Upper Ruby River Restoration Project
Project Site Summary
The Upper Ruby River begins in the Snowcrest and Gravelly Mountains and ends at the Upper Ruby Reservoir. This two-phase project was designed to restore a 2.3 mile reach of the river that sits slightly upstream of the Ruby Reservoir. Several parts of this reach’s flow had been diverted for the sake of historical irrigation, disconnecting it from its natural floodplain and increasing the likelihood of bank erosion due to more exposed bank lines, which in turn would increase nonpoint source pollution and the loss of riparian vegetation in the river.
Funding was acquired for the first phase of this project in late 2020, and project leader Audra Bell then hired Geum Environmental Consulting and Rowe Excavation Inc. to work on the project as the project planner and the excavation contractor respectively. Geum’s project plan was finalized in the April of 2021, and Rowe Excavation restored 0.6 miles of the reach for phase one of the project later that same year. After funding was acquired for phase two, the remaining 1.7 miles of the reach was restored in the December of 2022. The excavation contractor’s work involved moving bank material to reopen the original meander and block off the artificial channel. They also treated the bank lines with brush plantings to increase bank stability and floodplain connectivity.
Restoring this reach of river to its original direction of flow will allow the river to reconnect with its floodplain and create new wetlands, which in turn will increase the health and diversity of the aquatic and terrestrial habitats and wildlife in the area. The implemented project will also reduce bank erosion and risks of flooding in the watershed, reducing the watershed’s sediment load. The installed brush plantings will also cool down the temperature of the water.
The public will also benefit from the healthier streams and reduced flooding risks as a result of this project. Now that the project has been completed, the watershed will supply cleaner and healthier water to local communities, and fishing opportunities will improve as well. The conservation district plans to organize site visits to the Upper Ruby to teach local landowners about the project; this will allow landowners to grow more aware of the resources available to them and perhaps consider searching for similar project sites on their own properties.
This project was funded through the 319 Grant, Fish Wildlife & Parks: Future Fisheries, the project site’s landowner, and the Ruby Valley Conservation District.