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Water: Nonpoint Source Success Stories

Campo Tribe (Section 319I - 1994)

To comply with the Campo Indian Tribe's Nonpoint Source Program, the Campo Environmental Protection Agency (CEPA) is restoring and upgrading the condition of range lands, meadows, and riparian habitat throughout the reservation. Over time, these areas have become degraded from livestock overgrazing, lack of riparian vegetation, and high erosion after rainfall events.

Restoration Reaps Unexpected Boon

Not only has the Campo Indian Tribe successfully repaired damage and restored lost vegetation and habitat, but its initial attempts at restoration have also reaped numerous unexpected benefits.

To begin the restoration effort, CEPA chose two locations--a 10-acre site adjacent to Campo Creek and just downstream of a large silted-in dam (CCC Dam); and a 20-acre site encompassing Diabold Creek, the adjacent riparian habitat, and a large meadow. The total section 319 grant for FY 1994 was $106,420. This was matched with $11,824 from the Campo Indian Tribe.

In the first site, CEPA used section 319 funds to stabilize the banks along the selected area of Campo Creek. Heavy equipment moved earth along the steep banks to decrease the slopes. When the slopes were near a 45 degree angle, workers planted native grass and buckwheat seeds with the hope that the plants would develop a root system sufficient to maintain the slope. A biodegradable composite was spread across the slopes to hold the seeds in place until they had taken root. The composite mat, made of ground birch chips, allows moisture and light to reach the seeds. As grass and other plants take hold, the composite cover slowly decomposes and becomes a nutrient source for the new vegetation, which continues to grow up through the composite.

To further CEPA's goal to create a good fish habitat in all streams on the reservation, trees were planted along the stream edge. These trees will provide cover and shade and help hold sediments in place. Also, trees that fall into the stream provide a good refuge for fish populations.

Finally, wire fencing was placed along Campo Creek to prevent further livestock grazing. The fencing, however, does not prevent wildlife such as deer, coyote, birds, and squirrels from entering the area. In the second restoration site along Diabold Creek, vegetation had diminished and more habitat was lost with each rainfall. Storm runoff had cut deep into the stream channel. The 15-foot vertical banks on each side of the stream left no place for plants to firmly root and hold the sediments together. As a result, the channel width had increased dramatically. The water table had also dropped, causing the area to become drier over the years. A once good range and meadow land was slowly being lost.

The solution was relatively simple, holistic in concept, and beneficial over time. In cooperation with the Soil Conservation Service, CEPA placed a series of rock drop structures inside the stream channel. These structures, - composed of rock riprap of various sizes, were positioned directly across the channel and slightly up the banks. Riprap placed on top of a filter fabric prevents undercutting by powerful flowing storm runoff.

The rock drop structure decreases erosion and sediment in the stream channel. As the water flows past the structure, energy dissipates and the sediment load drops in front of the structure. This action slowly raises the channel bottom to its former height. Also, as sediments erode along the banks, they are trapped around the - structures. This lessens the degree of the slopes and allows plants to revegetate.

Willow and cottonwood trees were also planted along the stream edge, and livestock were prevented from entering the area. The result improved the entire area.

CEPA's immediate goal was to mitigate erosion along the degraded stream areas. However, as the program progresses, its benefits are exceeding all expectations.

They include:

  • Enhanced and preserved wetlands,
  • Increased aquifer storage capacity,
  • Increased plant and wildlife populations,
  • Enhanced and restored riparian habitat,
  • Increased groundwater,
  • Increased rainfall infiltration time,
  • Improved fish habitat,
  • Greatly reduced erosion,
  • Rising water table, and
  • Better flows throughout the creeks.

The water quality is also expected to improve over time. Nitrate levels caused by cattle feces should drop, and sediments carried by the stream have already decreased. The restoration effort also had an educational component since it required coordination and cooperation with SCS, Resource Restoration International, Forest Service, tribal members, children, and the general public.

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