Shell Rock River Habitat Restoration Program - Phase V
$1,200,000 the second year is to the commissioner of natural resources for an agreement with the Shell Rock River Watershed District to acquire in fee, restore, and enhance aquatic habitat in the Shell Rock River watershed. A list of proposed acquisitions, restorations, and enhancements must be provided as part of the required accomplishment plan.
Protected, restored, and enhanced shallow lakes and wetlands - Protected, restored, and enhanced shallow lakes and wetlands will provide habitat to wildlife and support healthy natural resource conditions for long term benefits. They will offer an oasis for migratory waterfowl by re-establishing and connecting the flyways in south-central Minnesota. Measurement of success will require multifaceted data collection. Floristic Quality Assessments of restored wetlands, lakeshore, fish population surveys and wildlife surveys will aid in measuring and evaluating the success of protected, restored and enhanced shallow lakes, streams and wetlands. Increases and declines in wildlife, waterfowl and fish populations will be determined and reported in cooperation with MNDNR. .
Local Option Sales Tax
The Shell Rock River Watershed District's Phase 5 Habitat Restoration Program will restore, enhance, and protect 1040 acres of essential shallow lake, wetland and stream bank habitat benefiting fish, waterfowl and wildlife populations, preserving an outdoor legacy for future generations.
The Shell Rock River Watershed District (SRRWD) covers 246 square miles inside Freeborn County and includes a complex system of wetlands, streams, and shallow lakes that drain into the Shell Rock River. Among the District’s 11 lakes are Fountain Lake and Albert Lea Lake, which are located in the core of Freeborn County. These lakes are important to residents for recreation and vital to Albert Lea’s tourism economy and identity.
Habitat degradation of wetlands, streams, and shallow lakes is an issue of statewide importance that requires accelerated investment in projects to restore, enhance and protect habitat for fish, waterfowl and wildlife populations. Protection and restoration of this critical habitat is the highest priority in the SRRWD. Reduction of habitat in the watershed is directly affected by invasive aquatic vegetation, populations of invasive fish species such as common carp, and artificial drainage. Degradation in habitat is influencing available food sources for game fish populations that include Northern Pike, Bluegill, Yellow Perch and Walleye, and duck populations that include Northern Pintail, Redhead, Canvasback, and Greater/Lesser Scaup.
With this growing concern, in 2014 the SRRWD created a 5 year, $20 million watershed wide effort to restore, protect, and enhance degraded habitat conditions through implementations of projects on a lake-shed basis.
This Watershed Habitat Restoration Program is designed to accomplish the following objectives: restore desirable fish, waterfowl and wildlife populations, enhance native aquatic rooted vegetation, increase fish habitat and spawning areas, waterfowl nesting areas, re-establish flyway habitat, increase wildlife habitat and its natural prairie, and increase and improve community use of restored natural resources. These Program goals will be attained by:
• 70 acres in key habitat targeted acquisition to re-establish native vegetation, improve nesting habitat and waterfowl food sources.
• Establishment of wetland basins of 790 acres to improve upland game and waterfowl nesting habitat.
• Re-establish native vegetation to improve upland game and waterfowl nesting habitat to 180 acres in the watershed.
Phase 5 will utilize elements of successful local and previously funded LSOHC Programs, build upon Phase 4 of the Habitat Restoration Program, and enhance, restore and protect fisheries, waterfowl and wildlife habitat within the SRRWD. Project scope in this Program consists of accelerated wildlife management areas, waterfowl production areas, Minnesota Prairie Recovery, living shallow lakes and wetland initiatives along with accelerated shallow lakes and wetland enhancements. Finally, the scope of work will consist of game fish habitat improvement, enhancement and protection.
The SRRWD is the headwaters to the Shell Rock River, Cedar River, Upper Iowa River, Mississippi River, and the Gulf of Mexico. Creating long-term goals to restore, enhance and protect the lakes, wetlands and streams in the SRRWD that will positively affect downstream conditions is important to improving habitat and water quality of public waters within, as well as, outside of the Shell Rock River Watershed District. These long term goals interconnect and re-establish important flyway habitats within Minnesota, such as: Mississippi, Le Sueur and La Qui Parle. The goal is to establish waterfowl and fish populations to create the wildlife mecca that was recorded in the late 1800’s (See attached article). Finally, this Program will preserve an outdoor legacy for Minnesotans to use and enjoy for generations.
The SRRWD proposes to improve degraded habitat conditions through implementation of projects on a lake-shed basis. District staff and board managers have demonstrated the ability and capacity to complete these projects with funding from the LSHOC. The projects are identified as a high priority in the SRRWD Management Plan, a plan developed with public participation, subject to public review and approval by the SRRWD Board. District staff focuses on identifying existing impairments through current conservation modeling and monitoring water quality within the SRRWD, which results in determining project locations with the greatest net return in habitat restoration.
In 2004 the SRRWD released its first Watershed Management Plan to implement reasonable and necessary improvements to natural resources and water quality. Some of the major beneficial outcomes were: overall improved water quality, an aggressive Pollution Prevention Program that centered on repairing septic systems, and restoring a key headwaters lake. The SRRWD is in the midst of a watershed habitat transformation and is now implementing its second generation Waterplan. The District welcomes the opportunity to build on the success of the first Watershed Management Plan by adding and continuing the aggressive Habitat Restoration Program designed to protect, enhance and restore, shallow lake, wetland and stream habitat. Creating this partnership with the LSOHC will demonstrate that leveraged watershed based benefits can accrue from a strategic approach to habitat restoration and protection efforts and can be replicated in similar watersheds throughout Minnesota.
The Program was designed to shift habitat capacity of the watershed to a recognizable level for generations to come and complement the habitat restoration and protection benefits from previous LSOHC funding phases: Wedge Creek, White Lake and Fountain Lake Fish Barriers (2009-10); Shell Rock River Headwater’s Project (2011-12); Albert Lea Lake Dam and Fish Barrier (2013-14); Goose Creek Fish Barrier (CPL Grant) (2013-2014); Shell Rock River Headwaters Restoration, Phase II (CPL Grant) (2014-15); and Shell Rock River Watershed Habitat Restoration Program, Phase 4 (2015-16). The District will leverage its experience to ensure optimum project design and implementation, resulting in rapid habitat restoration and enhancement benefits. In turn, implementation of these projects will provide long-term protection of the SRRWD’s shallow lakes, wetlands and streams.
The Shell Rock River Watershed District has a proven track record with LSOHC, implementing projects that protect, restore, and enhance Minnesota's natural resources. Public fishing, hunting, outdoor recreation, in addition to our recent Shell Rock River Water Trail, give outdoor enthusiasts first-hand use of improved habitat conditions that restore fish and wildlife populations within the Shell Rock River Watershed.