Developing stream mitigation protocols

This report explains the development and rationale supporting a stream mitigation crediting protocol and  ancillary stream functional assessment method.  It begins by clarifying the foundational objective of  compensatory mitigation.  A review of the standard operating procedures currently in use across the country  provides context by describing the ways that stream mitigation credits are calculated in other regions, including  the methods in use for evaluating stream functional condition. Click here to get the report.

FACStream and FACWet Development

The Functional Assessment of Colorado Stream (FACStream) version 1.0 is now available on the Reports page. FACStream is the companion method to FACWet (Functional Assessment of Colorado Wetlands) which we published in 2009.  Each method provides a set of state variables that are scored using data and evidence from any of the three EPA 1-2-3 assessment levels and combined to give an overall rating for functional condition. Field testing and calibration is now in progress. The project is a collaborative effort involving many state agencies, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.  

Stream and Wetland Inventory

EcoMetrics is lead researcher on a landscape-scale inventory and assessment of the streams and wetlands in Park County.  By quantifying stream and wetland functional units and documenting stressors, the project will provide a means for establishing where there is potential for ecological improvement and what types of treatment or land use changes would be required. The project is being coordinated with CNHP to provide a GIS-based prioritization tool to direct future wetland protection, enhancement, and restoration efforts.  

Stream and Wetland Mitigation Banks

EcoMetrics and several partners are developing a series of stream and wetland mitigation banks for various clients, including the completed Fourmile Creek Fen bank in South Park. Our philosophy for mitigation banking is that large-scale sites that can be improved with process-based restoration to offer the best chance of sustainability and better long-term replacement of lost functions elsewhere in the watershed. Working on mitigation sites has allowed us to take advantage of the federal requirement for extensive long term monitoring to complete detailed studies on stream and wetland response following treatment. 

Beaver Reintroduction

EcoMetrics recently completed planning for a project with the USFS, BLM, CWCB, CPW, and CUSP that will use beavers to restore wetland in a small isolated watershed in eastern Park County. Beaver were completely extirpated from this watershed more than 100 years ago and have failed to return.  As a result almost all of the historic wetland is now gone. Since the primary habitat requirements seem to be intact, we hypothesize that reintroducing beavers will result in a rapid recovery of wetland area and functions. Like most of our projects, a thorough monitoring program is planned to test this hypothesis. Our hope is that this project will spur further interest in using beaver for stream and wetlands restoration in Colorado.   

Watershed Assessment

EcoMetrics partners with other scientists and practitioners to complete ecological and geomorphic watershed assessments.  Our recent watershed efforts have been in the Upper South Platte, North Fork of the South Platte, Upper Arkansas, Upper Slate, Crystal River, and several watersheds in Montana.  We employ a variety of techniques and models for assessing watershed functions including the US EPA's Watershed Assessment of River Stability and Sediment Supply (WARSSS), FACWet, and FACStream.  Our assessments have been used by land trusts, watershed groups, and local governments to develop watershed plans, prioritize restoration efforts, initiate projects, and justify grant requests.

Fish Tracking

EcoMetrics, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, and Park County have teamed up as partners on a multi-year fisheries study to determine the patterns of migration and habitat selection for brown and rainbow trout in the Middle Fork of the South Platte River in South Park.  A series of stations along the river and periodic use of a mobile raft-mounted antenna monitor the movement of over 1500 trout equipped with RFID chips. This study builds on our past fish research to inform future CPW fisheries management efforts and focus stream restoration goals and objectives to improve fisheries along the corridor.

Wetland Monitoring

The wetland complex in Cucumber Gulch Preserve near Breckenridge is a designated Aquatic Resource of National Importance, known for its exceptionally high biologic diversity.  EcoMetrics and Johnson Environmental Consulting work with the Town of Breckenridge Open Space to help them meet their goal of maintaining the highest functional condition of the wetland in the face of nearby development and watershed impacts.  We are monitoring hydrology, geomorphology, water quality, soil chemistry, vegetation, and biota to track response of the wetland following a major restoration effort based on beaver recovery. The project is a great example of holistic wetland monitoring.

Stream and Riparian Restoration

EcoMetrics has completed about a dozen reach-scale stream and riparian restoration projects, all based on the recovery of natural dynamic processes, self-sustainability, complexity, and resilience. Our approach to stream restoration is different from conventional approaches that seek to stabilize channels and construct artificial structure. We are very careful in selecting sites that have natural recovery potential, and prefer to restore the basic ecologic and geomorphic processes that create and maintain habitat the natural way. 

Rare Plant Conservation

Mark and his brother Paul are national experts on one of Colorado's rarest plants, the budding monkeyflower (Mimulus gemmiparus), which is presently being considered for listing as a federal endangered species.  He has authored several scientific studies on the species and assisted in its management, working with botanists from CSU, the Colorado Natural Areas Program, Colorado State Parks, Arapaho and Pike National Forest, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service.  We recently completed an "assisted migration" study to demonstrate the effectiveness of establishing new populations of the species in the wild from plants grown in a greenhouse.