2018 “Waters to Watch” Highlight Collaborative Conservation Projects

2018 “Waters to Watch” Highlight Collaborative Conservation Projects

September 25, 2018

(Washington, DC) - The National Fish Habitat Partnership (www.fishhabitat.org) has unveiled its list of “Waters to Watch” for 2018, a collection of rivers, streams, estuaries, lakes and watershed systems that will benefit from strategic conservation efforts to protect, restore or enhance their current condition.

These voluntary, locally-driven projects represent some of the top conservation activities in progress implemented by 20 regional Fish Habitat Partnerships throughout the country. These projects are carried out under the goals and objectives of the 2nd Edition of the National Fish Habitat Action Plan (2012).

The conservation projects are designed to conserve freshwater, estuarine and marine habitats essential to the many fish and wildlife species that call these areas home. These examples of conservation have been fundamental to the overall success of the National Fish Habitat Partnership since 2006.

Over time, these conservation efforts are reversing persistent declines in our nation’s aquatic habitats. Having featured over 100 partnership projects since 2007, these “Waters to Watch” are proving that science-based on-the-ground conservation efforts are truly making a difference in improving fish habitat across the United States.

“We are pleased to continue our Waters to Watch Campaign for the 12th year in 2018,” said Chris Moore, Acting Chair of the National Fish Habitat Board. “The “Waters to Watch” campaign is one of our best ways to highlight our regional projects nationally. The work of our 20 partnerships is vital for the future of the National Fish Habitat Partnership and for the conservation of fish habitat across the country.”
People interested in learning more about the National Fish Habitat Partnership and partner projects happening across the U.S. can find out more information on how to get involved on our Partnerships Page; http://www.fishhabitat.org/the-partnerships/.

If individuals are interested in contributing to the work of the Fish Habitat Partnerships, Beyond the Pond, a 501(c)3 organization, was established to help build capacity for the 20 Fish Habitat Partnerships established across the country by providing an opportunity to connect with the private sector.

Beyond the Pond, has launched a website and proactive communication platform to benefit the National Fish Habitat Partnership. More information can be found at www.beyondthepondusa.com.
The 2018 “Waters to Watch” list and associated Fish Habitat Partnerships:

1. Bayou Pierre and Tributaries in Copiah, Hinds, and Lincoln Counties, Mississippi (Southeast Aquatic Resources Partnership)
Extensive headcutting has resulted in increased sediment loads within Bayou Pierre and its tributaries, which has negatively impacted habitats used by several fish species including the Federally threatened bayou darter. Over 50% of the land adjacent to Bayou Pierre has been converted to fields or pastures causing increased bank erosion and sediment loads. The purpose of this project will install conservation measures to reduce sediment and improve water quality within the Bayou Pierre systems by leveraging existing conservation practices available through programs in NRCS and other landowner assistance programs. For more information, please visit: http://bit.ly/2xzz0is.

2. Big River, California (California Fish Passage Forum)
The project restored access for coho salmon and steelhead trout to an estimated 4,000 feet of potential spawning and rearing habitat in the upstream reaches of Manly Gulch, a tributary to the Little North Fork of the Big River, that was previously flowing through Camp 3 and a parking lot. Camp 3 was part of the New Deal, constructed in the 1930s by the WPA and the Civilian Conservation Corps – it was conceived as a place to introduce people to the world of nature. For more information, please visit: http://bit.ly/2xoK41d.

3. Bitter Creek, Wyoming (Desert Fish Habitat Partnership)
Bitter Creek is an 80 mile stretch of stream that provides important habitat to many species of fish, including the native Flannelmouth Sucker, a species that has been identified as one of greatest conservation need. To ensure the Flannelmouth Sucker continues to flourish in Bitter Creek the Desert Fish Habitat Partnership, Anadarko, BLM, Wyoming Landscape Conservation Initiative (WLCI), the Wyoming Department of Agriculture, and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department have partnered up to replace a failing drop structure. Over the last 40 years this drop structure has helped protect Flannelmouth Sucker populations by providing a fish barrier to invasive White Suckers, a species that is able to hybridize with Flannelmouth Suckers. For more information, please visit: http://bit.ly/2OcNjmH.

4. Blanco River, Texas (Southeast Aquatic Resources Partnership)
The purpose of this project was to implement landscape-scale conservation through a network of landowners that would willingly take restoration actions to address issues and threats that degrade water quality, reduce water quantity, and degrade riparian habitats that in turn favor exotic species. This network of willing landowners and subsequent habitat to support the repatriation of Guadalupe bass in the upper portion of the Blanco River. SARP funds were leveraged with state invasive species funds to combat the spread of invasive species that degrade instream and riparian habitats. A historic flood in May 2015 brought intense public interest in riparian restoration. For more information, please visit: http://bit.ly/2MVFZap.

5. Deep Creek Town Diversion, Oregon (Western Native Trout Initiative)
The Deep Creek - Town Diversion Project will complete a fish passage solution for a diversion dam that has been an upstream fish passage barrier for likely over 100 years. The proposed fish passage solution has been vetted by a multi¬ agency and water user stakeholder group that has convened over the past five years to discuss fish passage on Deep Creek and the adjacent Warner Sucker tributaries. Replacement of the existing diversion dam and installation of an engineered roughened channel are expected to provide fish passage, restore watershed connectivity, and be a lower maintenance fish passage solution relative to other fish passage alternatives that were reviewed. The replacement dam and rock ramp will also improve the stability of the diversion structure. The existing dam, is currently undermined and the concrete skin is no longer supported by underlying fill. Existing boulders will be repositioned, and additional boulders will be imported to maximize rock ramp stability. For more information, please visit: http://bit.ly/2QX5T0w.

6. East Burke Dam Removal, East Branch Passumpsic River, Vermont (Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture)
Removal of this deteriorating dam improves natural flow regimes, free-flowing river conditions, water quality and temperature, sediment release and transport, and connectivity resulting in the restoration of Aquatic Organism Passage for native Brook Trout, sculpin and minnows; opening 99 migratory miles throughout the East Branch of the Passumpsic River sub-watershed. In addition, 3.4 acres of shrub-scrub wetland will be enhanced by removal of the dam and subsequent restoration work. The East Burke dam is the last Aquatic Organism Passage impediment on the East Branch Passumpsic River up to its headwaters, which allows native Brook Trout access to important spawning habitat and thermal refugia. The East Branch Passumpsic River is also a popular fishing destination for Brook Trout anglers who will benefit from a more robust fishery. For more information, please visit: http://bit.ly/2xNKbUc.

7. Five Springs Complex, Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, Nevada (Desert Fish Habitat Partnership)
The Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) supports the only endemic population of the critically endangered Ash Meadows Amargosa Pupfish and the Ash Meadows Speckled Dace. In an effort to address the direct threats of small population size, genetic isolation, and to improve aquatic habitat conditions for the pupfish the Ash Meadows NWR, the Nevada Department of Wildlife, and numerous other partners are working together to restore natural hydrologic connectivity between the Five Springs complex and downstream habitats. This project removed non-native species and restored the natural historic floods that were hindered by a road and fallow field. This restoration has benefitted the Ash Meadows Amargosa Pupfish, the Ash Meadows Speckled Dace, and numerous other plant and animal species by improved fish passage and connectivity through the removal of barriers and impoundments, yielding increased genetic exchange for the pupfish, and increasing the available habitat for both the pupfish and the speckled dace. For more information, please visit: http://bit.ly/2N10QsP.

8. Indian River Watershed, Alaska (Southeast Alaska Fish Habitat Partnership)
The Indian River watershed is an important asset with significant economic, ecological and cultural value to the community of Sitka, Alaska. In 2017, the Indian River Working Group was formed to improve communication and cooperation between different agencies, nonprofits, businesses, and community members with interests in the watershed. In addition to their participation as stakeholders, members also have voiced personal and organizational interest in ensuring that Indian River is managed to maintain or improve watershed values. These include trail systems, fishing and hunting opportunities, and exploring several hundred acres of intact old growth forest just out Sitka’s back door. Primary goals informing the working group effort are:
• Bring together stakeholders to develop a feasible watershed management strategy.
• Provide a unique opportunity for collaboration and effective communication between stakeholders in the Indian River watershed.
• Engage Sitka Tribe of Alaska (STA) to facilitate group discussions, manage data, develop partnerships and gain insights into watershed management techniques shared by other experienced natural resource managers serving in the working group.
• Develop a prioritized list of action items to improve watershed stewardship and accomplish restoration objectives.
For more information, please visit: http://bit.ly/2N1Vlu7

9. Lake Shelbyville, Illinois (Reservoir Fish Habitat Partnership)
Lake Shelbyville is the second largest reservoir in Illinois and is an important recreational and economic feature in east-central Illinois. Habitat degradation threatens the viability of the fishery and the associated recreational and economic value. Lake Shelbyville has been impounded for 46+ years. Major habitat impairments include sedimentation due to sediment inputs from the watershed and shoreline erosion largely due to frequent water level fluctuations and loss of woody structure commensurate with the reservoir aging process. Very little dead standing timber remains in coves as most have decayed over the last 40 years. Long-duration floods, on occasion in excess of 12’, have further stranded woody habitat in uplands resulting in additional habitat loss. These floods have made conditions difficult for aquatic vegetation to establish. This lack of habitat and associated erosion and reduced water quality are negatively affecting the quality of the fishery and habitat restoration efforts have not kept up with losses. Standard management practices help maintain the quality of the fishery, but the standard reduction in quality with reservoir age continues with rippling economic effects throughout the community and region.

Habitat restoration efforts have been ongoing on Shelbyville with habitat efforts being intensified since 2013. Natural woody vegetation has been added in the form of Christmas trees and other locally available cedar and hardwood timber. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has invested over $2.5 million in shoreline stabilization efforts on the lake’s most erodible shorelines. USACE’s Research and Development Center (ERDC), Lewisville Aquatic Ecosystem Research Facility (LAERF), in conjunction with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources has developed a native aquatic vegetation management plan to help restore littoral habitat. An aquatic plant nursery has been constructed and native plants for transfer to the lake are being cultivated. Frequent floods previously mentioned has made establishment of significant stands of native vegetation difficult. Project partners are currently focusing on constructing and placing “modified Georgia Cubes” locally known as “Shelbyville Cubes” to replace woody structure.

Reservoir Fisheries Habitat Partnership funding ($30,000) has been used to purchase materials to build and place these structures. NFHP-funding has leveraged over $800,000 in partner funds for the project.

For more information, please visit: http://bit.ly/2OipXMF.

10. Upper Sycan River, Oregon (Desert Fish Habitat Partnership)
The upper Sycan River supports one of the few remaining populations for two species of lamprey, the Miller Lake lamprey and Pit-Klamath brook lamprey and has been designated as critical habitat for Bull trout. To improve aquatic habitat conditions for these species as well as the Klamath Speckled dace the Fremont-Winema National Forest, Paisley Ranger District, Lake County Umbrella Watershed Council, Klamath Basin Rangeland Trust, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildilfe, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Desert Fish Habitat Partnership are working together to restore the riparian and floodplain functions along the river.
Through a combination of historic grazing practices, timber harvest, and road construction throughout the years the project area has experienced a loss of riparian vegetation and an altered hydrologic regime. These changes have had a negative impact and have led to eroding streambanks which has resulted in a down cut channel, a disconnection to floodplain terraces, increased levels of fine sediment, and a lack of aquatic habitat connectivity.
The projects goals are to restore the hydrologic function and aquatic/riparian ecological function along a four-mile reach of the upper Sycan River to the benefit of aquatic species and riparian dependent species.

For more information, please visit: http://bit.ly/2OQAqMa

For more information on project maps and descriptions of the “Waters to Watch” list for 2018, Visit: http://bit.ly/2xoKXXB

Visit the “Waters to Watch” page on our website to view our archived projects: http://bit.ly/1HeYzWj

Visit http://assessment.fishhabitat.org/, to use our interactive habitat data mapper, supported by USGS.


About the National Fish Habitat Partnership:
Since 2006, the National Fish Habitat Partnership has supported 777 projects benefiting fish habitat in all 50 states. The partnership works to conserve fish habitat nationwide; leveraging federal, state, tribal, and private funding resources to achieve the greatest impact on fish populations through priority conservation projects of 20 regionally-based Fish Habitat Partnerships. For more information visit:

http://fishhabitat.org/ http://www.facebook.com/NFHAP https://twitter.com/FishHabitat