Sep 28, 2017

Author: Rae Brownsberger

The 2017 Sustaining Colorado Watersheds conference is right around the corner! As we’ve done in the past, CRA will be hosting the Post-Conference Field Workshop on Thursday, October 12. This year, we are excited to have Dr. Peter Wilcock and Dr. Sue Niezgoda to guide us as we explore two adjacent sites on the Eagle River, with two dramatically different geomorphologies and restoration histories.

Both “Dr. Sue” and Dr. Wilcock are both part of this year’s conference plenary session (Tuesday, October 10, 3-4:30 pm). Dr. Wilcock will also present a pre-conference workshop (Tuesday, October 10, 8-11:30 am) on Sediment Transport in Stream Assessment and Design.

Dr. Wilcock is a fluvial geomorphologist and professor at Utah State University. Dr. Sue is a well-known river restoration engineer and a professor at Gonzaga University. More background on both experts is provided below. This field workshop will be an extension of their conference presentations, an occasion to connect the dots in the real world, and an opportunity to spend more time with these superstars of the river restoration community!


The field trip will begin with an optional bike ride along the Eagle River, following the bike path that starts right behind the conference hotel (the Westin Riverfront Resort in Avon). Meet outside the hotel lobby on Riverfront Lane at 8 am. We will depart by 8:15am for a scenic and leisurely ride downstream (west), with stops along the way for observation and discussion. We will finish the ride (and meet the rest of the group) at the Eagle River Preserve in Edwards. The bike ride is 4.9 miles, with net 215 feet of elevation loss, and 95% on the paved bike path.
For those skipping the bike ride, a bus will be available to transport participants to the site. The bus will leave at 8:50 am from Riverside Lane ( the street beyond the valet parking areas outside the hotel lobby).
For those who choose to drive, please work hard on carpooling – it’s good for our planet, for your continued conference networking, and the Preserve is not well-suited to bulk parking! Use this address: “33924 US-6, Edwards, CO 81632.” The drive is 10 minutes; plan to meet the group at 9 am—and remember that valet parking in the morning can get backed up!

The Sites:

The Eagle River Preserve is a 72-acre former gravel mine. The land was purchased in 2005 as community open space. The Preserve was the vision of long-time area resident Harry Frampton, and transformation of that vision into reality was spearheaded by the Vail Valley Foundation that raised $12 million for its acquisition. The objective of the restoration work conducted at the Eagle River Preserve was to remove the scars created by gravel mining activities and restore upland vegetation. Though the upland restoration is more of a park project (versus riparian, channel, floodplain restoration, the Eagle River Preserve site is a great example of what a community can accomplish together. We’ll be welcomed to the Site by Jessica Foulis, the Stewardship and Outreach Manager of Eagle Valley Land Trust, to give us an overview of the site history.
The portion of the Eagle River that runs along the north boundary of the preserve is a relatively steep reach, confined on river right by steep valley banks and agricultural land, but still includes a high-quality riparian zone, particularly on river left (the Preserve).

Immediately downstream (west) of the Preserve is the site of a large-scale, high-profile restoration project known as the Edwards Eagle River Restoration Project. The Edwards reach was severely degraded with excessive fine sediment deposition, bank instability, poor surface water quality, and low aquatic, riparian, or upland habitat value. Reasons for such degradation can be attributed to historical agricultural land use practices, increased development and non-point source pollution, and heavy recreational use with without formalized access. The large evaporate sinkhole in the middle of the reach is an extremely interesting feature with extensive effects upstream and downstream. CRA has written about this project in detail on this blog: check out this 2007 post from Julie Ash and Grant Gurnee: https://coloradoriparian.org/edwards-eagle-river-restoration/.

Aerial Photo September 2004: Before the Eagle River Restoration Project and establishment of the Eagle River Preserve.

Aerial Photo June 2017: After the Eagle River Restoration Project and establishment of the Eagle River Preserve.
Why was the Edwards Reach riparian zone more sensitive to stressors than the reaches upstream and downstream, which maintained relatively high quality riparian ecosystems? How are fluvial processes similar and different in these different reaches?An understanding of local and regional geomorphology can help to answer questions like this and thus inform restoration goals and objectives.

In an important and encouraging trend, engineers and geomorphologists are starting to collaborate more extensively to understand and design river restoration projects. For this field workshop, Dr. Peter Wilcock will share what he sees through the eyes of a fluvial geomorphologist (e.g.,what are the dominant processes at work here, and how will these reaches change over time?) As a river restoration engineer, Dr. Sue Niezgoda will speak to what factors we look for when developing restoration designs, how we address risk and uncertainty, and how we can leverage better understanding of site geomorphology to our advantage.

Workshop Leaders:

Dr. Wilcock received his PhD in Earth Science at MIT in 1987, and specializes in erosion and sedimentation processes and their application to stream and watershed restoration and management. After serving on the faculty of Johns Hopkins University for 27 years, he joined Utah State University as Head of the Watershed Sciences Department in the Quinney College of Natural Resources, which now offers undergraduate and graduate programs in restoration. Dr. Wilcock is a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union and received the Hans Albert Einstein Award from the American Society of Civil Engineers for outstanding contributions to the understanding of sediment transport in gravel-bed rivers.

Dr. Niezgoda is an Associate Professor of Civil Engineering at Gonzaga University and a registered Professional Engineer. She has an emphasis in water resources engineering and teaches and conducts research in the areas of hydraulic engineering, stream restoration, soil erosion and sediment transport, and uncertainty and risk assessment. Dr. Niezgoda is currently working on monitoring the effectiveness of beaver dam analogs to reduce downstream sediment loading.  She has also published a body of knowledge for the practice of stream restoration. Dr. Niezgoda is on the Board of Directors for River Restoration Northwest (RRNW), and is instrumental in planning the annual Northwest Steam Restoration Symposium.

Directions to Field Workshop:

Bike: Meet on Riverside Lane (in front of the Westin just past valet parking) at 8 am to ride with the group (leaving by 8:15 am). Bring your own bike, or rent a bike for a few hours from the bike share station at the meeting spot.

If you miss the group, follow these directions:

Head to the bike path that runs along the north side of the Eagle River just behind the Westin (head east on Riverfront lane and access the path at the intersection with Avon Road). Ride west (downstream) along the Eagle River. Follow the path to the south side of the river across the W. Beaver Creek Blvd Bridge. The path diverges from the river and runs along Highway 6. At Miller Ranch Road, follow the path and cross the bridge to the north side of the river and cross Miller Ranch Road to continue downstream. The path here runs along a railroad grade. Follow the path across another bridge to the south side of the river. The path turns south (left) at Edwards Access Road. At the intersection of Edwards Access Road and Highway 6, Cross Edwards Access Road and ride west on Highway 6 for 500 meters. The entrance to the Eagle River Preserve is on the right side (north) of Highway 6. Follow the dirt road down to the parking area.

Bus: Meet the bus on Riverside Lane (in front of the Westin just past valet parking) at 8:40 am for an 8:50 am departure. Easy!
Car (please car pool – join us in a field workshop challenge to keep to 7 cars or less!): (10 minute drive, after waiting for your car from valet parking for 20 minutes!) Head east on Riverfront Lane toward Avon Road. Turn right onto Avon road. At the traffic circle, take the first exit onto Highway 6 west. Drive west on Highway 6 for 4.3 miles. When you pass Edwards Access Road, go about 500 meters to the entrance to the preserve on your right. Drive down the gravel road to the parking area. For GPS directions use:  33964 US-6, Edwards, CO 81632


Colorado Riparian Association