Waters to Watch

A list assembled by the nation’s leading authorities on aquatic conservation to create cleaner and healthier habitats for the many fish and wilfdlife species and people who call these areas home

So what is Waters to watch and why Should I care?

The 10 Waters to Watch list, assembled by the nation’s leading authorities on aquatic conservation, is a collection of rivers, streams and shores that will be cleaner and healthier habitats for the many fish and wildlife species and people who call these areas home.

Thanks to the combined actions of concerned community groups, non-profit organizations, local watershed groups, Native American tribes and state and federal agencies, these waters are being improved by planting stream-side vegetation, removing structures blocking fish from habitat and protecting bodies of water from the effects of industrial processes, agriculture and livestock.

They are representative of freshwater to marine waters across the country including lakes and reservoirs that are improving through the conservation efforts of the National Fish Habitat Action Plan — a bold initiative to reverse persistent declines in aquatic habitat.

1. Weber River, Utah (2012)

Project Submission by: The Western Native Trout Initiative & The Desert Fish Habitat Partnership

This project was funded to protect native fish species and improve water use efficiency for water companies in the Weber River drainage, Utah. It re-connects 17.5 river miles and allows native Bonneville Cutthroat Trout (Oncorhynchus clarki utah) and Bluehead sucker (Catostomus discobolus) to pass one mainstem diversion and two culvert barriers that had fragmented mainstem and spawning habitats in two tributaries. Both Bluehead sucker and Bonneville Cutthroat Trout have experienced extensive population declines and range contraction. In the Weber River, Bluehead sucker occur in three remaining fragmented reaches with the strongest population in the Weber River confined below the diversion structure. Allowing passage around this diversion provides Bluehead sucker access to canyon habitat. Large fluvial Bonneville Cutthroat Trout have been virtually eliminated from river mainstems rangewide, but still persist within isolated mainstem segments of the Weber River, unable to migrate back to spawning grounds in tributary streams. Each reach in the Weber River supporting these two species has been fragmented by mainstem diversions threatening the population resiliency, genetic diversity and long-term persistence of both species.

Read More

2. Harpeth River, Tennessee (2012)

Project Submission by: The Southeast Aquatic Resources Partnership

The Harpeth River, one of the most ecologically, culturally, historically, and recreationally significant rivers in Tennessee, drains nearly 900 square miles in Middle Tennessee and flows through one of the fastest growing areas in the country. It is a state designated Scenic River in Davidson County and easily accessible from downtown Nashville.

Read More

3. Table Rock Lake, Missouri (2012)

Project Submission by: The Reservoir Fish Habitat Partnership

Table Rock Lake and Lake Taneycomo are located in the White River Hills region of the Ozark Plateau along the Missouri-Arkansas border. At conservation pool, Table Rock Lake encompasses 43,100 acres with 745 miles of shoreline, and Lake Taneycomo covers just over 2,000 acres. Table Rock Lake is the second largest of five reservoirs in the upper White River drainage basin which covers over 5,000 square miles in both Missouri and Arkansas. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimates the recreational use of the lake at between 40 and 50 million visitor visits annually with the economic value of the fishery estimated at $41 million (1997 estimate). Along with the Branson tourism industry, Table Rock and the other White River impoundments are responsible for hundreds of millions of dollars pumped into the local economies.

Read More

4. Ace Basin, South Carolina

Project Submission by: The Southeast Aquatic Resources Partnership

In South Carolina, shorelines adjacent to the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway (ACE Basin - Ashepoo, Combahee, and Edisto Rivers are subject to severe erosion due to heavy boat traffic and artificial channelization, which disrupts natural shoreline processes. This erosion destroys or threatens oyster reef and salt marsh habitats. In the project area, South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) has documented 2.25miles of shoreline on the Ashepoo/Rock Creek cut as suffering from severe marsh erosion and in need of protection.

Read More

5. Anchor River, Alaska

Project Submission by: The Kenai Peninsula Fish Habitat Partnership

To improve landscape-scale resilience for salmon in the Anchor River, Cook Inletkeeper, Kachemak Heritage Land Trust, and Kenai Watershed Forum will integrate KBRR and USFWS watershed models and spatially-explicit, remotely-sensed thermal data to help Kachemak Heritage Land Trust determine which parcels with key Chinook and coho salmon habitat are the highest priority for permanent conservation, and work together to create and implement an outreach strategy for public and private landowner contact.

Read More

6. Bear Creek, Wisconsin

Project Submission by: The Driftless Area Restoration Effort

Bear Creek begins in Sauk County and flows for nearly 27 miles before entering the Wisconsin River, approximately 1.7 miles west of Lone Rock, in Richland County. It is currently classified by statute as a cold water stream in the upper reaches and as a warm water sport fishery in the lower 8.2 mile reach near the mouth. Six major tributary streams and many small tributaries flow into Bear Creek. Years of erosion has taken its toll on Bear Creek and several partners jumped into action to remediate the problem. Wisconsin DNR worked with a private landowner to secure a public fishing easement which helped catapult the streambank work.

Read More

7. Boone River Watershed, Iowa

Project Submission by: The Fishers and Farmers Partnership

The Oxbow Restoration Project within the Boone River Watershed (BRW) includes White Fox Creek, Eagle Creek, Buck Creek and Lyons Creek (Hamilton and Wright Counties). The BRW is a Mississippi River Basin Initiative (MRBI) watershed and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has designated the lower 26 miles as a “Protected Water Area.” The Boone River is a tributary of the Des Moines River in north-central Iowa. Current and past land use practices in the Boone River Watershed have affected both stream hydrology and hydraulics. As a result, these affects have degraded and fragmented oxbow habitat and have caused impairments to water quality. Fishers & Farmers partners are working together with landowners to restore oxbow habitat critical to all fish species and especially to the federally listed endangered species.

Read More

8. Conner Creek, California

Project Submission by: The California Fish Passage Forum

The Conner Creek Project will provide full passage for all life stages of coho salmon and steelhead by removing two culverts. Conner Creek flows directly into the Trinity River, a tributary of the Klamath River. The first phase, accomplished in 2011, provides full fish and flood/debris passage; eliminates the potential for sediment; decreases the potential for upstream headcutting; improves flow capacity; reintroduces large wood routing in the stream, and restores natural stream function. The second phase removal of the culvert at Red Hill Road will build on the benefits of the completed first phase of the project and is scheduled for summer 2012. The completion of both Conner Creek project opens 2.5 miles of habitat to adult and juvenile salmonids. This project is part of a larger effort by the Five Counties Salmonid Conservation Program (5C). The 5C Program serves the counties of northwestern California - Del Norte, Humboldt, Mendocino, Siskiyou, and Trinity. The goal of 5C is to formulate strategic land use conservation standards and implement practices to restore fisheries habitat.

Read More

9. Rio Grande River, Texas

Project Submission by: The Desert Fish Habitat Partnership

Fish within the Chihuahuan Desert exhibit remarkable adaptation to a harsh environment and climate, yet these species rely on a delicate balance of limited natural resources and are thus extremely vulnerable to drought and human-induced stressors. As Texas suffers through a period of exceptional drought, the persistence of aquatic habitats is severely threatened. Threats to habitats in this region are exacerbated by decreasing water availability from surface and groundwater withdrawals, encroachment of non-native plant species, and land use practices. The Rio Grande, which runs through the heart of the northern Chihuahuan Desert in the Big Bend region, is the centerpiece of an emerging bi-national system of lands dedicated to conservation. Three million acres of protected lands lie on both sides of the U.S./ Mexico border within the greater Big Bend ecosystem. In May 2009, United States Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Mexican Minister of Environment and Natural Resources Juan Elvira Quesada announced their commitment to strengthen cross-border conservation efforts in the Big Bend region. This presents a unique opportunity to unify Department of Interior agencies and other Federal, State, and local partners to lead strategic conservation planning, design, and implementation at broad, bi-national scales.

Read More

10. White River, Vermont

Project Submission by: The Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture

This project will address flood and flood recovery related habitat modifications on four tributaries to the Upper White River in Rochester, Vermont by utilizing active instream management and design; establishing riparian buffers; and removing barriers to fish passage in order to restore brook trout habitat and the natural hydrologic regime. When complete, the project will result in the protection and enhancement of 2.75 miles of in-stream habtiat and over 30 acres of floodplain and riparian habitat on the West Branch as well as 8.1 miles of in-stream habtiat in Howe, Marsh, and Nason Brooks.

Read More