Minnesota Trout Unlimited Coldwater Fish Habitat Enhancement and Restoration - Phase VII
$1,890,000 in the first year is to the commissioner of natural resources for an agreement with Minnesota Trout Unlimited to restore and enhance habitat for trout and other species in and along coldwater rivers and streams in Minnesota. A list of proposed restorations and enhancements must be provided as part of the required accomplishment plan.
Improved aquatic habitat indicators - Fish, macro invertebrate and substrate surveys.Improved aquatic habitat indicators - Fish, macro invertebrate and substrate surveys.Rivers, streams, and surrounding vegetation provide corridors of habitat - Improved aquatic habitat indicators: Fish, macro invertebrate and substrate surveys.
BWSR/Duluth, SWCD, City of Preston, BWSR/Duluth, SWCD, City of Preston, DNR
Minnesota Trout Unlimited volunteers, chapters and partners will enhance habitat for fish, game and wildlife in and along numerous coldwater streams on existing Aquatic Management Areas and other public lands around the state, while leveraging approximately $3 million for this.
The problem being addressed.
Minnesota’s remaining coldwater streams are under increasing threats. While they are often the highest quality aquatic systems remaining in the state, and prized by both anglers and the general public because of this, many have badly degraded habitat. Given their relatively scarcity, being just six percent of total stream and river miles, this is a conservation issue of statewide importance that requires accelerated investment in projects which enhance or restore this habitat. This year we have a fleeting opportunity to leverage more than $2 million in other funds and convert isolated bank stabilization efforts in the Duluth area into comprehensive, enduring trout habitat restoration projects.
Minnesota Trout Unlimited (“MNTU”) proposes to improve degraded habitat on numerous priority streams located on existing AMAs and public land around the state. Our members have demonstrated the capacity to complete these projects with Fiscal Year 2016 funding from the Outdoor Heritage Fund (“OHF”). MNTU respectfully proposes to partner with the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council and the citizens of Minnesota to enhance habitat in and along the following public waters (in these counties):
1. Amity Creek (St. Louis)
2. East Branch of Amity Creek (St. Louis)
3. West Branch of Amity Creek (St. Louis)
4. Chester Creek (St. Louis)
5. Stewart River (Lake)
6. Vermillion River (Dakota)
7. Root River (Fillmore)
8. Numerous other streams (prioritized vegetation maintenance list)
Individual project descriptions are provided in an attachment.
Goals and scope of work.
The goals of the projects include to increase the carrying capacity and trout population of the stream, increase angling access and participation, improve water quality and provide other benefits to aquatic and terrestrial wildlife. FY 2016 funded projects will use methods similar to those used on successful projects recently completed by MNTU chapters. MNTU will leverage our experience to optimize project design and implementation. We will also partner with Lake County Land Department as part of a watershed scale project to restore forest cover in riparian areas, improve hydrology and groundwater base flow, and thereby sustain and improve coldwater fisheries in the Stewart River watershed.
In consultation with professionals within the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (“MNDNR”), MNTU will use the best available stream restoration and coldwater aquatic science to select specific habitat improvement methods for each stream that reflect the distinct characteristics of the watershed and ecological region, address the specific limiting factors (e.g. spawning substrate, adult cover, invertebrate production, etc.), and account for the land use practices.
Objectives: Each projects will accomplish one or more of these objectives: (a) increase adult trout abundance, (b) reduce stream bank erosion and associated sedimentation downstream, (c) reconnect streams to their floodplains to reduce negative impacts from severe flooding, (d) increase natural reproduction of trout and other aquatic organisms, (e) increase habitat for invertebrates and non-game species, (f) improve connectivity of habitat along aquatic and riparian (terrestrial) corridors, (g) improve angler access and participation, and (h) protect productive trout waters from invasive species.
Methods: Habitat enhancement methods typically include: (1) sloping stream banks back to both remove streamside sediments that have previously been transported from uplands areas and better reconnect the stream to its floodplain, (2) removing shallow rooted woody vegetation (invasive box elder, buckthorn, etc.) to enable removal of accumulated sediments, reduce competition with desirable plant and grass species, and allow beneficial energy inputs (sunlight) to reach the streams, (3) stabilizing eroding stream banks, (4) installing overhead bank and other in-stream cover for trout, (5) utilizing soil erosion prevention measures, (6) seeding exposed banks and taking steps to firmly establish vegetation (including using native prairie grasses where appropriate and feasible), (7) improving angling accessibility, (8) fencing riparian corridors where appropriate to facilitate managed grazing and prevent damage from over-grazing, (9) restoring large cover logs to the channels of Northern forested streams to increase deep pool habitat, and (10) planting long lived trees along Northern forested streams to shade and cool the water, and provide a source of future cover logs.
These actions directly enhance physical habitat, and typically increase overall trout abundance, the number of larger trout, and levels of successful natural reproduction. Additional benefits, typically extending many miles downstream from the project, include reduced erosion and sedimentation, cooler water temperatures, improved water quality, and increased connectivity of aquatic and riparian habitat corridors.
How priorities were set.
MNTU focuses on those watersheds likely to continue to support viable, fishable populations of naturally reproducing trout and steelhead fifty years and more from now. Work is done only where degraded habitat is a limiting factor for a quality, sustainable fishery. Priority locations are determined using MNTU members’ extensive knowledge of the watersheds, MNDNR management plans and surveys, other habitat and conservation planning efforts, consultations with MNDNR professionals, and science based criteria. All things being equal, we consider the potential to draw new anglers outdoors, increase public awareness of the threats facing coldwater fisheries and watersheds, engage landowners and residents in conservation, foster partnerships, and increase public support for OHF projects.
Urgent conservation opportunities.
The targeted stream segments are no longer providing habitat or clean water benefits, angling opportunities, or other enticements which increase outdoor recreation and encourage public appreciation and stewardship of aquatic ecosystems. By creating productive fisheries in visible and accessible areas, these projects will increase citizens’ use of our coldwater ecosystems, tangibly re-connect Minnesotans to the land and water, foster understanding of threats to them, and motivate citizens to advocate for watershed and water quality improvements.
We continue to receive strong support for these projects from landowners, rural communities (especially since most funding pays local contractors and suppliers for direct construction expenses), and local civic and sporting organizations. We will continue to gather local input and develop partnerships in the planning and implementation stages. Landowners typically become very enthusiastic partners, working side-by-side with TU volunteers, donating materials, and helping secure additional conservation funding.
Budget numbers are estimates only. Construction efficiencies and leveraging funds may permit us to lengthen projects and/or add streams.