The Lahontan National Fish Hatchery Complex
Pacific Southwest Region

River Restoration Program

Walker riverThe goal of the River Restoration Program is to address threats to the Walker Basin, such as invasive weeds, eroding river banks, and degraded habitat - all of which increase sediment in the river and pose a threat to the health of the Walker River Basin. Photo courtesy of USFWS

Below are some of the actions we’re taking with our partners to improve river function.

Tackling Tamarisk

tamariskTamarisk is a deciduous shrub introduced to the western U.S. in the 1800’s as an ornamental plant for windbreaks. It was introduced in the Walker basin around 1837.

tamarisk invasionOriginating in central Asia, tamarisk has an extensive root system that grows deep into the soil. This allows tamarisk to grow further back from the river, occupy a large area, and use more water across the floodplain than native plants. It is well suited to hot, arid climates and alkaline soils common in the western U.S. These adaptations have allowed it to effectively exploit many of the degraded conditions in southwestern river systems today. Photo courtesy of USFWS

By the 1900’s tamarisk stands dominated many low-elevation river, lake, and stream banks across the west, and today covers an estimated 1 to 1.5 million acres of land in the western U.S.

Tamarisk invaded as water levels in the Lake declined

Photo courtesy of OBEC, 2007

 Tamarisk reproduces primarily through wind and water-borne seeds and requires a wet, open surface to establish itself. In the presence of established native vegetation, tamarisk seedlings are not as competitive. However, when native vegetation is suppressed by conditions like late flooding, fire, drought, and animals eating native saplings, tamarisk is better able to invade. Once established, tamarisk grows so densely that it pushes out native vegetation. It also has a higher tolerance for fire, drought, and salinity than native plants and can actually increase fire frequency and intensity, drought, and salinity. It is water intensive, with an average annual water usage of up to 4.2 acre-feet/acre. Removing this invasive plant and re-establishing native vegetation is a major goal of the River Restoration program.                                                     

East Walker Noxious Weed Program
invasive weedsThe Walker River Basin Cooperative Weed Management Area (CWMA) has finished year one (2008) of a noxious weed project. They mapped and removed non-native weeds such as tamarisk along the East Walker River.  This is part of a multi-year project that in the future will address weeds on the West Walker and mainstem.  The project is in collaboration with private landowners, federal, state, and local agencies and funded primarily through the Desert Terminal Lakes Program.
This weed partnership received national attention in a recent National Association of Conservation Districts report that highlighted 25 out of 3,000 Conservation District programs. Photo courtesy of USFWS

rosachi ranchRosaschi Ranch Revegetation
The Service is working with Dr. Tara Forbis of the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Research Service, Dr. Jeanne Chambers of the USDA Rocky Mountain Research Station, the Natural Resource Conservation Service and the US Forest Service to restore native vegetation to retired agricultural land at Rosaschi Ranch on the East Walker River.  We are funding research on various native seed mixtures and site preparation techniques with the intent to restore less water-intensive native plants that will also support the native wildlife. The initial plantings will span two years, with data collection occurring for an additional two years to determine the best seeds and techniques to use for a full-scale restoration of the Ranch. This information will also be used for future native revegetation efforts on retired agricultural land in the Walker basin. Photo courtesy of USFWS

sediment testing
Sediment Transport Sampling
The Service is funding research to understand sediment transport throughout the Walker River basin, this research will lead to development of projects to reduce excessive sediment in the river and improve the sediment transport capacity of the river. In addition, the Service is working with the Walker River Paiute Tribe and the local National Resources Conservation Service office to reduce erosion throughout the portion of the Walker River that runs through tribal lands. Projects include stabilizing the river from any further incision and reducing impact of grazing along the riparian corridor. Understanding the sediment processes in the basin will help us address some of the root problems landowners face with their river property and sediment flows. Photo courtesy of USFWS


Habitat and Conservation Project on Private Land
The Service is working on developing projects with private landowners focused on preserving the riparian corridor and promoting native habitat. The Service is available to provide technical assistance and assist landowners in identifying potential projects and funding sources for restorative actions. Depending on the scope and scale of the project the Service may be able to provide funding through the Desert Terminal Lakes Program for funding on private lands.

Stabilizing banks on the Lower Walker River
stabilizing banksWe are removing an old structure in the Walker River that is the only thing preventing the river from eroding further up river. This project will focus on stabilizing the river in an area below Schurz that has undergone extensive erosion. The project will be designed to stabilize the banks, prohibit further erosion, and allow for fish passage. We will also incorporate native vegetation to better stabilize the river banks. Photo courtesy of USFWS



The Walker Advisory Group:

US Fish & Wildlife Service’s Lahontan National Fish Hatchery Complex
Walker River Paiute Tribe
Nevada Division of Conservation Districts
Mason Valley Conservation District
Smith Valley Conservation District
Natural Resource Conservation Service
Nevada Department of Wildlife
The Nature Conservancy
Walker River Irrigation District

Last updated: November 15, 2010