The Middle Fork Saline, one of four headwater streams to the Saline River, has been designated by the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality as an Extraordinary Resource Waterbody (ERW) and an Ecologically Sensitive Waterway (ESW). The Middle Fork is alos listed on the State Registry of Natural and Scenic Rivers and designated an Ouachita Zone Quality Stream for Smallmouth Bass" by the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission (AGFC). This major tributary to the Saline River and its watershed provides critical habitat for wildlife and harbors a suite of globally ranked species as well as species on the state list of concern. Due to recent declines in water quality attributed mostly to non-point source pollution sources, the Middle Fork has also been recognized as a priority watershed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Arkansas Natural Resource Commission (ANRC) with suspended sediment identified as a major problem in the watershed.
The Middle Fork Saline River is impacted by the removal of streamside vegetation, habitat loss as a result of development, incompatible forestry, and nutrient and sediment loading from both point and non-point sources. The Nature Conservancy has received funding to complete on-the-ground stream and riparian restoration activities to directly improve habitat for 14 aquatic species of greatest conservation need, including 11 mussel, 3 fish species (table 1) and a host of game species including smallmouth, largemouth, and spotted bass.
The proposed restoration site is privately owned by two cooperating landowners with a majority of the property in cattle and hay production and the rest in secondary residence. There is significant, rapid erosion occurring on both sides of the river throughout both properties due to riparian vegetation loss and upstream sources of sediment. The Nature Conservancy has been conducting a study for approximately 3 years in which this reach of stream has been surveyed and monitored to determine sediment loss and structural change, fish assemblage, and vegetation composition in preparation for restoration activities. The channel is characterized by high bank erosion rates, excessive deposition occurring as both longitudinal and transverse bars, and annual shifts of the bed location as it tries to route the incoming sources of sediment. Total sediment loss from this reach approximated 1772 tons over a one-year period from June 2006 - 2007, or approximately 71 dump truck loads! The landowners both saw in excess of 7 feet of lateral erosion on their banks in a one-year period! This project would directly address the problem and would be the first of its kind in this watershed.
The goal of this project is to reduce the amount of sediment in the channel and improve habitat for many key sensitive species for miles downstream of this disturbed site. The completed project will restructure a braided channel into a single functionaing channel system, improve approximately 1 mile of in-stream and riparian habitat , restore 32 acres of riparian and floodplain area, and exclude approximately 200 head of cattle from the stream. The project will be show cased to private landowners, land trusts, and other stakeholders in the watershed as a demonstration of successful restoration techniques. Click here, Download PSGDesign_Final_rsz to see the full design!...Now lets get to the good stuff!