Duncan District- Ruby River Project
Project Site Summary
The Lower Ruby River begins at the Ruby Reservoir and runs through a large portion of the northern half of Madison County before meeting the Jefferson River. The stretch that this project focused on was immediately upstream of the Duncan District Road bridge, a site that encompassed about 1.4 acres and 299 feet of impaired bank lines. The river at this site was characterized by an erosive headcut in the bank lines. The high and exposed bank lines caused excess sediment to be washed into the watershed and disconnected the river from its floodplain, increasing nonpoint source pollution and risk of flooding while also reducing structural complexity in the river’s flow. Additionally, the initial flow of the river collided with part of the bridge’s foundation, which may have eventually worn down the structural integrity of the bridge.
This reach was identified as a potential project site a few years ago, and last year’s BSWC Member, Ben Masters, then began to apply for funding and support for the project in the spring of 2022. The restoration project was implemented by R.E. Miller & Sons, a local engineering company, who removed the headcut with an excavator to make bank lines more level with the river and to reduce the amount of exposed sediment that was getting washed into the river. They also moved excess cobbles from one bank to the other to create the inset floodplain, and stabilized the banks by planting willow matrices along the riverside. All this work took about two days of work for the excavator operator to complete.
Implementing this project greatly reduced sediment deposits in the river, which will ultimately allow native fish species and other aquatic organisms to have more space in the river since the river will stop filling up with rocks. Fish will also benefit from increased floodplain connectivity in this reach, as the consistent intake of cooler groundwater will keep the river temperatures from growing as hot in the summer. The planting of willow matrices will help to promote additional native vegetation on the riverside, which in turn will provide more overhead cover to keep the river cooler, and improve streamside habitat for wildlife.
The project will also benefit the public by improving the fishery in a space directly adjacent to a popular fishing spot. The easy access and visibility of the project site will provide many opportunities for watershed education and awareness, most prominently demonstrated in the form of upcoming plans to post an educational sign about the project, and to host a site visit with an open invitation to any and all interested community members.
Funding for this project was made available to us by the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC) through their HB 223 grant.