Arizona Department of Environmental Quality Grant
Upper Little Colorado River- Water Quality Improvement Project
The Apache Natural Resource Conservation District was granted two of the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) grants totaling $652,522.57. $391,512.69 to improve water quality in the Upper Little Colorado River. Private landowner and conservation district contributions will total $261,009.88. The ultimate objective of the project is to reduce impairment of the Upper Little Colorado River. This will be accomplished through increased infiltration of over land flow, thus resulting in healthier upper rangelands, less soil erosion, lower turbidity and nutrient loading of the Little Colorado River and less sedimentation and nutrient loading of Lyman Lake Reservoir.
The ANRCD met with their cooperators, land managers and other land owners within the ULCR watershed to propose and implement conservation practices on lands under their control and management. The different individual conservation projects included practices that directly affected sediment and nutrients from getting into the LCR. The practices included: sediment basin repair, gully plugs, water spreaders, stream bank stabilization, grazing management, fencing, water developments, waterway access treatments, seeding, proper roadway drainage, and other natural resource conservation practices that were recommended by professional technical advice.
McFee Ranch Project
Canero Creek Watershed
A significant portion of this ranch is located within the Canero Creek watershed, and borders the northeast side of Lyman Lake. The proposed project site is located ~3.5 miles up a tributary of the Little Colorado River. Grazing is the primary land use of the ranch lands.
Ephemeral channels within the ranch boundaries are headcutting, creating gullies and small arroyos with vertical banks. The headcutting is causing the system to source and mobilize sediment as the channel adjusts to a new base level. This adjustment is dissecting pasture land and contributing to the water quality impairment of the downstream fluvial network.
Carnero Creek Watershed project goal was to slope and revegetate 1500ft of vertical banks. The work will accelerate the evolution of the ephemeral channels to a more stable condition, which will decrease the sourcing of sediment from the banks. They also constructed 3 rock lined chutes to stabilize the advancing headset.
Nutrioso Creek Watershed
This project is located within the upper portion of the Nutrioso watershed. Recent fires upstream of the project areas have altered local hydrology. Grazing is the primary land use of the property. The rancher has recently finished a successful brush management project aimed at reducing fuels due to the fire danger. Watts Creek flows through this property and has historically been an ephemeral stream. However, after the Wallow Fire, Watts Creek has seen perennial flows through the property. Approximately 3.4 miles downstream of this proposed project site, Watts creek merges with Nutrioso Creek.
There was an eroding headcut that the landowner stabilized with a rock lined chute, recontouring the pasture to promote sheet flow rather than concentrated flow.
The landowner completed another brush management project on 10 acres of the property. This forest stewardship work promotes an increase in ground cover and reduction in fuels such as downed timber, that are a fire danger.
Rogers Ranch Project
Coyote Creek Watershed
This ranch contains ~4.3 miles of Coyote Creek. These reaches of the stream contain tall (> 6 feet), vertical banks which consist of weak alluvial soils that are easily eroded. The entire stream appears to be adjusting to a change in base level, evident by the headcuts in tributaries and a narrow stream channel with little to no floodplain. Base level change is likely stabilized upstream of a major grade control structure, but the channel and tributary morphology is still adjusting.
A concrete sill has been in place for over 30 years and has effectively controlled the local gradient of Coyote Creek just downstream of a main road used to access several ranches. Lateral movement of Coyote Creek threatens to flank this grade control structure. However, there has indication to the landowners that a bridge is being designed to cross Coyote Creek.
Grazing is the primary land use on this ~40,650 acre ranch. Vegetation is typical of the lower Coyote Creek watershed.
There was treating of stream banks along Coyote Creek, which were near vertical and actively eroding.
Moore Ranch Project
Unnamed tributary of Coyote Creek
The drainage network throughout this ranch consists of unnamed tributaries of Coyote Creek. Historically conservation work on this ranch has included water and sediment control basins (WASCOBs) and Sediment Detention basins to trap sediment and arrest channel incision. However, these basins have surpassed their service life and need to be reconstructed. They have effectively filled with sediment and are in danger of or have already started to breach, which will mobilize the stored sediment.
Grazing is the primary land use on this ~3,370 acre ranch.
The landowner reconstructed 3 sediment basins to restore the historic capacity and function for sediment reduction and to arrest headcutting of the tributary. These basins were augmented with rock-lined chutes to serve as an armored spillway, which will increase their stability and longevity. The reconstructed basin will require maintenance, as the contributing watershed issues in sediment and fills the basin. The structure can hold ~1 tons of sediment and with annual maintenance the basin could keep nearly 13,000 tons of sediment from entering the Little Colorado River over the span of 10 years.
Johnson Cattle Company Project
Little Colorado River within the Carnero Creek Watershed
The project areas within this ranch contain approximately 2 miles of the Little Colorado River including 40 acres of existing riparian habitat and > 100 acres of adjacent riparian and wetland floodplain that is managed as irrigated pasture land cropland. Grazing is the primary land use.
The project area is along reaches of the Little Colorado River believed to contain native fish species, including two Special Status Species; Little Colorado spinedace (Lepidomeda vittata) and Little Colorado River sucker (Catostomus spp.), the spinedace is also federally threatened.
The landowner installed 5000 ft of gated pipe to increase the efficiency of the irrigation system. Similar upgrades have been completed in other areas of the ranch and led to a decrease in concentrated flow. When the water organizes into concentrated flow, it caused erosion of stream banks at the downhill portion of the irrigated fields, as well as the further transport of manure and fertilizers from irrigated fields into the river.
Also the landowner reconstructed a sediment basin that has reached the end of its service life and breached. The breach is allowing the mobilization of stored sediments as well as the transport of sediment from the watershed to wash down across the irrigated fields and enter the Little Colorado River. The reconstructed basin requires maintenance, as the contributing watershed issues in sediment and fills the basin. The basin is estimated to hold 1245 tons of sediment and with annual maintenance the basin could keep nearly 12,500 tons of sediment from entering the Little Colorado River over the span of 10 years.
SPO Ranch Project
This ~20,400 acre ranch is located within the Coyote Creek watershed, and contains ~5.8 miles of Coyote Creek. Grazing is the primary land use. Historically, conservation work on this ranch has included water and sediment control basins that have surpassed their life expectancy and have failed or are in danger of failing. As these structures become compromised, base level changes in the tributaries of Coyote Creek will further channel incision, leading to an increase in sediment mobilization.
This project brought two water and sediment control basins back into operation. The upper basin needed to be rebuilt completely, with the addition of a rock line spillway. The lower basin was still somewhat intact. However, the basin was full of sediment and the spillway is substantially eroded. If the lower basin spillway was not repaired with a rock lining, the stored sediment within the basin would have been mobilized and a headcut will migrate upstream.