Minnesota Trout Unlimited Coldwater Fish Habitat Enhancement & Restoration
$2,470,000 in the first year is to the commissioner of natural resources for an agreement with Minnesota Trout Unlimited to restore and enhance coldwater river and stream habitats in Minnesota. A list of proposed land restorations and enhancements must be provided as part of the required accomplishment plan.
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Minnesota Trout Unlimited and our volunteers, chapters and partners will directly enhance habitat for fish and wildlife in and along thirteen coldwater streams located in existing Aquatic Management Areas and on existing public lands around the state.
The problem being addressed.
Minnesota’s remaining coldwater streams represent just six percent of the State’s total miles of streams and rivers. They are, however, disproportionately popular with anglers and valued by citizens because they represent the highest quality aquatic systems remaining. Degraded habitat in and along coldwater streams is, therefore, a conservation issue of statewide importance that requires accelerated investment in projects which enhance or restore this habitat.
Minnesota Trout Unlimited (“MNTU”) proposes to improve degraded habitat on thirteen streams located on existing AMAs and public land around the state. Our members have demonstrated the capacity to complete these projects with Fiscal Year 2014 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. Junco Creek (Cook);
2. Split Rock River (Lake);
3. Keene Creek (St. Louis);
4. Garvin Brook (Winona);
5. Spring Creek (Goodhue);
6. Trout Brook (Dakota);
7. Rice Creek/Spring Brook (Rice);
8. Blackhoof River (Carlton);
9. Pine - Rush Creeks (Winona);
10. Mill Creek (Olmsted);
11. Newburg Creek (Fillmore);
12. West Albany Creek (Wabasha);
13. Willow Creek (Fillmore).
Individual project descriptions are included as an attachment.
Goals and scope of work.
Each project aims 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 2014 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.
In consultation with resource 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 or juvenile cover, invertebrate production), and account for the land use practices.
Objectives: Projects will accomplish 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 angler access and participation, and (g) 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 using vegetation and/or rock, (4) installing overhead bank and other in-stream cover for trout, (5) installing 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 access, (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 eventually become large 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, that extend many miles downstream from the project, include reduced erosion and sedimentation, cooler water temperatures, and improved water quality.
How priorities were set.
MNTU focuses on those Minnesota watersheds likely to continue to support viable, fishable populations of naturally reproducing trout, steelhead and salmon fifty years and more from now. Habitat work is done only where degraded habitat is a limiting factor for a quality, sustainable fishery. Priority project 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 Fisheries professionals, and science based criteria. Some projects build upon previous habitat work in neighboring segments to collectively boost the overall fishery, while others are the first project on a stream and can significantly boost spawning success by providing scarce cover for adult trout and/or spawning habitat. Some projects are in locales with limited opportunities for quality coldwater angling. All things being equal, we consider the potential to draw new anglers outdoors, increase public awareness of the threats facing coldwater fisheries and watersheds, foster conservation 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 that result in increased participation in 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. Without immediate action, Minnesota will lose these myriad benefits, as well as the substantial economic benefits the projects generate, including through ongoing recreation and tourism.
MNTU continues to receive strong support for these projects from local landowners, rural communities (especially given that 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 local TU volunteers, donating materials, and even securing farm bill conservation funding for use on the projects.
Budget numbers are estimates only. Through construction efficiencies and leveraging substantial federal and private monies we expect to lengthen several projects and even work on additional streams.