Upper Cattaraugus Creek Demonstration Project
Western NY, NY

Grantee: Seneca Trail Resource Conservation and Development Council, Inc.
Basin Program Funds: $89,813
Non-federal Funds: $41,869
Project Duration: 07/2003 - 08/2005
Status: complete

Problem Statement
In the Upper Cattaraugus Creek there is excess sedimentation from stream bank erosion due to the extensive fine-grained lake laid soils, which are found in the area. Most efforts to control stream bank erosion have been a result of public safety issues, where eroding streams threaten roads, bridges, public utilities and buildings, or private homes. Little attention has been given or action taken to protect the miles of streams and creeks that are inaccessible or rarely seen from roadsides. The Monkey Run tributary provides a prime example of excessive stream bank erosion on an inaccessible stream.

In western New York the second largest watershed is Cattaraugus Creek, covering 303,380 acres in Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie and Wyoming counties. According to a Erie-Niagara River Basin study conducted by the US Department of Agriculture, Soil Conservation Service "A very high erosion hazard exists in this watershed because of the extensive fine-grained lake laid soils which are found in the area. Several tributary streams have significant occurrences of streambank erosion." Cattaraugus Creek is used extensively for white water rafting, canoeing and fishing. High turbidity has negatively impacted these recreational uses. These water use impacts are due in large part to the 50.9 miles of raw and unprotected stream banks in this watershed. The upper Cattaraugus Creek is know as a blue ribbon trout stream and is generally maintained and classified as such by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. The segment of Cattaraugus Creek that includes the section of the stream and selected smaller tributaries above Elton Brook near Springville are designated as Class C(T)-important habitat for trout. The excessive amounts of sedimentation from the streambanks, measured by the U.S. Geological Survey as high as 21,200 tons per day, negatively affects the trout habitat by covering spawning grounds, reducing visibility and choking the fish.

One 4-mile long tributary named Monkey Run, in the town of Arcade in the southwest corner of Wyoming County, provides a prime example of excessive stream bank erosion on an inaccessible stream. Access to the creek is along the Attica and Arcade Short track railroad bed where the majority of the creek is in close proximity to the railroad.

This project used Monkey Run as a permanent demonstration site to show how using natural restoration and soft engineering protection measures can protect and improve inaccessible streams to reduce the sediment load to the watershed. The project used protection systems other than the traditional all-rock lined reinforcement, whole tree revetment (which are expensive and difficult to install in remote locations), or willow plantings which often are not effective for continuous exposure to high velocity flows. It is estimated that 10 critical areas will be treated with a combination of rock toes and/or banks, filter socks, reinforcement turf, soil rolls, vegetated gabion baskets, straw blankets, and other bioengineering practices. Eroding banks will be treated in a manner that retains a natural channel design. The design included an irregular shape with a low flow channel, meandering, and used the floodplain for greater than a 2-year flood event.

The Arcade and Attica Railroad partnered in providing access for installation, maintenance, inspection and educational exposure to the 4 miles of demonstration sites on Monkey Run. A permanent display of the project was set up in the train depot. At treatment sites adjacent to the railroad bed, signage explaining the treatment method will be posted. The railroad will also be donating a specific tour of the site for town and county highway personnel to educate them on project methods.

Two locations in the upper section of the creek were used for side by side comparison of bioengineering practices. Both locations are approximately 300 feet in length at a point where the creek is shallow and has a slower velocity suitable for vegetative techniques. The middle section of Monkey Run contains a number of tributaries crossing under the railroad bed that carry large loads of sediment. Practices such as catchment basins, settling pools and grade stabilization bars were installed to reduce the bed load from entering Monkey Run. The lowest section of Monkey Run has the highest velocity, volume and erosion problems. Those immediately adjacent to the railroad bed may require rock reinforcement to protect the railroad. Other severely eroding meanders adjacent to these sites and visible from the railroad bed can be protected with vegetation.

A Research Hydraulic Engineer with the US Army Engineer Research and Development Center, Coastal and Hydraulics Laboratory, assisted with the planning, design, layout and construction of the practices. Many of the practices had previously been installed on rivers and streams much larger than Monkey Run and were modified to fit the smaller flow stream. The materials and practices used at the site replicated natural stream dynamics that are typically found in stable stream reaches in the watershed. The practices installed include: 80 feet of Rock Plug, 5 boulder L-Heads and 3 Hydraulic Cover Stones, all used to redirect the flow of water in the 500 feet of re-established stream and overflow channels. Numerous Vegetative Transplants, 160 feet of Coconut Fiber Rolls, 395 feet of Longitudinal Stone Toe, 150 feet of Log Bank Protection, 650 feet of Erosion Blankets and Live Stakes were installed to reduce erosion by protecting the stream banks and flood plain.

Five recreated Pools and Riffles, 2 Log Riffle Aerators, 2 Rock Sill and 1 Random Boulder Grade Control Structure were designed to maintain the stream bottom elevation and provide improved fish habitat. Rock was used to provide a durable, water resistant barrier to protect the railroad bed from further erosion and undermining. Coconut fiber rolls were used where the bank protection was not as critical. Native vegetative materials were used to provide shade for fish, replicate a natural look, provide erosion control and sediment traps.

Because of the high water conditions that occurred during the installation of the practice and the lateness of the growing season, a small amount of maintenance was required during June 2005. The majority of the practices held up to the high spring flows despite a lack of established vegetation. A tour of the site in June 2005, after the majority of the restoration work was completed, was held for local officials, natural resource agency personnel and interested individuals. Similar practices will be installed in the future to creeks within the RC&D area.

With the assistance of the NRCS Public Affairs Specialist, a power point presentation will be completed and made available to showcase the restoration work done. Articles about the project were published and distributed in electronic format in the July issue of the NY’s NRCS News and appears on the Wyoming County Soil and Water Conservation District website.

The plans for the methods of protection in the lowest section of the stream where revised after consultation with research hydraulic engineers and state stream permit officials. A stable reference reach was surveyed and used as a template for the revised stream restoration plan. The implementation of the revised plan resulted in a necessary 12 month extension of the project.

Contact: Ms. JoAnn Kurtis, 716-699-8923


Great Lakes Commission des Grands Lacs.  2805 S. Industrial Highway, Suite 100.  Ann Arbor, MI  48104-6791.  phone: 734/971.9135.  fax: 734/971-9150.  projects.glc.org. Join the Friends of the Great Lakes GLIN Partner