Photo of large piles of rocks in a former river valley damaged by mining.

Swan River Restoration Project Blog

Updates on construction and project milestones.

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Aug 15

Swan River Restoration Project Update - Greening Up the Valley

Posted on August 15, 2017 at 4:21 PM by Jason Lederer

If you've visited the Swan River Valley recently, you might have noticed that the Reach A restoration site is greening up nicely! After a rather dry start to the summer, recent monsoon moisture has sent the native grasses into frenzy. What a difference a couple of years makes…
2015

Swan Oblique 2015 - Google

2016

West Oblique 2016 - Zach Mahone Photot
2017
West View Oblique
Late last week, Summit County’s design-build team of Ecological Resource Consultants/Tezak Heavy Equipment (ERC/Tezak) re-mobilized to the project site to complete the remaining re-vegetation work. Riparian and upland planting work on Reach A is supported primarily by grant funds from Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the Colorado Water Conservation Board (both important agency project partners). For the next few days, crews from ERC/Tezak’s subcontractor, Western State Reclamation, will be installing literally thousands of plants across the site.
Planting Install
Planting Install Bobcat
The primary plantings are willow species, which are being installed along the river banks. Willows are critical for naturally stabilizing the banks, especially along the outside edge of the channel bends (referred to as cut banks) where erosive forces are typically the strongest.
Planted Willows
Of the more than 2,300 willow shrubs being planted, 1,200 are derived from willow cuttings harvested downstream from the restoration site this past spring. Willows are an incredibly resilient genus, and fresh cuttings planted in soil under the right conditions can grow into entirely new plants. This project is using four willow species including, Booth’s, Drummond’s, Geyer’s, and Park.
Willow Rootball

Upland shrub and tree species are also being installed across the site. Species include two types of sagebrush (big and silver), woods rose, 6 and 8-foot-tall Colorado blue spruce, and one-inch, two-inch, and three-inch-caliper single and multi-stem quaking aspen. One of the biggest challenges of restoration re-vegetation work is ensuring plants are adaptable to the nuances of the local climate. The Swan River Valley’s high elevation and exposure can be particularly harsh, so selecting appropriate plant materials is critically important. Wherever possible, nursery plants were raised in comparable conditions and climates to the Swan River Valley in order to best prepare them for what the site and Mother Nature has in store for them. Initially, the Summit County Open Space and Trails Department (OST) is irrigating the new plantings regularly while they are becoming established and adapted to their new home.

Tree Staging

The Reach A restoration site remains in a fragile condition while vegetation becomes established. We understand the temptation to explore the area, but ask that everyone please respect the posted closures. Once the site stabilizes, we look forward to restoring public access for hiking, fishing, and overall enjoyment.

Closed for Restoration

Gravel removal work on Reach B (above/upstream from the recently completed Reach A restoration site) has been underway for just over a month. Schofield Excavation is already making tremendous progress processing and removing dredge rock. As work advances, Schofield will also begin importing and placing suitable soil for the riparian and upland restoration areas; rough grading the future stream channel, riparian, and upland areas; and producing materials required for constructing channel, riparian, upland, and floodplain features.

Reach B_A

Reach B is currently an active construction site and, for safety and operations reasons, no public access is permitted unless specifically authorized by Summit County, and/or the Schofield Excavation.

Over the last week, OST hosted two site visits. One site visit was with an Ecological Restoration Case Studies undergraduate course from Colorado State University (CSU). As a component to the course, students participate in a week-long field trip around Colorado to learn about the complexities of planning, implementing, and monitoring different kinds of restoration projects. Professor Tony Cheng, Director of the Colorado Forest Restoration Institute and Professor at the CSU Department of Forest and Rangeland Stewardship, enthusiastically included the Swan River Restoration Project into the lesson plan, as it is an ideal fit with class learning objectives.

CSU Students

The other site visit was with members of the Summit County Garden Club. The club works to educate their members and the community about gardening in Summit County and the ongoing large-scale restoration effort in the Swan River Valley has certainly caught their attention.

Additional information about Swan River Restoration Project is available at RestoreTheSwanRiver.com as well as on the Open Space and Trails Special Projects web page. If you have additional questions about the restoration project, you can contact Summit County Open Space and Trails Director Brian Lorch, or Open Space and Trails Senior Resource Specialist Jason Lederer, or call 970.668.4060.

Jun 23

Swan River Restoration Project Update - Visitors, Plantings, and a New Contractor

Posted on June 23, 2017 at 3:18 PM by Jason Lederer

The last week sure has been an exciting one for the Swan River Restoration project, with lots of visitors, plant installation, and seasonal peak flows! We were all eager to see how the new channel would handle this spring’s runoff and we couldn’t be more elated with the results. As expected, the channel is holding up well and making its own anticipated minor adjustments while stream finds its way through the alignment. We are seeing minor channel adjustments occurring along the cut banks, point bars, and floodplains, as  stream energy buffs out the new channel geometry to its liking. With the flows now dropping, things are setting up well for a busy year of planting.

Stream 1

Flood stage

Stream 2
With a lot of help from Rocky Mountain Youth Corps, we installed nearly 350 plantings across the site. The Summit County Open Space and Trails seasonal field staff managed a crew of ten RMYC members who installed five plant clusters containing a mix of Rocky Mountain Juniper, Woods Rose, Engelmann Spruce, and Aspen – all native species, appropriate for the site and location. Installing these plants was no easy task, as the site surface really only contains a thin veneer of soil over the remaining dredge rock. (Think planting with pick axes as opposed to shovels!) Special thanks are due to the Summit County Resource Allocation Park (SCRAP) who generously donated several cubic yards of locally manufactured compost to help support the new plantings. Another round of plant installation will occur by Summit County’s design-build team of Ecological Resource Consultants/Tezak Heavy Equipment (ERC/Tezak) in August, when much larger plantings will be installed across the site and willows planted along the banks.
Youth Corps 1

Youth Corps 2

Last week, we also hosted two site visits. One site visit was a public open house that included a short discussion about the project and opportunity to walk  a portion of the site. You might have also seen an article following this visit in the Summit Daily. The other site visit was by the U.S. Forest Service, an important project partner. The White River National Forest (WRNF) hosted several members of the Forest Service Rocky Mountain Region Leadership Team for a week-long General Management Review (GMR). The GMR offers the opportunity for Regional Leadership to take a comprehensive look at how the National Forest is functioning both internally in terms of management of their programs and accomplishment of their mission, as well as externally in terms of how they work with partners and serve the communities. As such, the Regional Leadership was very interested in an opportunity to visit the Swan River Restoration Project site, which really exemplifies the benefit of strong partnerships. Partnerships are a critical part of this project and we couldn’t agree more with their sentiment!

USFS



Lastly, we are excited to announce that Summit County and Town of Breckenridge have entered into a lease agreement with Schofield Excavation to continue removal of the dredge rock above the recently completed restoration reach. Reach B is currently covered with at least 195,000 cubic yards of dredge rock that need to be removed before channel, riparian, and upland restoration work can occur. The contractor will begin processing and removing dredge rock under Summit County’s Conditional Use Permit (CUP) starting immediately.


Additional information about Swan River Restoration Project is available at RestoreTheSwanRiver.com as well as on the Open Space and Trails Special Projects web page. If you have additional questions about the restoration project, you can contact Summit County Open Space and Trails Director Brian Lorch, or Open Space and Trails Senior Resource Specialist Jason Lederer, or call 970.668.4060.

Jun 07

Swan River Restoration Project Update - Plans for 2017 and Site Visit Opportunity

Posted on June 7, 2017 at 11:21 AM by Jason Lederer

With the snow finally melting from the Swan River Restoration Project site, we are looking forward to another productive year continuing efforts to restore the Swan River Valley. Perhaps the most exciting news is that, since the Summit County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) authorized the Open Space and Trails Department (OST) to solicit bids from gravel contractors to continue processing and removing dredge rock from Reach B, we have completed the bidding process and are entering into a lease agreement with the selected contractor. Reach B is currently covered with at least 195,000 cubic yards of dredge rock that need to be removed before channel, riparian, and upland restoration work can occur. The contractor will begin processing and removing dredge rock under Summit County’s Conditional Use Permit (CUP) starting this summer. Per the terms of this lease agreement:

  • Summit County and the Town of Breckenridge will collect royalty payments on all material leaving the site, which will be dedicated towards the restoration of public Open Space in the Swan River Valley (Reach B)
  • the contractor will rough grade the future stream channel, riparian, and upland areas
  • the contractor will produce material required for constructing the future stream channel
  • the contractor will import and place suitable soil for the riparian and upland restoration areas
  • Summit County and the Town of Breckenridge will be able to purchase manufactured materials for things like road base at a reduced cost compared to the open market
The lease agreement also requires the contractor to:
  • complete all gravel milling activities by May 3, 2020 (expiration date of the CUP),
  • gravel removal operations by May 3, 2021, and
  • adhere to the same Travel Management Plan as applied to the recently completed Swan River Reach A restoration project site (e.g., hours of operation, haul route, etc.).

Starting the week of June 12th, we will also begin installing the first restoration plantings. Working with a 10 person group from Rocky Mountain Youth Corp, over 600 small container plants procured from the Colorado State Forest Service Nursery will be installed in planting pockets across the site. More substantial planting will occur in August of this year by Summit County’s design-build team of Ecological Resource Consultants/Tezak Heavy Equipment (ERC/Tezak). The Summit County Resource Allocation Park is also generously donating several cubic yards of compost to help provide nutrients for the plantings while they are becoming established. 

If you would like to learn more about Swan River Restoration Project plans for the 2017 field season, we will be holding an onsite open house on Wednesday, June 14, 2017 at 10:00 a.m. at the intersection of Rock Island Road and Tiger Road to talk about the project. The open house will include a short introduction, followed by an opportunity to walk around a portion of the site and ask questions.

We are also excited to share some aerial images taken early last week by Jeremy Webber, Research Scientist and Program Manager at the Center for Aerial Unmanned Systems Imaging (CAUSI) at Indiana University ~ Purdue University, Indianapolis. These are the first aerial images of the completed channel. As an avid fly fisherman with a research background in watershed management, and stream and floodplain restoration, Mr. Webber is excited to continue studying this unique stream restoration project and share his research and results with others in the field. The Swan River Restoration Project is already proving to be an attractive research site for numerous organizations, from Summit High School, to research institutions throughout the United States and beyond.

Compostie_Reach-A

Northwest_View_Down_Valley
West_View_Down_Valley-obliquie
Crossing_at_Muggins_Gulch
East_View_Up_Valley
Additional
information about Swan River Restoration Project is available at RestoreTheSwanRiver.com as well as on the Open Space and Trails Special Projects web page. If you have additional questions about the restoration project, you can contact Summit County Open Space and Trails Director Brian Lorch, or Open Space and Trails Senior Resource Specialist Jason Lederer, or call 970.668.4060.