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Iowa Contaminants Biologists Contribute to National Fish Habitat Initiative

Date Posted: February 16, 2010

Several years ago there was an unpermitted discharge of partially treated sewage into a tributary of the Yellow River in northeastern Iowa. The ammonia and dissolved oxygen crash from the spoiling sewage in the stream caused a massive fish kill. The dead fish flowed down the Yellow River through Effigy Mounds Monument on into the Mississippi River. The State of Iowa and the National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service representing the U.S. Department of the Interior assessed the damages and agreed to a monetary settlement from the responsible party. The basis of the monetary settlement was equal to the costs needed for the construction of restoration projects that can benefit the fishery in the Yellow River as a means to make the public whole for the fish kill.
 
The Contaminants Biologists collaborated with the State of Iowa, National Park Service, Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), and the Allamakee County Soil and Water Conservation District to develop stream restoration projects in the Yellow River. After some planning time and all of the permit were in order, the Allamakee County Soil and Water Conservation District implemented the restoration project plans during the Autumn of 2009 when the water level was low. The stream restoration projects included scrapping back the steep soil bank to a gradual slope, which reduces erosion, and slumping of soil into the stream. Then the construction crew inserts a fish hide box structure into the base of the slope. Fish hides provide shaded places for fish to wait for food as it flows down the stream. Rock holds the fish hides in place. The new slope is then re-vegetated with native plants. See the photographs below for before and after views of one of the stream restoration projects in the Yellow River.
 
The Yellow River is within the Driftless Area. The Driftless Area is a geologic plateau in the corners of Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. The Driftless Area contains many cold-water streams in scenic limestone valleys. These streams and valleys are a focus area for the National Fish Habitat Initiative known as the Driftless Area Restoration Effort (DARE). The National Fish Habitat Initiative and DARE is “about locally-driven efforts that build private and public partnerships to improve fish habitat”. 
 

Streambank Site number three before construction. The stream has a slumping stream bank with soil mounds in the stream water.

Left: Streambank Site #3 before construction. 
Notice the bare slumping stream bank with
soil mounds in the stream water.
Credit Allamakee County Soil and Water Conservation District.
 
 
Right: Streambank Site #3 after construction.
Notice the gentle slope and rock at bottom
to hold bank hide structure. This stream bank
will be planted in the spring of 2010.
Credit Allamakee County Soil and
Water Conservation District.

Streambank Site number three after construction.              The bank has a gentle slope and rock at bottom              to hold bank hide structure.

Contacts:

Aleshia Kenney (309)757-5800 x218 and Michael Coffey (309)757-5800 x206

Links:

National Fish Habitat Initiative http://fishhabitat.org/default.htm

Midwest Driftless Area Restoration Effort (MDARE) http://www.darestoration.com/

Last updated: February 13, 2013