Natural, erodible sand deposits along the Klickitat River project area. Photo Drew Porter
If you're visiting the Klickitat River Haul Road restoration site this summer, here's some information about ongoing construction and river conditions.

Haul Road Construction Underway
Construction is projected to be completed by the end of September 2017.

Update: 9/9/2017
Klickitat River In Water Work COMPLETE
Note from Land Trust natural area manager Lindsay Cornelius 

Hello everyone,

I am happy to announce as of Thursday afternoon we officially completed in-water work for the 8-mile long Klickitat River Floodplain Restoration Project! I am thrilled we could coordinate this last work with naturally high background turbidity. Our contractor had me double check his monitoring results on Thursday because he showed an increase of only 1 NTU over background (just downstream of the project site at Stinson Flat). He was right. The combination of  the relatively clean fill we were removing (mostly rock and sand, no clay) and the already high turbidity really minimized the impacts of this last in-water work.

The upstream most fill removal area is located just downstream of Dead Canyon and upstream of Stinson Flat.  We posted a white sign along the river announcing changes ahead at the mouth of Dead Canyon Creek. As you come around the bend below Dead Canyon you’ll see a bedrock wall with sand deposits in front of it. When the road was constructed, the fill was placed on top of the sand and armor was placed in front of it. We removed all the imported fill and the armor, leaving the sand in front of the bedrock for the river to shape as it will.  In the coming years, perhaps even in this first season, you will notice this native sand eroding in front of the face of the bedrock, probably until the river is once again in contact with the bedrock. You’ll likely see these sands deposited downstream, restoring the natural dynamic of erosion and deposition in the floodplain.  You’ll also see, at the downstream end of that segment, river cobble that has been daylighted. Three large debris jams are at the downstream end of this segment and are backfilled with rock and vegetation. These structures are designed to deflect the majority of flow back toward the existing channel. As the water rises this winter and spring, the river will reshape the cobble and sands, cleaning any of the remaining fill material coating the cobbles. This will not have a significant impact on water quality in the river because the majority of it will likely coincide with our first big rain event, but you may notice some color along the margin of the restoration area as the river reclaims this portion of its floodplain.

This has been a long journey for you all, sometimes celebrated and often endured. I appreciate your patience and I hope you will enjoy this wilder, more dynamic river that offers more complex habitat features for the fishes we all love, and that you rely on for your livelihoods. This is one piece in a complex puzzle of fish recovery. Thank you for enduring its challenges and I sincerely hope you may celebrate its successes in the future.

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I’ll be in touch later this winter with opportunities to learn more, should you be interested.

Thank you,
Lindsay Cornelius
Columbia Land Trust
Natural Area Manager

Update 9/7/2017:

We made serious progress on our in-water work yesterday.  We will wrap up with the last shelf of material around noon today and that will conclude ALL IN-WATER WORK FOR THIS PROJECT.  Now you can look forward to watching the river reshape its floodplain, habitat features form, change and reform again, and, with a bit of luck in the other vast portions of these fishes habitats from here to the Pacific Ocean, a greater chance at survival in the coming years, decades, and centuries. If you would like to better understand our rationale for the project, I will be hosting an event this winter to give you more information about the project goals and approach. My hope is that you can use this information to bring a value-added experience to your clients, who also may have questions about the project.

I heard this morning from someone concerned about the high turbidity he is observing in the river. As a reminder, on 8/30, a natural landslide on the Big Muddy began delivering a great deal of BROWN turbid water into the Klickitat that resulted in an enormous impact on water quality (350 NTU at Summit Creek). Coupled with sustained high temperatures in recent days, the river yesterday BEFORE we started work was running about 55 NTU.  This is typically enough turbidity to make the river unfishable. Our goal from the start was to try to time our in-water work for periods of naturally high turbidity. I’m really thankful we were able to do that for this last bit of in-water work, which according to our contractor only bumped turbidity by about 10 NTU after mixing just downstream of the project site. In the past, after stretching and mixing downstream, this has meant that the impacts as far down river as Logging Camp and Klickitat are discernible by a turbidimeter in the 1 NTU range – not discernible to the human eye.

I apologize for the unpredictability of our construction timing.  It’s a double edged sword, trying to provide information about expected impacts.  On one hand, we want to offer as much information as possible, so river users can make decisions for their businesses, and on the other, we can’t know for sure how things will go with respect to timing once we’re actually doing the work. Coupled with weather unpredictability, fire shutdowns and the communication challenges (no cell service at or near the project site), this task has been a challenge. We want to thank BCI for doing an incredible job sequencing and executing this project to minimize impacts on the river and its users.  Thank everyone for their patience.  I look forward to announcing tonight that we have officially concluded in water work for the entire 8-mile project area…provided nothing extremely unpredictable happens. Thank you.

Update 8/30/2017:

We received some questions about the brown-colored turbidity observed up and down the Klickitat River on Wednesday, August 30th and wanted to clarify that we were not working in water that day. Turbidity on Big Muddy spiked on the 30th, probably due to a landslide or similar event, and this turbidity persisted to the mouth.

The graph below shows the turbidity as measured by a permanent sensor on Summit Creek, upstream of our project area. Peak turbidity was 350 NTU at Summit Creek.

Update 8/28/2017:  

Construction is often unpredictable and certainly has been this phase. Low humidity over the last several days kept us from working afternoons so we did not implement our intensive day of in-water work on Sunday as planned. We are committed to staging this work when either background turbidity is very high or in the mid-morning to late afternoon time period when most fishing traffic has already passed through the project area and sediment has time to clear the lower river overnight. We need higher humidity for that. Weather forecasts for the coming week show a period of extreme heat through Tuesday and then slightly less heat Wednesday and Thursday, followed by a warm holiday weekend. We will not work in water over the holiday weekend, so our next and hopefully final in-water day will now most likely occur on the 5th. We apologize for the unpredictable nature of this work – and our weather.  We are aware that we are now advancing into prime fishing season and are working every angle to get this wrapped up quickly.  If we have an opportunity to finish this work before the 5th and without noticeable impact to water quality (as in, background turbidity is really high and we’re ready to go), we’ll certainly take it and let you know.

What you can expect this week:

We will be working on the placement of large wood adjacent to the river in the footprint of the old road. This wood will provide hardness along the channel boundary that deflects water away from the right bank and side channel just downstream. When this wood has been buried and secured, fill material and remaining armor will be removed from the shoreline and the river will flow along past the wood structures themselves. These structures are designed to deflect current and boaters away from them. We will be posting signs upstream and at boat launches about changing conditions on the right bank upstream of Stinson Flat, but we do not expect these structures to present navigational challenges to boaters.

Workshop this winter:

Some of you have expressed interest in learning more about the project as a value-added product you can offer your clients. Land Trust Natural Area Manager Lindsay Cornelius is planning to host a workshop for any local businesses interested in learning about the goals of the project, the rationale informing our design, and the observations we’ve made to date about project performance. More information will be available later this fall.

As always, please feel free to contact Lindsay by phone or email (information below) if you have any concerns or questions.

Lindsay Cornelius
Natural Area Manager
{360} 921.1073 | lindsayc@columbialandtrust.org

Update: 8/21/2017 

We worked in water for one hour on 8/20 from 12:30 P.M. until 1:30 P.M. to test transit times and impacts downstream. We monitored overnight at Horseshoe Bend Road, Pitt and Dillacort and had excellent results. Turbidity increased by 20 NTU over baseline at the project site, a minor amount given the nature of the work, and by the time the plume reached Pitt and Dillacort, turbidity increased by only 1.74 NTU. Daily natural fluctuations in turbidity on the Klickitat River have been in the 5 NTU range. Please see the updated turbidity transit timetable here: When can I expect turbidity and where?

Turbidity from the project is a function of the type of material we’re excavating, the hydraulics at the digging location, and the methods we use to remove the material.  If you want to learn more, please see our project FAQ sheet. We will continue to do everything we can to minimize impacts.

Sunday we received a modification of IFPL rules that will allow us to continue working during the afternoon if weather conditions allow.  This was a critical step in completing the project on schedule and will allow us to time our work in a way that minimizes impacts on people downstream. Since our modification request was only recently approved, we are a few days behind our hoped for 8/25 end date.

A heat wave is expected at the end of this week and into the weekend.  To try to time our work with natural increases in turbidity, our next projected date of in-water work is scheduled for Sunday, 8/27.  Exact start and end times will depend on weather conditions and on the scope of impact we observe after starting work, but we’ll likely start mid-morning, after most of the boat traffic has launched from Leidl and Stinson. If the impact is minor we’ll dig like crazy and for as long as possible to try to get this wrapped up more quickly.  This upcoming work is more intensive than last week’s work (the armor is deeper), so you may notice more turbidity during this work period. After Sunday we should be down to just two or three short duration periods of low or no impact and if there are no surprises, we can expect to be out of water finally and forever before the end of the week. 

To learn more about why we’re doing this restoration along the Klickitat River, please see our project brochure. We will continue to provide updates as we are able. Thank you for your patience.

Update: 8/15/17 – 8/25/17 

We will be working in-water on Thursday, 8/17, and then on and off in-water with a projected end date for all in-water work of 8/25.  Recently imposed fire restrictions may slow progress down, but we have applied to DNR for an exception that would allow us to work in afternoons if weather conditions cooperate.  We will be closely monitoring the turbidity generated by the project and will provide updates as we learn more.  We expect to provide the first update on Friday afternoon following our first night of in-water work.  Thank you for your continued patience.

Update: 8/4/17 – 8/11/17  

We will be working long days through the weekend and early next week to take advantage of what we expect to be very high background turbidity due to the extreme warm weather. Because we can be more efficient during daylight hours, we won’t switch to night hours until background turbidity begins to fall again. We’ll notify you if we intend to switch.

Update: 8/3/17

We will dig a test plume to test transit times downstream. We will use this information to notify you of our proposed work hours and the impacts you can expect at Stinson Flat, the slide, Klickitat, Pitt, and Turkey Hole at what times.

Update: 7/27/2017

We will be working in water for an hour Thursday, June 28th, as a test run to collect information about sediment transit time, plume stretching and dilution.  From this test run, we’ll refine our work window for in-water work.  Following our test run, we’ll post additional details about what you can expect in terms of project impacts at the following locations:

Stinson Flat
The Slide
Klickitat
Pitt
Turkey Hole

Thank you for your continued patience.

Update: 7/21/2017

Good news!  Regulators are in the process of approving our request to isolate our first in-water work site.  This means turbidity impacts from this part of the work site will not be felt as readily by users downstream.  We don’t expect any project related turbidity through at least next week until we remove the silt curtain.  When we anticipate getting in-water in a way that will impact turbidity (at least a week out of this), we’ll calculate expected flush times.  Please contact us for more information.

Update: 7/10/2017

Construction is underway to remove the final three of eight miles of failed, privately-owned, paved road along the Klickitat River, where Columbia Land Trust is restoring floodplain processes that shape important habitat features for fish and other aquatic life. The Land Trust has hired BCI Contracting and, in partnership with Yakama Nation Fisheries Program, aim to complete this final phase of construction by the end of September. We will post regular updates about our progress, the duration and frequency of the work, and expected impacts to water quality. For more information about the Klickitat River Haul Road site read our project overview.

Work began in June three miles downstream of Dead Canyon and is progressing upstream toward Dead Canyon.  We are currently excavating in the vicinity of Stinson Flat Campground. River and campground users can expect construction noise during the day and possibly at night.

Turbidity Update

To date, this phase of construction has had no impact on water quality. We have not been working in water, but we intend to begin in-water work this week. We will try to time our work to reduce impacts downstream, which could mean we do construction at night, we do a swing shift, or, if natural turbidity is high, we work days to maximize our efficiency. We are monitoring the impacts of our project and are working closely with the permitting agencies. Columbia Land Trust and BCI Contracting are committed to implementing best management practices to reduce turbidity, but turbidity cannot be eliminated for every in-water work site. When fire restrictions are imposed, we’ll have less flexibility about the timing of our work. To learn more, read our Haul Road restoration FAQ sheet.

Please check in for regular updates and feel free to call us with any concerns or questions at (360) 696-0131.

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