Proceedings of the 2004 Great Lakes Lake Sturgeon Coordination Meeting

Subject Oriented Session: Habitat Restoration and Enhancement

The session began with self-introductions and description of work each person is currently conducting.

Topics Covered:
- Methods/ideas/challenges related to habitat improvement

Participant List:
Luther Aadland, Brenda Archambo, Tom Burzynski, Kim Carmichael, Jerry Edde,
Brad Eggold (facilitator), Mitchell Eshkakga, Steve Hogler, Marty Holtgren, William Kieper, Janet Lowe, Robert McNeely, Steph Ogren, Maureen Peltier, Henry Quinlan, Kandi Schnurer, Randy Seymour, Chris Vandergoot

Discussion Summary:
Project Highlights/Experiences

Luther Aadland – Brief description of work in the Red River Basin
Brad Eggold/Tom Burzynski – Summarized work on the Milwaukee River
Marty Holtgren – Information on habitat in the Manistee River
Brenda Archambo – Habitat work in the Black River system
General comments of group

Aadland – Red River Basin. Reconnect spawning areas to main stem of the river. Rapid creation over dam sites. Rivers have been really messed up over time, channelized, straightened, etc.

Removed dams were possible, sediment load behind is a problem. Dig meandering channel through sediment load and line with rip-rap. Recovery of fish species when these are completed, no pool or riffle before this occurred. Spawning structures below dams have been installed.

Boulders or out-copping of limestone, sturgeon seem to spawn in these areas due to up-wellings, hydraulics of up-welling seem to be important. U-shaped boulder clusters to provide spawning habitat and correct flow regime.

St. Louis River system – Last spot before Fond du lac dam. It’s a very short reach. Flow from dam could be critical here.

Holtgren – we only have qualitative data on sturgeon spawning in areas that have been modified but very little quantitative work. We need to move in this direction to really analyze how well the habitat improvements have worked.

Grant writing has to have things you deliver on with regards to habitat improvements. You can’t just throw rock in and call it a day. There has to be assessments tied to habitat and then number of fish produced from this work back to report to the grantee.

Need to pre-assess the area, do the work, and assess the aftermath. Many times we skip the first and last steps of this procedure.

Brenda Archambo – Downstream sections also important not just at the spawning sites. Biologists need to be aware of this fact.

General Comments - Hydro-dams – FERC is re-licensing these dams but no new dams are being built. The FERC license has pretty strict rules governing flow, temps etc. Ontario may be letting hydro-dams to be built which is a little different than in the USA.

Sturgeon are recovering in the Rainy River system where tributaries with suitable spawning habitat have no or very few dams. Access to multiple spawning areas is a key to recovery.

Sturgeon spawn in high gradient streams and that is where the dams have been created. Creating more riverine type environments will probably bring back native species. It has been documented in many river systems around the USA.

Look at more species that just sturgeon. Do habitat work based on stream morphology rather than by species. Don’t try and put habitat in spots that it can’t support (i.e. rock and rip rap in areas that will be silted in very quickly).

Throwing rip-rap down is not just the answer. You have to place the habitat in correct location so that is can be maintained over time by the river (i.e. no siltation, low water, temperatures etc).

Need to have assessments pre and post work. This work needs to be documented and published so that all the agencies can use this body of work in grant writing and project writing.

Several main concepts came out of our discussion. These are listed below.
• If you are trying to re-establish fish communities above dams, the best solution from a fisheries perspective is to remove the dam. The next best alternative is to create fish passage around or through dams.
• Habitat work is generally installed and assessments before and after installation are rarely completed. In order to write complete grants, information needs to be published on the effects of habitat work. Projects of this type need to be conducted focusing on quantitative measures not just qualitative.
• Other factors should be considered before removal of dams including contaminated sediments, spread of exotics, riparian effects, etc.

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