News from our member organizations

NW Energy Coalition announces new executive director

News from NW Energy Coalition - Mon, 09/22/2014 - 4:43pm
The NW Energy Coalition executive board is proud to announce that nationally admired energy policy authority Nancy Hirsh will succeed Sara Patton as Coalition executive director, effective in January. Hirsh has been Coalition policy director for 18 years. She’s left her personal imprint on such critical accomplishments as increasingly energy efficiency-focused regional power plans, agreements to end coal-fired power generation in Washington and Oregon once and for all, and the region’s landmark renewable energy and energy efficiency standard: Washington’s I-937.

Summer Sendoff: A Week in Trip Reports

News from Washington Trails Association - Mon, 09/22/2014 - 3:15pm

What an incredible week! We've been soaking up the last of summertime hiking as your weekend trip reports roll in. The eight trip reports below are just a small sample of your adventures, so grab a coffee and find out how your fellow hikers sent off the last official week of summer.

Then file your own report, check your inboxes for the September issue of Trail News, and start getting psyched for fall hiking.

Shannon Ridge - Baker, boots and a good book

"I found carpets of blueberries under crisp views of Mt Baker. Upon entering the North Cascades National Park, a dry rocky trail led steely up towards a saddle. Many butterflies and grasshoppers were afoot..."

 

Mt Baker, Boots, & Book. Photo and trip report by Rashel on Sep 20, 2014

Golden Horn - Snowy Lakes  - stars and fall color on the PCT

"My dad and I went in on the 15th of September. Beautiful views all the way up to out first campsite ... It was a clear night and the stars were out, and beautiful..."

Brilliant stars while backpacking the Golden Horn - Snowy Lakes section of the PCT. Copyright Taylor Rubart Photography

Cascade Pass - long light and fickle weather

"I awoke this morning to perfectly clear skies. The dawn and the sunrise were magnificent. During my descent, the fall colors and ptarmigans in the meadows provided a beautiful exit from a thrilling destination."

 

Camp 6 at sunset on Sahale Arm. Photo and trip report by geezerhiker, on Sep 20, 2014.

Mount David - climbing from summer into fall

"We passed below the big pika filled talus field and switchbacked up the other side. The leaf color improved. Some of the best color of the day was here..."

 

Stone outhouse on the summit of Mount David. Trip report and photo by HikerJim, on Sep 15, 2014.

Steamboat Rock - wildflowers, reptiles and sunshine

"I was also lucky enough to spot the tail end of a western skink! I had no idea we had such colorful reptiles in this state..."

 

Trip report and photo by by KellyJo, on Sep 17, 2014.

Burroughs Mountain - big views and little bears

"This is a great hike to take in spectacular views of Mt. Rainier all the way from the beginning to the end of the trail ..."

 

Mother bear and two cubs on Burroughs Mountain. Photo and trip report by lifeisamt, on Sep 13, 2014.

Mount Pugh - 5,000 feet of gain in 5 miles

"This is a great time of year to take on Mt.Pugh. It is a tough nut to crack though, over 5000' elevation in around 5 miles. The upper portions are decidedly more a scramblers terrain ..."

 

The upper meadows of Mount Pugh. Photo and trip report by vongoebel, on Sep 22, 2014.

 

Killen Meadows - Adams Creek Meadows, High Camp

 

"First time hiking in this area of Mt Adams and we timed the weather perfectly - great weather, amazing sunset, and ZERO bugs ..."

High Camp on the slopes of Mount Adams. Photo and trip report by dieselhikes, on Sep 13, 2014.

Your Voice Is Needed to Keep Organic Strong

News from Beyond Pesticides - Mon, 09/22/2014 - 11:43am
(Beyond Pesticides, September 22, 2014) Help protect our organic farms and food from pesticides and genetically engineered organisms. Don’t let a weakened public process for organic standards, which looms large, roll back the progress we’ve made in growing organic production, and undermine public trust in the organic food label.The fall 2014 meeting dates for the National […]

Community-based Tree Kangaroo Program Wins Top Conservation Prize

News from Conservation International - Mon, 09/22/2014 - 5:00am
Clans defied tradition to create YUS Conservation Area in Papua New Guinea. Now it's paying off.

NRDC President: Historic March Calls for Immediate, Decisive Action on Climate

News from NRDC - Sat, 09/20/2014 - 10:00pm
NEW YORK (September 21, 2014) – Frances Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council retiring in December after forty years with the organization, issued the following statement today as she joined more than 100,000 people in New York City for the People’s Climate March, calling for decisive action to reduce the growing threats from climate change:

The Whitehorse Trail: Partners, Progress, and Potential

Snohomish County Bikes: an ongoing series highlighting great bike rides and issues affecting bicycling across Snohomish County.

Ready to create adventure on the Whitehorse Trail.

When you hold an event and have literally every level of government represented—city, county, state legislature, governor’s office, state Department of Transportation, congressional delegation—you know you’re doing something right.

When private donors are willing to put up hundreds of thousands of dollars for a trail, you know you’re doing something right.

When over 50 people give up a sunny Saturday afternoon in early fall to come to an event that involves people giving speeches, you know you’re doing something right.

That “something” is the Whitehorse Trail in Snohomish County. As the Everett Herald headline read, “Restoration of Whitehorse Trail well on its way.”

Click to view slideshow.

Branching off from the Centennial Trail, the Whitehorse Trail runs through the heart of Oso to Darrington through quiet, beautiful forested glades along the Stillaguamish River (great fishing!) with scenic views of the North Cascades including Whitehorse Mountain, Mount Higgins, Prairie Mountain, and more.

Wildlife, birds, and wildflowers abound. Largely undeveloped with large sections of original rail ballast, it draws hikers, equestrians, and people on mountain bikes. Repairing sections and improving the trail surface would expand its potential to include those touring on road bikes, bringing more tourist business to the towns that need it most.

When the dreadful mudslide wiped out portions of Highway 530 around Oso six short months ago, Washington Bikes had just received a grant to promote bike travel in Snohomish County. It was immediately obvious that in addition to identifying and promoting great bike touring opportunities, as we’ve done in our Snohomish County Bikes series, Washington Bikes needed to work with community leaders to find short- and long-term opportunities to grow local economies.

Tourism represents the third largest sector of the Snohomish County economy, and local elected officials were eager to communicate that Snohomish County travel is open for business and welcoming visitors. Through Washington Bikes policy connections and long hours of work with great partners who welcomed our help we’ve made bike tourism part of their economic recovery strategy, and it’s paying off.

Recovery efforts have resulted in rapid clean-up of the trail as Highway 530 has been relocated and is being rebuilt. A federal grant put 80+ people to work through Workforce Development, giving people jobs after long-term unemployment or job displacement. They live in the immediate area and get to enjoy the fruits of their labors with long walks on the Whitehorse Trail through the quiet woods.

At the event to celebrate progress and look ahead at future potential, Snohomish County Parks and Recreation director Tom Teigen said enthusiastically, “The partnership we’ve put together is really incredible—local, state, federal, private donations have all come together to get us to this point. And we’re here today thanks to Washington Bikes helping us connect the dots to be poised for even more progress on the trail.”

An anonymous couple has donated over $300,000 to the effort, enabling Snohomish County to repair and reinforce numerous bridges along the trail to prepare them for future decking and surfacing. With this donation, investments by Snohomish County Parks, and federal disaster relief funds for clean-up and repair as matches, the project is being submitted for possible state funding from the WSDOT Bicycle and Pedestrian Grant Program in the upcoming legislative session.

The long-term vision that has inspired so many partners: A completed Whitehorse Trail connected to the existing Centennial Trail in Snohomish County, ultimately connecting to the growing regional trail network across Snohomish and King Counties.

This network includes the East Lake Sammamish Trail, Sammamish River Trail, Burke-Gilman Trail, and future Eastside Rail Corridor Trail, now getting under way with the planning of the Cross Kirkland Corridor, along with other, shorter trails and on-street connections. Just think of the total trail mileage!

  • Whitehorse Trail: 27 miles
  • Centennial Trail: 30.2 miles
  • East Lake Sammamish Trail: 11 miles
  • Sammamish River Trail: 10.9 miles
  • Burke-Gilman Trail: 17 miles
  • Interurban Trail: 24.9 miles
  • Cross Kirkland Corridor: 5.8 miles

Total: 126.8+ miles of trails connecting to and through Snohomish County — and growing

Snohomish County bicycling offers miles and miles of separated pathways through gorgeous scenery, small towns eager to stuff you full of pastries and locally brewed or distilled beverages, farms inviting you to pick fresh produce, antique stores, art galleries, local museums, and more. Imagine the power of providing an easy bike route from the major population center around greater Seattle to all this—wallets on wheels will roll into town ready to refuel with calories.

That’s the vision that had everyone so excited at Saturday’s Whitehorse Trail event. That’s the power of partnership, and Washington Bikes is proud to help bring this project to fruition.

Related Reading:

 

 

The post The Whitehorse Trail: Partners, Progress, and Potential appeared first on Washington Bikes.

Sure Feet and Fickle Weather: Safety Tips for Fall

News from Washington Trails Association - Sat, 09/20/2014 - 3:48pm

Autumn is an amazing time to get into Washington's mountains. The backcountry is bursting with fall color, crowds have thinned to a trickle, and the bugs are all but gone.

But like any type of sport, hiking carries certain risks, and your safety is best ensured with preparation and caution. Shorter days, colder nights and quickly-changing weather can make even a simple day hike more risky than your average summer excursion.

When hiking in the fall, pack some extra caution into your backpack and learn to step carefully.

Pack extra caution in your backpack

Carefully choose your hike destination, and take the time to check trail conditions and weather forecasts before you head out. Let someone know where you will be and when you plan to return. Bring warm clothes, and be prepared for any weather. And pack the backcountry essentials that could save your life should you get lost or injured.

Here are some tips for safe backcountry hiking in autumn:

  1. Check the latest trail conditions. Many trails will have new snow, and our snow level will continue to drop as autumn goes on. Check for recent trip reports from other hikers to confirm your chosen trail is snow-free. And always call ahead to local ranger stations for conditions.
  2. Let someone know where you are going, and when you expect to return (and call them when you do return). If your destination changes, follow up and let someone know. Here is an easy form to share your hike itinerary with someone.
  3. Always pack the 10 Essentials on any hike, including a topographic map, compass, extra food, extra clothing, firestarter, matches, sun protection, a pocket knife, first-aid kit, and flashlight. In unpredictable weather, it’s also a good idea to bring some sort of emergency shelter, even on a day hike. Hiking poles or ice axes can be of help on stretches of unexpected icy or snow-covered patches. Remember, cell phones don't always get reception and batteries can fade quickly in cold weather. They are not a substitute for carrying the backcountry essentials that could save your life.
  4. Watch weather forecasts. This time of year, weather can turn cold and rainy, even snowy, in an instant.Hikers should turn back if encountering treacherous snow and ice unless equipped with an ice ax and knowledgeable about how to use it, and be aware of avalanche danger. The website Washington Online Weather is a good source for mountain forecasts, as is the National Weather Service's Mountain Forecastwebsite. A good source for avalanche conditions and safety is http://www.nwac.us/.
  5. Be aware of hunting seasons. Autumn is hunting season, and each year hunters come out to pursue elk, deer, and other game. Read our tips for staying safe around hunters.
How not to fall in fall: tips for sure footing

Hiking with sure feet and extra supplies on a fall classic: Maple Pass Loop. Photo ny Ty Kelly

It sounds simple and easy. Hiking is basically walking, putting one foot in front of the other. But as summer rolls into fall, and rain starts to make trails more slippery, remember that the ground isn't flat, and a heavy pack can throw off your balance. Some trails pass right by steep cliffs. Snow may be slippery. Loose rocks on trail tread may shift unexpectedly.

You can't control the environment, but there are ways to become more sure-footed when you hike.

  • It may seem silly to say, but watch where you are going. Washington's stunning views have a way of distracting even the most adept hiker.
  • Keep your hands free by stashing or securing your camera, phone or gps device while hiking.
  • When scrambling, check the stability of the rocks before you trust them with your weight.
  • Be aware of where you are standing. This is especially true when you are taking a photo or having a photo taken of you.
  • When putting on your pack, give yourself room to safely re-balance yourself.
  • Take extra care around cliff areas, especially when it's been raining.
  • Don't be afraid to turn around if the weather conditions change, you hit a rough patch in the trail or anyone in your hiking group gets tired.
  • Try trekking poles -- these are great for helping you keep your balance on steep trails, circumventing obstacles and crossing streams and snowfields -- though beware that having good balance on your own two feet is the most essential.
  • As summer turns to fall, consider bringing traction devices for your boots.
  • You can also improve your balance with basic conditioning exercises. Do the "Daily Dozen" [PDF}, a set of hiking exercises from John Colver's Fit by Nature.

Each one of us is ultimately responsible for our own safety in the backcountry. On this long holiday weekend, choose hikes that feel safe to you and be step carefully out there.

WTA's Gear Library Opens Doors For Youth, Educators

News from Washington Trails Association - Fri, 09/19/2014 - 6:55pm

WTA's Gear Library, built with help from volunteers and generous outdoor retailers, is a free resource for Washington's educators and youth leaders to outfit their students for safe, meaningful outdoor experiences.

Since it launched last year, WTA's Outdoor Leadership Training program has facilitated more than 900 outdoor experiences for youth.

How? By empowering teachers and youth leaders with the skills and resources they need to lead safe, fun outdoor experiences. Adult trip leaders can sign up for skills building workshops, borrow free gear, and apply for a mini-grant to help with transportation costs.

Join WTA for a sneak peek of Outdoor Leadership Training program's new gear library

A lack of gear should never be a barrier for a classroom or youth group getting outside on a nature walk, camping adventure or snowshoe trip. That's why WTA is stocking a gear library, where educators can borrow free gear their students need to get outside safely.

You're invited to learn more about the program and check out the gear library on Sept. 23:

  • Celebrate WTA's new community resource to get youth outdoors
  • Meet WTA staff and learn more about our Outdoor Leadership Training program
  • Learn about our early success stories, and our plans to help educators explore the backcountry
  • See first-hand how WTA is empowering new outdoor leaders to connect youth with the natural world

 

We will gather in the Community Room and offer guided tours of the gear library throughout the event. WTA will provide light hors d'oeuvres and drinks. RSVP for the OLT open house now. When: Tuesday, Sept. 23 from 4:30 p.m. - 6:30 p.m. Where: Mt. Baker Lofts - Community Room, 2923 Rainier Ave S, Seattle 98144 Accessible by public transportation: Mount Baker Light Rail Station King County Metro Routes: 7,8,9,14,48 Please RSVP by Sept 22.

Upcoming workshop on Sat, Oct. 4 for educators and youth leaders

Krista Dooley has a conversation with educators at a workshop in July.

If you want to connect your students with an outdoor education experience this year and gain access to the gear lending library, our upcoming hiking workshop is the best place to start. It's a 6-hour entry-level course focused on leading a safe, successful hike with a youth group.

Location: Tradition Plateau Trails from the High Point Way Trailhead, Issaquah, WATime: 9:30am - 3:30pm

Bike It: USBR 10 – Okanogan Country to Republic

John Pope, WA Bikes board member and volunteer USBRS route coordinator, has put foot to pedal and is riding the newly designated USBR 10. His wife Michele is providing vehicle support and chronicling their cross-state adventure.

We pulled out of Okanogan with a long day ahead of us. The secondary route outside of Omak was beautiful but could use a sign! We traveled many miles along the Okanogan River through scrubland until we arrived in Riverside where we visited the Detros Western Store (jeans long enough for Michele). After outfitting ourselves in some local garb, John hopped in the saddle and pedaled toward Tonasket while I visited the local grocery/antique/curiosity shop. It had everything one could need — including a collection of pocket lint dating back to 1993.

Our next community stop was Tonasket where we dropped by the Visitor’s Information Center and had the pleasure of visiting with Linda Black. Linda is a whirlwind of energy and great ideas. She has developed a bike campground behind the visitor center with top end restrooms and shower. She is a huge supporter of bike tourism and USBR 10 and cyclists are invited to camp here for free. John calls her a Trail Angel.

Next came the long arduous climb away from Tonasket and the Okanogan Valley up to the Okanogan Highlands and over Wauconda Pass, elevation 4,311 feet. There is a long stretch of narrow and winding road, with little to no shoulder, and the truck traffic can feel fast and heavy. This is offset by the stark pioneer beauty of the upland prairies and a long pleasant descent to Republic.

Nestled in a valley between Wauconda and Sherman Passes, Republic is a quaint tree-lined town with history steeped in the logging and mining industries.  Bike campers can pitch their tents at no cost in the city park on the west end of town. Be sure to visit Republic Brewing Company to sample handcrafted beers, ciders and sodas. And bring your own food.

Looking forward to Friday. John will be joined by ColVelo webmaster Jason Edwards and his wife for the climb over Sherman Pass. Then we roll into Colville in time for Blazing Saddles and a second USBR 10 ribbon-cutting event on Saturday. A layover day for the weary travelers!

Related Reading

Bike It: USBR 10 (Day One) Bike It: USBR 10 – The Epic Climb (Day Two) Bike It: USBR 10 – Methow Valley (Day Three) USBR 10, Northern Washington State

Want More News About Bike Travel in Washington State? Sign up for our e-news! Name * First Last name * Last Email Address * City * ZIP code * Optional: tell us about your biking interests (check all that apply): Travel Rides/Events Safety Education Policy/Advocacy Infrastructure/Connections Other (describe below) If other, please describe We send e-news, action alerts, and emails asking for your support of our work Check here if you prefer not to receive emails asking for your financial support of our work. Check here if you do not want us to exchange your email information with other organizations whose missions complement ours By filling out this form, you opt in to receive email updates about bicycling events and issues in Washington State.

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Farm Policy Roundup – September 19, 2014

News from American Farmland Trust - Fri, 09/19/2014 - 1:18pm

 Congress Passes Continuing Resolution The House of Representatives and the Senate this week passed a continuing resolution (CR) to fund government agencies through December 11. Because Congress failed to pass any appropriations bills before the end of fiscal year 2014, a CR was necessary to pass to avoid a government shutdown. The CR passed in […]

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Bike It: USBR 10 – Methow Valley

John Pope, WA Bikes board member and volunteer USBRS route coordinator, has put foot to pedal and is riding newly designated USBR 10. His wife Michele is providing vehicle support and chronicling the cross-state bike ride.

Rustic camping.

We spent Day Three exploring the scenic Methow Valley. We left Early Winters Campground near Mazama and John pedaled past farms and ranches to Barn Bicycle Camping. Located midway between Mazama and Winthrop on Hwy 20/USBR 10, this stay-by-donation place for bike travelers is owned by Jan and Jim Gregg. It offers a solar shower, composting toilet and free wi-fi.

John’s next stop was Winthrop and the Methow Valley Cycle & Sport to stock up on bike tires (he had two blowouts on Day Two) and to thank them for their support of USBR 10.

Then it was on to Twisp and a great lunch at Cinnamon Twisp Bakery. Located at the confluence of the Twisp and Methow Rivers, this community has been an ardent supporter of USBR 10. The Methow Valley Inn hosted one of Washington Bikes’ early outreach meetings for this project.

From there things took a literal ‘turn’ for the worse. John continued on Hwy 20/USBR 10 to climb the 4020 ft summit of Loup Loup Pass while I managed to get turned around in a detour and took the scenic road along the Methow River into Pateros. I realized the error of my ways and turned around. The drive back to Twisp suddenly seemed longer, less scenic and much more twisty! After getting help at the construction site I headed over Loup Loup Pass and on to Okanogan — arriving at the same time as John! I offered to retire as his sag wagon but he declined my offer.

So Day Three was a day of lost and founds. Lost John’s helmet mirror and found it. Lost the bike pump and found it. I lost John and found him! All’s well that ends well!

Related Reading

Bike It: USBR 10 (Day One) Bike It: USBR 10 – The Epic Climb (Day Two) USBR 10, Northern Washington State

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Urban Jungle: How Vulnerable is Bogotá to Climate Change Impacts?

News from Conservation International - Fri, 09/19/2014 - 7:00am
Our recent study aimed to determine the threat climate change poses to the city's more than 8 million residents.

Bill to Restore Clean Energy Tax Incentives Would Cut Air Pollution, Save Jobs

News from NRDC - Thu, 09/18/2014 - 10:00pm
WASHINGTON (September 19, 2014) – Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon) today introduced a bill aimed at restoring a suite of clean energy and energy efficiency tax incentives.

USDA Approves 2,4-D-Tolerant (GE) Crops

News from Beyond Pesticides - Thu, 09/18/2014 - 9:01pm
(Beyond Pesticides, September 19, 2014) The pesticide treadmill continues to turn with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) recent approval this week of three 2,4-D-tolerto ant corn and soybean crops, developed by Dow AgroSciences. Some growers have been pushing for the new Enlist crops in order to combat the rapid proliferation of glyphosate-resistant weeds. The […]

Join us for the NW Energy Coalition conference and gala!

News from NW Energy Coalition - Thu, 09/18/2014 - 11:49am
Join us at the NW Clean & Affordable Energy Conference and the Founding the Future Gala Nov. 7-8 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Portland. The conference will address critical issues including the best ways to replace aging fossil-fuel generation, regulating off-grid energy services and the Columbia River Treaty's effect on future hydro generation. At the gala, Clean energy supporters will enjoy a delicious plated dinner, drinks and great conversation while honoring the many Coalition founders and welcoming tomorrow's leaders. Register today!

Bike It: USBR 10 — The Epic Climb

WA Bikes board member John Pope is pedaling the newly designated US Bicycle Route 10 across Washington’s northern tier. His wife Michele is providing vehicle support and she submitted this post about Day Two.

What a wild and wonderful day on USBR 10.  We had a late start due to not one but two tire blowouts.  Then halfway through the day John decided to switch saddles, going back to his tried and true Brooks Saddle.

The uphill sections began with the narrow roadway through the Skagit River Gorge with activated tunnel beacons and a high bridge.  After Ross Dam you get a sense of uphill, but the real grind begins along Granite Creek where the road shoulder becomes rough and the fast cars feel the need to get going really, really fast.  The steep climb to Rainy Pass was helped by views of the high mountains, followed by a short downhill to Bridge Creek, then a final climb to Washington Pass and its views of Liberty Bell and spires of Early Winters.

The payback after all that climbing is a 40 mph downhill with sweeping curves from Washington Pass to Early Winters Campground, where we stayed for the night.   You really get the sense of fall in the air when traveling at such a speed.  Leaves are starting to turn.  There was a constant cascade of falling leaves along with the coolness that air takes on with the changing season.

We met some fellow travelers on our journey today.  Some were eager to chat while others saw their destination on the other side of the pass and kept a steady pace.  One couple that stood out were Preston and Wendy from Bellingham.  They spotted John at the Diablo overlook and asked if he was the bicyclist that was biking the new USBR10!  They were very enthused and excited to have run into him after reading the article in the Bellingham Herald.

What occurred to me, as the sag wagon observer, is that you will be hard pressed to find more glorious views than the passes that we went over today.  It reminds me how lucky we are to live in this corner of the world.  It also reminded me that riding a bike on such a journey is a testament to dedication, tenacity and loving to truly experience life.

You may wonder about the “El Sid” t-shirt that John has been wearing.  Here is the back story.  John’s journey over the pass today was dedicated to our brother-in-law Sid McHarg, who was a lifelong bike commuter in Seattle until he was hit by a car while returning home from work. We are happy to say that he survived the collision but many broken bones later he is no longer able to ride his bike the way he had enjoyed.  A reminder to always be mindful of the humans sharing the road with us. Everyone is a story.

Day Two Stats: 57 miles ridden with nearly 5000′ of climbing.

John ends Day Two at Early Winters Campground near Mazama

Related Reading Want More News about Bike Travel in Washington State? Sign up for our e-news! Name * First Last name * Last Email Address * City * ZIP code * Optional: tell us about your biking interests (check all that apply): Travel Rides/Events Safety Education Policy/Advocacy Infrastructure/Connections Other (describe below) If other, please describe We send e-news, action alerts, and emails asking for your support of our work Check here if you prefer not to receive emails asking for your financial support of our work. Check here if you do not want us to exchange your email information with other organizations whose missions complement ours By filling out this form, you opt in to receive email updates about bicycling events and issues in Washington State.

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Simkins Dam Removal: Nearly Four Years Later

News from American Rivers - Thu, 09/18/2014 - 6:00am
Simkins Dam

In an ideal world, we would have the resources to monitor changes in rivers and streams after many of our restoration projects. Monitoring helps us evaluate the river’s recovery following a major change, like the removal of a dam. Unfortunately, funding constraints often limit the extent and duration of monitoring work, leading to information ranging from volunteer-collected data to only the most preliminary information to anecdotal evidence.

Background

This isn’t the case on the Patapsco River. American Rivers and our partners have invested significantly in assessing the recovery of the river following dam removal. We kicked off this effort prior to removal of the Simkins Dam in the fall of 2010 in order to characterize the rate at which sand and gravel in the dam’s former impoundment dissipated downstream and the resulting biological response from the aquatic community during and after this recovery.

Releasing stored sediments can be a viable management option at dam removal sites if they are not contaminated, and if the estimated impacts to downstream floodplain ecosystems and human uses are acceptable. The Simkins Dam removal— which impounded clean sand and gravel— represents the first time this technique was used at a site in Maryland.

Over the last four years, we have conducted seven river surveys, collecting data at roughly 28 points beginning upstream of the former impoundment and through the downstream sections of the watershed. We also have 88 photo documentation stations along the river that we return to regularly to supplement our physical data collection. An example of some of the photos taken over time at one of our stations can be seen in the slideshow below.

Downstream of the Simkins dam, pre- dam removal Downstream of the former Simkins Dam - post- dam removal - 3/9/11 Downstream of the former Simkins Dam - 9/25/11 Downstream of the former Simkins Dam - 3/21/12 Downstream of the former Simkins Dam - 11/1/12 Downstream of the former Simkins Dam - 10/28/13

This slideshow presents monitoring images taken downstream of the former Simkins Dam, above Bloede Dam, at the Ilchester Railroad Bridge. The first image is pre-dam removal. You can see by the end of the series that the river in this area has returned to pre-dam removal conditions.

In addition, we investigate responses of fish and aquatic bug (benthic macroinvertebrate) communities to the change in habitat type and increased connectivity between aquatic habitats. To monitor this aspect, we are partnering with the Maryland Biological Stream Survey to conduct yearly surveys of migratory and resident fish and aquatic bugs at locations throughout the Patapsco.

Results

Upon removal of Simkins Dam, a substantial proportion of the sediment that had accumulated behind the dam washed downstream fairly rapidly. Within a period of weeks, much of that sediment settled into the Bloede Dam impoundment, decreasing its depth by as much as 1.5 meters in some places. By April 2012, most of the Simkins sediment temporarily held behind Bloede Dam was transported downstream, in part due to Tropical Storm Lee (an estimated 10-year event in September 2011). As this sand moved through the system, we witnessed a process of pools filling in and then re-scouring as the sand moved downstream. The sand didn’t remain in any one place for very long, and as you can see from the sample cross-section below, sediment deposition isn’t always uniform across the channel. As of the last survey, a thin veneer of sediment from the Simkins impoundment can be found roughly seven kilometers downstream. These results largely follow modeling predictions made before the dam’s removal.

This figure shows changes in a cross-section of the river downstream of the former Simkins Dam showing (a) bed sediment texture evolution through time after removal and (b) elevation profiles for corresponding survey dates.

While the primary motivation for removing the Simkins Dam is to improve populations of migratory fish, we don’t expect much change in the abundance of migratory fish until after the downstream Bloede Dam is removed. That said, we did see shifts in aquatic bug communities as habitat changed both upstream and downstream of the former dam site. As the former Simkins impoundment reverted to its natural rock and cobble bed, we saw an increase in the percentage of mayfly, stonefly, and caddisfly larvae (good bugs). Conversely, we found increases in the occurrence of burrower aquatic bug species downstream due to their relative preference for the sandy soils that were transported following the removal of the dam.

This monitoring data will be used to help affirm our design assumptions and sediment management approach as we continue to plan the removal of Bloede Dam. Recovery of migratory fish in the Patapsco hinges on the removal of this structure, and it is exciting to be able to document these changes through a comprehensive monitoring effort.