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Changes in Stream Channel Morphology Caused by Replacing Road-Stream Crossings on Timber Harvesting Plans in Northwestern California

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Past studies have shown that roads used for timber management and recreation are major sources of sedimentation in many streams throughout the Pacific Northwestern United States. Stream crossings are portals for the entry of sediment derived from road surface erosion. They are also prone to catastrophic failure during stressing weather events if they are undersized or otherwise deficient in design or construction. In recent years, public and private landowners have replaced or removed numerous deficient crossings in forested watersheds throughout California and elsewhere in the West. The benefits of replacing these crossings include eliminating both chronic and episodic inputs of sediment to streams. When old crossings are replaced with new, properly designed and installed crossings, there is a potential for construction-related erosion. This research examined the postconstruction erosion associated with the replacement of 30 stream crossings in coastal California. Channel surveys were conducted immediately after construction and after the passage of one winter rainy season. The results indicated very little erosion on most sites; 11 experienced no erosion at all. On those sites where erosion did occur, the amounts did not exceed 10 cubic yards. A few sites experienced aggradation or erosion unrelated to upgrading but due to upstream landslides. This research shows upgraded stream crossings on commercial timberland may contribute little sediment to streams after construction under moderate weather conditions if adequate erosion control measures are implemented.

Keywords: California; erosion; forest roads; stream crossings

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2008-04-01

More about this publication?
  • Each regional journal of applied forestry focuses on research, practice, and techniques targeted to foresters and allied professionals in specific regions of the United States and Canada. The Western Journal of Applied Forestry covers the western United States, including Alaska, and western Canada; WJAF will also consider manuscripts reporting research in northern Mexico that has potential application in the southwestern United States.
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