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awhuber

Big River Clean up

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Saw that article on Facebook.  I hate to say it, but I have my doubts that EPA will accomplish much.  The Newberry Riffle linked in the article is pretty questionable.  The link went to a paper that explained the Riffle, and said, among other things, that the rocks in it would soon enough be rearranged by floods to where it would be passable by canoes and kayaks.  Well, there have been several big floods on Big River since it was put in, and the rocks haven't moved much at all...it's still a real pain in the butt for floaters.  And it COULD have been designed to where it was passable at least to experienced floaters.  

The Riffle is basically a low dam, but to allow fish passage, it was built by stringing four rows of big rocks across the river in a stairstep fashion, with about a foot of drop between each step.  There are deeper troughs in between each step.  There are gaps in the rocks wide enough to get a canoe through at each step, but the problem is, the gaps don't come anywhere close to lining up, so you have to shoot the first gap, then scoot the boat sideways (a long way, like 10 feet or more) to hit a gap in the next step.  And...the steps are too close together, only about 10-15 feet.  So you can't stop the canoe, turn it sideways, shoot it over (still in pretty fast water) to the next step, and get it lined up into that gap.  Had they just made the spaces in between each step about 20 feet, it would have been doable.  As it is, you have to walk the boat through the whole thing, and even that is exceedingly difficult, because it's all big rocks 2-4 feet in diameter, both in the rows of rocks and lining the troughs in between, and mostly the troughs are about waist deep with these big rocks on the bottom.  It's a great recipe for breaking an ankle in lower water levels, and in higher levels it's almost impossible to walk down it, you have to drag the canoe over the big rocks lining the bank.

When I was through there a few weeks ago, it looked like they had been scraping up some of the sediment at the head of the pool backed up behind the Riffle.  Sediment seems to be settling at the head of the pool, but most of the pool is still pretty deep.  The digging removed a bunch of young willow trees growing along the edges, and made the whole thing pretty ugly.  And it seems to me that for this idea to have any chance of working, you'll need a Newberry Riffle about every mile for a 20 mile stretch.  Might as well forget about floating the river if that actually happened, but I don't expect it to happen.  Maybe just digging out the sediment in many spots along the river would work, but it sure would mess up the river for a long time, too.

 

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