Cold Water River and Stream Restoration, Protection, and Enhancement
In-stream and riparian habitat was enhanced along six reaches of coldwater streams located in existing Aquatic Management Areas. The projects improved habitat for both game and non-game fish and wildlife species uniquely associated with coldwater trout streams and expanded recreational opportunities.
Seriously degraded coldwater habitat is an important statewide conservation issue requiring immediate investment through habitat restoration and enhancement projects. The Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council identified the restoration and enhancement of coldwater fish habitat a priority action in the L-SOHC Sections in which these projects are located. As part of our ongoing program of trout and salmon habitat restoration and enhancement, Minnesota Trout Unlimited (“MNTU”) has identified several priority projects for Fiscal Year 2011 funding. MNTU directly restored or enhanced in-stream and riparian fish and wildlife habitat in and along these Minnesota waters (counties), all of which are in existing state-owned Aquatic Management Areas:
1. Hay Creek (Goodhue);
2. Lost Creek (Fillmore);
3. Pine Creek, reach 1 (Winona);
4. Pine Creek, reach 2 (Winona);
5. Vermilion River (Dakota);
6. West Indian Creek (Wabasha).
Another project, on the North Branch of the Whitewater River, was designed but implementation postponed by DNR Parks so it can rework the design to make the site appear more closely like pre European settlement conditions. Rather than delay the expenditure of OHF funds on the ground, remaining funds budgeted for construction were used to enhance another reach of Pine Creek. This 1,800 foot long reach of enhanced habitat on Pine Creek will support greater numbers of adult trout and likely receive far heavier use than Whitewater River reach would have.
These projects employed the same successful strategy used in the projects done by MNTU chapters and the MNDNR in the past decade. Each project involved the installation of in-stream fish habitat structures, in addition to measures which have reduced stream bank erosion and associated sedimentation, and reconnected streams to their flood plains to reduce negative impacts from severe flooding. The specific fish habitat restoration or enhancement methods used on each stream varied slightly depending upon the distinct natural resource characteristics of each ecological region, as well as variations in the type and magnitude of poor land uses practices within each watershed. Each project was tailored to the site after close consultation with resource professionals within the Minnesota DNR. The projects were designed and implemented to accomplish a number of these purposes: a) reduce stream bank erosion and associated sedimentation, b) reconnect streams to their flood plains to reduce negative impacts from severe flooding, c) increase natural reproduction of trout and other aquatic organisms, d) maintain or increase adult trout abundance, e) increase biodiversity for both in-stream and non-game species, f) be long lasting with minimal maintenance required, and g) improve angler access.
Project partners included the MNDNR, Pheasants Forever, and Minnesota citizens. The MNDNR was a key partner on every project, helping to identifying priority project sites, offering professional input on designs, providing permitting review, and other support. Dedicated members of Pheasants Forever accomplished an excellent prairie restoration on the upland areas of the Vermilion River site.
We encountered strong support from local communities, local businesses, community clubs, sporting groups, anglers, the MNDNR and the general public.