First-Ever Hydraulic Mine Remediation Site Gets Full Watershed Restoration Make-Over

Photo: Work crew member installing a post assisted log structure at Grizzly Creek.

The Sierra Fund is breaking ground on new techniques remediating abandoned hydraulic mine sites. The Sierra Fund spent a week in the Spring with Symbiotic Restoration’s crew of ten installing process-based restoration treatments at Grizzly Creek Diggins.

The work crew placed post-assisted log structures in eroding ditches to help capture sediment runoff and reduce incisions. They constructed a Zuni bowl – lining a plunge pool with rocks to stop a head-cut moving up the watershed – which reduces sediment runoff and restores hydrologic function. The crews also did “gully stuffing”– placing small trees removed during fuel load reduction projects into the eroding gullies. This dissipates the power of the water running off, further reducing erosion. And most excitingly, the crews added more biochar to the site beyond the existing test plots we did in 2022. Biochar is made from small trees removed during fuel load reduction work, and when added to the soil improves soil health, sequesters carbon, reduces sediment runoff, and helps capture mercury runoff.

Also, installing these nature-based solutions using hand crews instead of big equipment has low impact on the landscape! This is the first project of its kind combining hydraulic mine remediation, fuel load reduction and other watershed restoration improvements. We hope to scale up this combined approach to support restoration around the region.