking root.

They will also move the creek from its current constrained location against Highway 101 to a former pasture, where it will have space to evolve. Currently, the creek segment resembles a ditch covered in invasive Himalayan blackberry. This year, the construction crew will complete the meander bend, second pond and enhanced floodplain. Next year, water will be allowed to flow into the holistically restored section of creek.

Last year, the crew constructed an approximately 2-acre pond and enhanced floodplain. Juvenile salmon, songbirds and ducks are already using the new habitat. The restoration team also removed many acres of asphalt from the bygone mill site. When the project is completed next year, the stream segment will once again function in a natural manner, which will encourage the development of more habitat in the long-term.

As the creek evolves and the planted grasses, shrubs and trees mature, conditions for juvenile fish will exponentially improve with each passing year. The repaired riparian zones and floodplains will support larger quantities of the macroinvertebrates that baby salmon and steelhead need to put on size before entering the ocean. In addition to young fish, the restored habitat will aid a wide variety of wildlife species, ranging from resident Roosevelt elk to migratory waterfowl.

The project will also make the creek more resilient to climate change. The vegetation will shade the stream and moderate water temperatures during the summer. The ponds and floodplains will sustain a moist environment year-round, even in driest months.

The Yurok Tribe will continue to post updates on this project during and after construction, so you will be able to see the property come back to life. The updates will be share on this page. Here is a link to video on the project: https://youtu.be/zPusYlmGuMQ


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