Accelerated Aquatic Management Area Acquisition
Accomplishments of the appropriation include: i) protection of 3.9 miles of shoreline; ii) modification of 4 lake outlet structures to allow fish passage, benefiting 1,264 acres; iii) enhanced river and stream functions at 15 sites, benefiting over 17 river miles; and iv) enhance 4.5 miles of shoreline habitat on publicly-owned lakeshore.
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.