Renchler’ Meadow is an important water storage area for Dry Creek, a tributary of Satus Creek, both of which support culturally important fish species. Meadows are extremely important for absorbing and slowly releasing rainfall and snowmelt to maintain summer base flows in streams. The meadows themselves support culturally important roots that are gathered for food, medicinal and ceremonial purposes by the Yakama people. Renchler's Meadow was impacted by a variety of human related activities in the past, which ultimately caused the stream channel to erode throughout the meadow. Incised stream channels, two to eight feet deep, have caused the water table to drop and impaired the ability of the meadow to store runoff for late summer base flow maintenance. Additional damage to the meadow was caused by cattle overgrazing and physical soil compaction as well as trampling of the stream bed and banks, which allowed concentrated spring runoff to erode the channel causing lateral and vertical channel expansion.
Goals of the project are to improve hydrologic function of the meadow by:
- slowing runoff,
- raising the water table,
- improving floodplain connectivity,
- and enhancing riparian vegetation.
We completed a fencing and headcut abatement project in 2005. The project prevented further migration of the existing headcut by inserting a series of energy dissipating and grade control weirs sited in accordance with a geomorphological survey. Further erosion was controlled by filling minor channels with gravel. Photopoints were established at each grade control structure for future monitoring.
The meadow protection fence established in 2005 has shown us that by excluding cattle and horses from the meadow areas, significant improvements are seen in meadow health. The fence was expanded in 2008 to encompass the entire meadow.