Accelerated Aquatic Management Area Acquisition, Phase II
This program uses a multi-programmatic approach to achieve prioritized aquatic habitat protection, restoration, and enhancement for lakes, trout streams, and rivers across Minnesota. We propose to: i) protect 7.8 miles of shoreline on lakes, rivers and trout streams; ii) effect structural repairs to 2 lake outlet control structures that will integrate fish passage; iii) restore and enhance river and stream functions that will benefit over 50.5 river miles; and iv) enhance 1.4 miles of shoreline habitat on publicly-owned lakeshore. The strategic approach and priority resources targeted in this proposal are supported by a number of internal and external conservation planning documents. The DNR will implement the objectives of this proposal through established and highly successful programs each having strong stakeholder support including: Aquatic Management Area Program, Shoreland Habitat Restoration Program, Stream Habitat Program, and Coldwater Streams Program.
What is the problem to be addressed?
Minnesota's aquatic habitats have been degraded or threatened by a century or more of land, hydrology, and human settlement related alterations. The consequences to aquatic species have been reduced habitats for essential life history stages, lack of access to traditional spawning areas, and fragmentation of formerly continuous habitat that served as corridors to facilitate seasonal movements.
Geographically, aquatic habitats are in various states of quality and experiencing differing levels of environmental stress with a general pattern of healthy habitats under low stress in the northeast and less healthy habitats under high stress in the southern and western portions of the state (see Figure H-15 in the State Conservation and Preservation Plan). But even within this generalized pattern there are many notable exceptions ? aquatic habitats exhibiting declining quality under high environmental stress in the northeast, and moderate to high quality habitats within high environmental stress landscapes to the west and south. This provides a meaningful framework for providing habitat protection, restoration, and enhancement through DNR's diverse habitat programs infrastructure.
How will this directly relate to restoring, protecting, or enhancing habitat? Why will this strategy work?
Acquisition of priority habitats provides permanent protection backed by state and federal laws. The AMA designation unit within the Outdoor Recreation System was established by the Legislature in 1992 and has strong support from conservation groups and anglers. The AMA Program currently has an inventory of 830 miles of shoreline in over 330 AMAs, which provide permanent protection of critical riparian habitats, perpetuate fish and wildlife populations, safeguard water quality, and offer public recreational opportunities as an important additional benefit.
Providing fish passage over in-stream barriers such as low-head dams and culverts by backfilling with rock reconnects fish and other aquatic species to upstream habitats essential for spawning, juvenile life stages, and overall abundance and genetic diversity of aquatic species. Stream restoration projects reconstruct the stream's natural pattern, profile, and dimension. Natural stream design favors hydrologic conditions that do not degrade the stream bank and bed and provides a diversity of microhabitats that are more favorable to fish and other aquatic species. Channel restoration, dam modification, and shoreline enhancement work is based on proven methods and DNR experience with multiple projects. The DNR has worked on large-scale river and stream restoration projects since 1998 and has completed or assisted in design elements of over 100 stream projects addressing restoration, fish passage, dam removal and dam modification to rapids. These are significant and durable accomplishments benefiting aquatic habitat. As examples of these successful strategies, DNR has conducted large-scale projects to restore the Whitewater River to its original channel; reconnected nearly the entire Minnesota portions of the Red River by direct dam removal or modification leaving only a few dams presently remaining that impede fish movements (primarily lake sturgeon); and enhanced 21 miles of shoreline on lakes across the state including many challenging high erosion sites. Also projects address other key components of a stream: wildlife and fish habitat, water quality, connectivity to the floodplain and upstream reaches, and hydrology. By drawing on the accumulated scientific knowledge on all components of the stream DNR strives to deliver the best possible restoration projects using the best science available.
The DNR has conducted shoreline enhancement projects for over 10 years and during that time the program has grown in scope and popularity. The annual number of shoreland restoration projects completed has increased from 23 in 2002 to 60 in 2009. At the end of the L-SOHC grant period, 1.6 miles of public shoreline including AMAs and other state, county, township, and municipal lands will be enhanced to provide erosion protection, habitat diversity for multiple species of fish and wildlife (including game species and SGCNs), and enhanced aesthetics. Native plants and natural materials will be utilized to increase habitat complexity, provide protective cover, stabilize shorelines, and firmly anchor soils. Project habitat benefits will continue to accrue beyond the term of this grant as project sites mature and the shoreline assumes a more natural character.
Describe the nature and extent of any partnerships in this project, stakeholder and public participation processes associated with the project and any anticipated support or opposition to the project.
The AMA Acquisition Planning Committee developed an acquisition plan in 2007 that recommended purchasing an additional 2,595 miles of riparian lands over 25 years to meet the habitat protection needs of a rapidly changing Minnesota. This stakeholder-developed plan guides DNR's AMA program implementation.
Restoration and enhancement elements of this project are linked to various landscape or system-specific management plans (e.g., Lake Superior Management Plan) that have been developed through extensive internal and external coordination. These elements represent shared priorities with multiple partners and stakeholders.
For land acquisitions, indicate local government support and approval
Township and County support are usually obtained as part of the acquisition process. County Boards are typically notified after AMA parcels have been optioned and consistent with DNR policy.
We completed six fish passage projects, benefiting 1,311 acres of habitat that will now be accessible to migrating fish and mussels. These projects were modifications to dams that will allow fish to bypass these former barriers. One fish passage project on Chester Creek planned for this appropriation was not completed due to delays in contracting for construction by our project partner, the city of Duluth. They have been very busy contracting stream projects due to the flood of 2012, and this unexpected development kept us from completing the project on time. A design for the project was paid for with this appropriation. The project will be built in 2016 using flood damage money from the State of Minnesota.
An instream habitat project was completed on West Beaver Creek. The project narrowed the stream channel to improve instream habitat and better transport fine sediment. Instream habitat was also enhanced, and bank stability improved to reduce erosion.
Riparian habitat was enhanced at fourteen coldwater streams and two warmwater streams. These projects will enhance native prairie plants that will improve bank stability and instream cover. Prairie species also encourage narrow and deep stream channels that better move fine sediment, improving habitat for fish and invertebrates. Habitat practices included brush removal, prescribed burns, control of invasive plants, and planting of native species.
Lake riparian habitat was enhanced at nine locations. These projects were done cooperatively through grants to local organizations. Mowed turf grass was replaced with native plants with deep roots that are better at stabilizing the shoreline and provide habitat for species such as frogs and other aquatic animals. These parcels are also open to public fishing.
We permanently protected lakeshore habitat at eight locations, covering 276 acres. These parcels will protect intact lake shoreline that has been shown to be critical to fish reproduction, and to preventing shoreland erosion. We also protected one parcel on a trout stream through a conservation easement. This will protect coldwater conditions and habitat in the stream through the preservation of riparian vegetation. This parcel will also be open to public fishing.
We fell short of our planned output acreage for this appropriation due to a number of factors. First, our protection acreage can vary depending on the relative amount of upland land that is purchased with adjoining waterfront. Sometimes parcels are a narrow strip of lakeshore, while at other times a parcel may be quite deep and have considerable upland that is purchased. For this appropriation, our acquisitions leaned toward primarily waterfront land resulting in a shortfall of 98 acres. Second, when this accomplishment plan was written we planned to be able to account for benefitted upstream acres for fish passage projects. During a plan amendment for a different appropriation we were given direction by the council that we should only count footprint acres for these types of projects. We did not go back and do plan amendments for other appropriations to reflect this guidance, but did follow that direction in our reporting. As a result we reported 1260 acres less than was planned. Third, our trout stream riparian enhancement work over-estimated the amount that we could complete, resulting in a shortfall of 424 acres. The work for this part of the appropriation was completed during the last 6 months that the money was available, preventing a plan amendment to reflect the change in acreage output. We will know better in the future how to estimate acres for this type of work. The fourth reason for our shortfall was an amendment from a fish passage project on the Mississippi River at Little Falls to a channel restoration project on the Buffalo River. As previously mentioned, when the plan was written we expected to report the full benefitted acreage for the fish passage project. When we amended to plan to spend that money on the Buffalo River, there was no corresponding change to our planned output acres as reflected in table 1. This was not changed mainly because the original version of ML2010 accomplishment plan does not include a “Table 1” as shown in the online version. Instead there are a series of less organized tables that allow for a more narrative description of the work. The resulting shortfall in acres from this change was 564 acres.
In total, these differences from the accomplishment plan account for 2346 acres, which would explain the difference between the original plan and what we have reported for output. We have learned several lessons regarding output acres since this early appropriation. We will work hard to have our outputs better match the accomplishment plan in future reporting.
$3,416,000 in fiscal year 2011 is to the commissioner of natural resources to accelerate land acquisition by fee title and easements to be added to the state aquatic management area system as defined in Minnesota Statutes, chapter 86A, and to restore and enhance stream habitat and lake habitat. Land acquired in fee must remain open to hunting and fishing, consistent with the capacity of the land, during the open season, as determined in writing by the commissioner of natural resources. A list of proposed fee title and easement acquisitions, stream habitat restorations and enhancements, and lake habitat restorations and enhancements must be provided as part of the required accomplishment plan.
Restored 18 acres, protected 286 acres and enhanced 242 acres of stream habitat.