Work Begins on Yankee Fork
Intent is to address dredging damage
After years of planning, crews with the Salmon-Challis National Forest have begun implementing a project to improve fish habitat in an area impacted by dredging on the Yankee Fork.
Between 1940 and 1952, the Yankee Fork dredge worked its way up a 5.4-mile section of the river, a tributary of the Salmon River east of Stanley. While the operation effectively removed gold from the valley floor, it also significantly altered the Yankee Fork, side channels, riparian vegetation and floodplain. Those changes substantially reduced the ability of the Yankee Fork to support fish, the Forest Service stated in a press release.
The project also left large mounds rock tailings piles on the valley floor near the old mining town of Bonanza. Though more than 60 years have passed since the dredging occurred, the area has been unable to revert back to a natural condition, the Forest Service stated.
The expected three-year project covers about 46 acres of private and national forest land, along 1.3 miles of the river. Work this year will focus on removing tailings from the project area, whereas work in 2019 and 2020 will re-create river, side channel, riparian and floodplain habitats.
"We are excited to begin implementing this project because it will substantially improve conditions for Chinook salmon, steelhead, bull trout, westslope cutthroat trout and other fish that occur in the project area," said Bart Gamett, project coordinator for the Salmon-Challis National Forest. "We will now have a floodplain. The river will deposit seed and sediment and wood, but we'll give it a jumpstart."
While the project will eliminate some tailings piles and dredge ponds, it will also preserve some tailings piles.
"Our team recognizes the cultural significance of the tailings piles and we have worked to identify and preserve key piles near the Yankee Fork dredge in an effort to protect the historical setting of the area," Gamett said.
Three groups of tailings are being protected south and east of the dredge, all close to the Yankee Fork Road and visible to visitors approaching the dredge from the south.
The project is a joint effort among the Salmon-Challis National Forest, NOAA Fisheries, Shoshone-Bannock Tribes, Trout Unlimited, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Bonneville Power Administration, the Idaho Governor's Office of Species Conservation and J.R. Simplot Co., which owns mining claims on the dredged area.
"This project is the culmination of the efforts of many partners, stakeholders and members of the public and would not be possible without everyone's hard work and involvement," said Cassi Wood, project specialist for Trout Unlimited.
During 2018, crews and heavy equipment will be working on the project until the end of August. That will include heavy equipment operating on the Yankee Fork Road near the dredge. Consequently, forest visitors should use caution when traveling in the area. At this time, project managers do not anticipate any temporary road or campground closures or extended traffic delays as a result of the project.
Some of the excess tailings material will be crushed and used by Custer County on the Yankee Fork Road.
For more information on the project, contact Bart Gamett at 208-588-3420.
Restoration at Yankee Fork Resumes by Greg Moore, Idaho Mountain Express, 1/15/16
Fish Restoration Resumes on Yankee Fork by Gannet News Service, Challis Messenger, 1/14/16
Fish Restoration Work Resumes in Yankee Fork by Gannet News Service, Times-News, 1/12/16
Forest Plans Fish Habitat Project at Yankee Fork by Bart Gamett, Idaho Mountain Express, 7/8/15
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