Big Flat Meadow

First Pond & Plug Restoration Project in California

This project moved Cottonwood Creek from its old down cut channel into 4,050 feet of new channel constructed on top of Big Flat Meadow.  It was the first project to utilize the “pond and plug” restoration technique in California. 

Cottonwood Creek flows on Forest Service managed lands into Indian Creek by way of Last Chance Creek. The old channel had down cut 15 feet and was de-watering the 47-acre Big Flat Meadow, allowing invasion of sagebrush species. In 1995, the abandoned gully was filled or converted into a series of ponds to create wildlife habitat. Monitoring of ground water wells and surface flows were conducted since 1994. Sponsored by the USDA Forest Service and carried out by Plumas Corporation with funding from Pacific Gas & Electric, CA State Water Resources Control Board, Ducks Unlimited, California Department of Water Resources, California Department of Fish & Wildlife, and the Milford Grazing Association.

After continued post-project monitoring it was determined that the original channel design was oversized (one foot too deep).  As a consequence, full re-watering of the meadow had not occurred. Gravels from the upper watershed had slowly been filling the channel, but not fast enough. In 2004, modification to the channel using locally available basalt gravel/cobble to fill the riffles to the correct elevation was completed. This allowed high surface flows to more readily access the floodplain. This project was also part of a study done by Stanford University analyzing the relationship between surface and groundwater sources in restored versus degraded meadows using remote airborne infrared thermography from 2003-2005. Download Report Below.