Southwest Region Emphasis Areas
Conserving the Nature of America
Southwest Region USFWS facebook page Southwest Region USFWS page Southwest region USFWS Flikr page USFWS YouTube site
Brazos River Crossing Removal Helps Two Endangered Fish Species
   

The Brazos River is the largest river between the Rio Grande and the Red River in Texas. Originating in New Mexico, the Brazos River runs approximately 810 miles from West Texas to coastal Texas. A road crossing in Kent County was installed on the river in 2009 to service the energy industry located on the north side of the river. After several flood events, the river crossing was acting more like a dam than a bridge, by backing up water and cutting off potential migration access for fish.

In late November 2016, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service through the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program and the Fish and Aquatic Conservation Program, in coordination with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Sharp Image Energy Inc. and private landowners worked together to improve the water flows in the river by removing the river crossing. Thanks to this collaborative project, two endangered fish species, the smalleye and sharpnose shiners, have at least another 17 miles of unobstructed habitat in the Brazos River. The sharpnose and smalleye shiners depend on long unobstructed stretches of river for spawning and will now be able to move farther upstream with no barriers. Removal of the river crossing will provide a natural river flow and a reduction in stilt trapping and hopefully improve the reproductive success of the two shiners in this area of the Brazos River.

Brazios river crossing after dam removal.(After removal): By removing the passage, fish can once again move freely along this stretch of the river. Credit: USFWS.

In 2009, a road crossing in Kent County was installed on the river to service the energy industry located on the north side of the river. After several flood events, the river crossing was acting more like a dam than a bridge, by backing up water and cutting off potential migration access for fish. Of particular concern was the impact of the crossing on two endangered fish species—the smalleye and sharpnose shiners—which are found only in Texas in the Brazos River and nowhere else in the world.

In an effort to improve water flows in the river, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, through the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program and the Fish and Aquatic Conservation Program, in coordination with private landowners, the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and Sharp Image Energy Inc., removed the river crossing in late November 2016.

This collaborative effort to remove the river crossing means the endangered smalleye and sharpnose shiners have an additional 17 miles (if not more) of unobstructed habitat in the Brazos River. The sharpnose and smalleye shiners, which depend on long unobstructed stretches of river for spawning, will now be able to move farther upstream without barriers. Removal of the river crossing, funded in part by the National Fish Passage Program, will provide a natural river flow and a reduction in stilt trapping. This in turn will hopefully improve reproductive success of the two shiners in this area of the Brazos River.

“This effort was a great example of how Emphasis Areas work to focus resources from multiple partners and provide significant conservation on-the-ground,” said Debra Bills, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Texas Field Supervisor. “Using the Emphasis Area approach, we were able to target one of the Great Plains conservation priorities, prairie streams, and improve habitat conditions for a variety of species, including two endangered fish.”

Last updated: January 16, 2018