Diamond Creek Reconnect Project

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Diamond Creek is home to Yellowstone cutthroat trout a sensitive species and also contains non-native brook trout. Brook trout seem to dominate the headwaters and cutthroat dominate the lower reaches where fluvial and ad fluvial cutthroat may still spawn. The project is called the reconnect project since prior to 1947 based off aerial photos a ditch was started off the creek or a beaver pond that diverted the stream along the higher easterly side of the valley drying up the original channel along the lower westerly side of the valley. The stream has since been naturalizing in place.  The diverted channel has a very narrow riparian corridor with no real floodplain with an incised channel and many raw vertical banks. A past project 20 plus years ago placed large logs along the bank edges presumably to discourage livestock crossings and to allow the channel to heal. Healing within the existing channel is unlikely to occur until the stream erodes a floodplain as part of this diverted channel.  The Forest Service’s stated purpose of this project is to direct the stream back into its historic channel where it will naturally be connected back to its floodplain and erosion halted in the diverted channel.  The agency claims that fisheries and wildlife habitat will also be improved as habitat will be more stable and diverse as the system can dissipate stream energy over a floodplain, but we have some concerns.  Primarily the lack of proposed elimination of livestock grazing in the project area or the use of exclosures to eliminate livestock access to the stream is missing from the proposal.  Both would increase the likelihood of the project’s success regarding stream and riparian habitat health and ecological function.  We see no justification for this project until and unless livestock grazing is excluded from the project area.  Continued Forest Service authorization of livestock access to the stream will continue to damage willows and stream cover, damage stream banks, and add sedimentation and E. coli contamination to the stream.   Our work on Paris Creek and other streams clearly demonstrates that when livestock, particularly cattle, have access to the stream, the problems outlined in the Purpose and Need section of the scoping letter for this project will continue.  Idaho's own Agricultural Pollution Abatement Plan notes that livestock exclusion is the method that will relieve E. coli pollution.  The best available science shows the livestock exclusion is the only way to restore and maintain a healthy stream ecosystem.  The project has been proposed by the Forest Service under Categorical Exclusion (CE) of the NEPA process.  Y2U, along with the Alliance for the Wild Rockies and the Native Ecosystem Council submitted comments on the project on February 8th, 2020.  The full set of comments can be found below.

Work Plan

As the project was proposed as a CE, Y2U likely will not be involved any further in this project. 

Expected Outcome

Unknown at this time.