Heath Floodplain Restoration

Elbow Coulee Floodplain Restoration

Project Location:  Upper Methow River

Landowners:  Private, Conservation Easement owned by Methow Conservancy

Species Benefitted: Spring Chinook Salmon, Steelhead Trout

Project Status: 

  Phase 1
  • Construction at the lower pond project site completed April, 2008
  •   Phase 2
  • Construction at the upper pond project site completed July, 2008
  •   Phase 4
  • Site restoration: at the upper pond project site completed July, 2008 Monitoring will take
       place through 2012
  • Funding:  Habitat Conservation Plan Tributary Funds, Bonneville Power Administration

    • Bureau of Reclamation (Technical Assistance and Design)
    • U.S. Forest Service (Technical Assistance and Design)
    • Methow Conservancy

    Project Description:

    The Heath ponds provide opportunities for excellent winter habitat and high water refuge for threatened and endangered Methow River fish.The Heath Floodplain Restoration Project is located in the Upper Methow, approximately 3.5 miles northwest of Winthrop, Washington.  The first phase of the project involved two construction sites located on private property protected by a conservation easement managed by the Methow Conservancy. While the easement limits development and use of a portion of the property in the floodplain of the Methow River, the current landowners retain a network of existing primitive roads to access various locations throughout their property. The easement also provides for protection and restoration of this breathtaking property for generations to come.

    Several year-round springs originate on the property, and small earth dams blocking the flows from these springs have created three large artificial ponds connected by small creeks. At the outlet of the upper pond, one of the primitive roads crosses through two small streams that connect the upper and middle ponds. Over time, repeated vehicle fords through these streams had substantially widened and damaged the stream banks.

    Heath Floodplains

    The large volume of relatively warm spring water in the ponds prevents them from freezing in the winter, potentially providing excellent juvenile over-wintering habitat, if fish passage from the river were available. Although two culverts had been installed in the dam below the lower pond bank that connected the ponds directly to the Methow River, the current through the narrow culverts was too fast to allow fish to travel through them into the large ponds. 

    To address these challenges, MSRF and its partners divided the project into three phases. In Phase 1, begun in December 2007 and completed in April 2008, we removed the undersized culverts and created an open channel to improve fish passage from the Methow River into the large spring-fed pond system. A temporary passage barrier was constructed to prevent fish passage until Phase 2 efforts could be completed the following year. 

    In Phase 2, completed in July 2008, MSRF coordinated the restoration of damaged habitat and protected fish runs by bridging the two vehicle stream crossings between the two ponds. Once the two bridges were completed, the temporary fish barrier at the lower pond was removed. As a result, native fish now enjoy access to juvenile rearing habitat and a place to escape from high water during the Methow’s spring flows.

    During Phase 3, to be completed in 2009, areas disturbed by construction will be replanted and restored. Careful monitoring of the results of the work efforts over a period of several years will allow MSRF and its partners to adaptively manage the project sites and respond to changing conditions to ensure the long-term success of the project.



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