Shell Rock River Watershed Habitat Restoration Program - Phase IV
$2,414,000 in the first year is to the commissioner of natural resources for an agreement with the Shell Rock River Watershed District to protect, 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 - 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 Watershed Habitat Restoration Program will restore, enhance, and protect 5393 acres of critical shallow lake, wetland and stream bank habitat benefiting fish, waterfowl and wildlife populations, preserving an outdoor legacy for future generations.
Shell Rock River Watershed District (SRRWD) encompasses 246 square miles inside Freeborn County and includes 11 lakes that drain to the headwaters of the Shell Rock River. It is a complex system of shallow lakes, wetlands and streams. Among the District’s lakes are Fountain Lake and Albert Lea Lake, which are located in the heart of Freeborn County. These lakes are central to Albert Lea’s tourism economy and its identity.
Degraded habitat of the shallow lakes, wetlands and streams is a conservation 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 shallow lake habitat is the highest priority in the SRRWD. Reduction of habitat in the watershed is directly affected by surface water, artificial drainage, aquatic vegetation and populations of invasive fish species such as common carp. A decline in habitat is influencing available food sources for duck populations that include Northern Pintail, Redhead, Canvasback, Greater/Lesser Scaup and game fish populations that include Northern Pike, Bluegill, Yellow Perch and Walleye.
Projects in the Watershed Habitat Restoration Program are 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 and increase wildlife habitat and its natural prairie, increase and improve community use of restored natural resources and protect the watershed from invasive species. This will be attained by:
• Re-establishing 61 acres of wetland basins to increase food sources and improve waterfowl habitat.
• 38 acres in land acquisition to re-establish native vegetation, improve nesting habitat and waterfowl food sources.
• Variable crest dam structure installations will maintain and enhance game fish populations, improve waterfowl habitat and establish native vegetation to 620 acres.
• Electric fish barrier and water level control station installation will re-establish native vegetation, improve nesting habitat, restore game fish populations and improve waterfowl habitat on 677 acres.
• 3,778 acres of in-lake habitat structures to improve game fish habitat and food sources.
• 184 acres of fish community reclamation to eliminate rough fish abundance and re-establish native aquatic vegetation.
• 35 acres of vegetative restoration to improve habitat for wildlife
This Program will utilize elements of successful local and previously funded LSOHC Programs throughout the state of Minnesota and implement them into a Watershed Habitat Restoration Program that will 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. In addition the scope of work will consist of rough fish management and game fish habitat improvement, enhancement and protection.
Long-term goals are to restore, enhance and protect the lakes, wetlands and streams in the SRRWD. This will result in improving habitat and water quality of public waters within, as well as, outside of the Shell Rock River Watershed District – Cedar River, Upper Iowa River, Mississippi River and ultimately the Gulf of Mexico. 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 is in the midst of a watershed habitat transformation. The projects funded in this proposal complement and advance the habitat benefits of previously funded LSOHC projects including: 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); and Goose Creek Fish Barrier (CPL Grant) (2013-2014). Methods and procedures utilized by the SRRWD on successful projects previously funded by the LSOHC will be implemented on 2015 funded projects. 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 SRRWD proposes to improve degraded habitat conditions through implementation of projects on a lake-shed basis. District staff and board members have demonstrated the ability and capacity to complete these projects with 2015 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 District is now implementing its second ten-year Watershed Management Plan and welcomes the opportunity to build on the success of the first Watershed Management Plan and partner with the LSOHC to demonstrate the leveraged watershed based benefits that can accrue from a strategic approach to habitat restoration and protection efforts. This Program model can be replicated in similar watersheds throughout Minnesota.
We have a proven track record with the LSOHC of implementing projects that protect, restore and enhance Minnesota’s natural resources. The Program is designed to shifts habitat capacity of the watershed to a recognizable level for generations to come and complements the habitat restoration and protection benefits from three previous LSOHC funding phases.