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. Benbow Dam Removal, California

Project Submission by: The California Fish Passage Forum

The second largest dam removal in California will eliminate a winter velocity barrier through a narrow fish passage slot in the dam (higher winter flows focus all flow through the slot for a distance of about 60 feet parallel to the thalweg). Coho salmon, Chinook salmon, steelhead/rainbow trout, and Pacific lamprey would benefit from the project, and 100 miles of stream will be opened as a result of the project. Permanent interpretive panels will be placed in the park that discusses the fishery and reasons for removing the dam. A video will be developed and presented in the parks and used for other interpretive opportunities.

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2. Boundary Creek, Oregon

Project Submission by: The Western Native Trout Initiative

This project will improve fish passage and riverine connectivity in the Granite Creek Watershed which is a high priority watershed located in Eastern Oregon. The project targets 3 specific sites on Boundary and Corral Creeks, which are located east of the rural town of Granite in the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest. These streams are critical spawning and rearing habitat for Endangered Species Act designated threatened Bull Trout. Three old culverts, located on two perennially flowing creeks, are undersized and poorly aligned relative to the road. The erosion, sedimentation, and passage barriers produced by the road and culvert placements cause habitat quality reduction and species fragmentation. The outcome is deterioration of the aquatic ecosystem in the Bull Run sub-watershed.

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3. Crane Lake, Minnesota

Project Submission by: The Midwest Glacial Lakes Partnership

The Midwest Glacial Lakes Partnership is proposing to replace an undersized and perched culvert at the outlet from Crane Lake with one that is more appropriately-sized, creating connectivity from waterbodies downstream. Crane Lake currently has lower populations than downstream lakes of migratory fish species such as walleye, white sucker, and numerous minnow species including the weed shiner, a species of greatest conservation need, which is listed in Minnesota’s State Wildlife Action Plan. We expect that the project will increase fish community resiliency. If walleye numbers increase, it will benefit anglers.

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4. Newport Bay, California

Project Submission by: The Pacific Marine and Estuarine Partnership

The overall goals of this project are to return historically present (but currently depleted) species to the area, enhance habitat quality and connectivity for fish and wildlife, improve water quality, control erosion, and help adapt to sea level rise. PMEP’s funding will help to integrate native Olympia oyster habitat restoration into a larger multi-species restoration project in Upper Newport Bay in Southern California. The project has added 240 square meters of oyster habitat and 1,280 square meters of eelgrass habitat. Restoration of oyster reefs and eelgrass beds will return many ecosystem services back to the area’s coastal wetlands. Oysters increase the abundance of fish and wildlife through the creation of complex habitat and improve water quality through filter feeding. Oysters also stabilize sediments, buffer erosion, and attenuate wave energy, which will reduce impacts of sea level rise. Eelgrass meadows provide similar ecosystem services, including habitat and foraging grounds for many invertebrates, fish, and bird species; nutrient cycling; carbon sequestration; sediment stabilization; and water quality improvement.

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5. Roosevelt Lake, Arizona

Project Submission by: The Reservoir Fisheries Habitat Partnership

Roosevelt Lake is the upper-most reservoir of a four-reservoir chain in the Salt River watershed. Roosevelt Lake is the largest and is formed by Theodore Roosevelt Dam constructed in 1911 by the Bureau of Reclamation. Roosevelt Lake is located on the Tonto National Forest (TNF) in central Arizona almost entirely within Gila County. At full capacity, the lake is approximately 22 miles long with nearly 128 miles of shoreline with a water surface elevation of 2151 feet. The reservoir can store approximately 1,653,043 acre-feet (AF) of water at maximum conservation pool. The lake level fluctuates over time in response to water use, evaporation, and annual precipitation and runoff. As of June 2017, the lake is 69% full at an elevation of 2124ft with approximately 17,129 surface acres.

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6. Shelikof Creek, Alaska

Project Submission by: The Southeast Alaska Fish Habitat Partnership

The Iris Meadows watershed is located on Kruzof Island near Sitka in southeast Alaska. Shelikof Creek, a tributary to Iris Creek, is the largest river on the island. The watershed supports three species of anadromous salmon – Coho, pink, and chum; as well as resident and anadromous forms of coastal cutthroat and rainbow/steelhead trout, and Dolly Varden char. Brown bears and Sitka black-tailed deer are important terrestrial species. In the 1960s, Kruzof Island was impacted by large-scale timber harvest and associated road construction. Trees lining the banks of Iris Creek and Shelikof Creek were removed, long segments of the stream were "cleaned" of wood and converted to corridors to haul equipment upstream into the forest and logs downstream to the ocean

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7. Tincup Creek, Idaho

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

The Tincup Creek Stream Restoration project will improve riparian conditions and habitat for a full assemblage of native fishes such as Longnose and Speckled dace, Sculpin, Redside shiners, Mountain suckers, the rare Northern Leatherside chub, and Yellowstone Cutthroat trout. In addition, at least three other aquatic or semiaquatic species of interest are present including a native pilose crayfish, western pearl shell mussel, and a unique clade of boreal toads. These are all native species with a special management emphasis. Because of the assemblage of these native species, and the degraded yet recoverable nature of the system, Trout Unlimited (TU) and the Caribou-Targhee National Forest (CTNF) have chosen to focus their efforts here.

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