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Streambank Stabilization Project Aids Niangua Darter in Missouri
California-Nevada Offices , January 24, 2012
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BEFORE: riparian corridor, looking downstream. Prior to Partners for Fish and Wildlife involvement, the remaining trees were cut to
BEFORE: riparian corridor, looking downstream. Prior to Partners for Fish and Wildlife involvement, the remaining trees were cut to "hinge" over the bank, mistakenly thinking it would provide protection. - Photo Credit: Liisa Schmoele/USFWS
Clearing away vegetation in order to gain access to the bank. Rock from a previous stabilization attempt is visible. Looking downstream.
Clearing away vegetation in order to gain access to the bank. Rock from a previous stabilization attempt is visible. Looking downstream. - Photo Credit: Bill Ambrose
Quarry site located on Ambrose property greatly decreased the cost for hauling rock.
Quarry site located on Ambrose property greatly decreased the cost for hauling rock. - Photo Credit: Bill Ambrose
Digging a key to anchor the longitudinal fill stone toe protection.
Digging a key to anchor the longitudinal fill stone toe protection. - Photo Credit: Bill Ambrose
Upstream view of completed longitudinal fill stone toe protection and rock vane.
Upstream view of completed longitudinal fill stone toe protection and rock vane. - Photo Credit: Bill Ambrose
AFTER: riparian corridor and completed project, looking downstream. The bank was seeded with a native warm season grass and forb mixture and planted with native riparian shrubs and trees.
AFTER: riparian corridor and completed project, looking downstream. The bank was seeded with a native warm season grass and forb mixture and planted with native riparian shrubs and trees. - Photo Credit: Bill Ambrose

Streams in the Missouri Ozarks are in trouble. Massive gravel loading and increased sedimentation from eroding streambanks have changed the dynamics of these streams and can be traced to historic land use changes: virgin shortleaf pine forests were clearcut in the early 1900s and free-ranging cattle and hogs were once rampant.

The majority of the candidate, threatened and endangered species in Missouri are found in the Ozark Highlands, and many of those depend on stream systems for survival. One threatened species in particular, the Niangua darter, is endemic to one watershed in Missouri: the Osage River basin. Although never historically abundant, the range of the Niangua darter has been severely restricted to small tributary streams of the Osage River. What caused this range contraction? The Osage, Niangua and Pomme de Terre rivers, three large rivers within the watershed, were impounded for hydroelectric power generation or flood protection in the 1930s. The “lakes” created by these dams, now enjoyed by thousands of Missourians for their recreational opportunities, have inundated habitat once used by the Niangua darter. Habitat degradation from sedimentation, nutrification, channelization and in-stream gravel removal, coupled with habitat segregation from low-water road crossings have all added to the plight of the darter.

But there is hope! Slowly but surely, many federal, state and non-profit natural resource organizations in Missouri are helping to restore Ozark streams. The range of the Niangua darter is a focus area for the Missouri Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program and is within several priority watersheds for the Missouri Department of Conservation. Partnerships between the Columbia Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office, Missouri Private Lands Office, Columbia ES Field Office, and Missouri Department of Conservation have resulted in the replacement of numerous low-water crossings and miles of riparian restoration and cattle exclusion from riparian corridors. Most recently, Partners for Fish and Wildlife Biologist Liisa Schmoele worked with landowner Bill Ambrose to stabilize an eroding streambank and replant the riparian corridor to help improve habitat for the Niangua darter.

It began with an email from a Miller County Commissioner that had a problem: a county road running along Little Tavern Creek was in danger of being undermined by the creek. The eroding bank in question was losing untold amounts of sediment to the creek which happened to be less than one half mile upstream from federally-designated critical habitat for the Niangua darter. This was a safety issue also: school buses daily transport future Miller County landowners to and from school. Thanks to the help of the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, Miller County Commission, and Missouri Department of Conservation and Great River Associates engineering firm, not to mention Ambrose, the project has been completed about one year after learning of the issue.

Streambank stabilization was achieved by installing longitudinal fill stone toe protection along the toe of the eroding bank and approximately 10 feet up the bank, as well as by the construction of a rock vane at the downstream end of the toe protection to disrupt helicoidal flow which could potentially increase erosion downstream of the project. Ambrose had the bare bank planted with native trees and shrubs from the nursery on his property and seeded warm season grasses and forbs.

Ambrose commented, “From help with the engineering and permitting, to commitment and coordination of construction partners, Liisa did a great job. The environmentally friendly and aesthetic result has attracted a lot of attention and comment – I just tell everybody you couldn’t find a better partner than the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.”

Like most states in the Midwest, the overwhelming majority of Missouri is in private ownership: approximately 97%. Successful partnerships like these are critical to the recovery of our listed species and in keeping common species common.


Contact Info: Liisa Schmoele, (707) 822-7201, liisa_schmoele@fws.gov



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