The Blackwood Watershed contributes over 1900 tons of sediment per year, and more than 21.5 tons of fine sediment per square kilometer per year: more fine sediment per unit of area than any other watershed in the Tahoe Basin. The Lower Blackwood Creek Restoration is the final piece of a comprehensive interagency restoration of the watershed.
Blackwood Creek is also an important fishery; historically it supported Lahontan Cutthroat Trout and other native species and was second only to the Upper Truckee River in its importance as a fishery to the Washoe. Today Blackwood supports a higher proportion of Rainbow Trout than other streams in the Basin, making it a critical spawning area for Rainbow Trout living in Lake Tahoe.
Blackwood Creek has been severely degraded by over a century of disturbance. The area was heavily grazed and logged into the 1970s. The associated loss of vegetation and network of logging roads caused heavy erosion throughout the watershed. The creek which would have migrated north to south over time was confined to the edge of the floodplain and much of the floodplain was developed. An in-channel gravel mining operation significantly altered the channel and increased sediment delivery to the Lake.
The Lower Blackwood Creek Restoration builds on restoration projects that the USFS recently completed along the creek. The project re-establishes a new channel segment and creates small floodplain areas to provide riparian habitat and allow sediment deposition. It involves installing a variety of structures made of natural materials that will both stabilize eroding banks and provide habitat for fish and wildlife. Other project elements include enhancing aspen stands and re-routing eroding trails.
The Conservancy has finalized the restoration design and will begin Phase I construction in the Spring 2012. All in-channel improvements will occur during the summer and fall months, with project completion anticipated by November of 2012. Following habitat enhancement and restoration activities, the Conservancy will monitor and adaptively manage the completed project area.