U.S. Forest Forest Service crews have restarted work on the Bonanza Stream Restoration Project.
The project, which is located near the historic Bonanza town site in the Yankee Fork drainage, will restore nearly a mile of the Yankee Fork that was impacted by dredge mining. It will will substantially improve the ability of the Yankee Fork to support Chinook salmon, steelhead, and bull trout, all of which are listed as threatened species under the Endangered Species Act, the Forest Service said in a news release.
“This aquatics restoration work is another essential component of the greater region-wide effort to recover these listed fish species,” said Salmon-Challis National Forest Supervisor Chuck Mark in the release.
Between 1940 and 1952, the Yankee Fork Dredge mined a large section of the Yankee Fork and the adjacent valley floor. While this was effective in collecting gold, it also significantly altered the river and eliminated side channels, streamside vegetation, and floodplains. And, it left large piles of rock, gravel, and sand, or tailings, on the valley floor. All of this reduced the river’s ability to support fish. Although more than 60 years have passed since the dredging, the Yankee Fork has been unable to revert back to a natural condition and the area’s ability to support fish is still impaired. This work will help correct this issue in part of the area impacted by the dredging by eliminating many of the tailings and re-establishing natural stream channels, vegetation, and floodplains.
The project is a joint effort between the Bureau of Reclamation, Bonneville Power Administration, the governor’s Office of Species Conservation, J.R. Simplot Company, NOAA Fisheries, Salmon-Challis National Forest, Shoshone-Bannock Tribes, and Trout Unlimited. The 46 acres in question are a mix of private land owned by the J.R. Simplot Company and Forest Service land.
“This project demonstrates the significant work that can be accomplished when people work together towards a common goal. In this case, that goal is a healthier watershed and better fish habitat,” said Cassi Wood, project specialist for Trout Unlimited.
Work started in 2018 and the main phases of the project are expected to be complete by 2020. Last year, work focused on removing about 100,000 cubic yards of surplus tailings, stockpiling soil, and reconstructing the parking lot across from the Yankee Fork Dredge. This year, it will focus on removing the remaining surplus tailings and constructing stream channels and floodplains. Most of this work is expected to be done between June and September. Crews and heavy equipment will be working on and around the project, including the Yankee Fork Road, and forest visitors should use caution when traveling in this area. At this time, project managers do not anticipate any temporary road or campground closures or extended traffic delays. However, the project area will be closed to public access, including fishing, while work is being done.
While the project focuses on restoring fish habitat by eliminating the impacts of the dredge mining, about seven acres of tailings near the Yankee Fork Dredge are being left in place to help preserve the mining history of the area. Crews will also create three new parking areas and reconstruct an existing one near the Yankee Fork Dredge.