July 2016–Andrew Struck, Director of Planning and Parks in Ozaukee County, has orchestrated a highly successful County-initiated Fish Passage Program. The program set a goal of reconnecting streams, marshes, flood plains, wetlands, and waterbodies so as to allow native fish and other aquatic populations to find spawning grounds, habitat, and seasonal survival areas. The County applied for grants in 2009 to begin a program of determining obstructions to fish movements, and then the systematic removal or re-configuration of those impediments.
The Northern Pike was chosen as the base criteria species, as it is a fairly poor swimmer and does require access to upstream flooded marsh to reproduce. The theory postulates that if a stream can accommodate Pike, it can be considered remediated and accessible to almost all native fish.
Following a sophisticated GIS mapping procedure, including some very unsophisticated boots-in-the-mud monitoring, the program identified over 375 impaired conditions of varying severity. The project has:
- replaced undersized culverts,
- eliminated “hi-step” culvert and flume outfalls,
- reconfigured weirs, and
- removed a dam.
The primary intention was to repair the fish passage to mimic adjacent conditions, but in most cases, the reconfigured channel provided landowners with a higher value crossing than before. The project also initiated habitat enhancements along the stream corridors and removed invasive species and debris.
Validating the effort, Pike have already returned to previously denied spawning areas. The project has also had numerous collateral benefits. Turtles, frogs, aquatic invertebrates, and many birds have found expanded habitat. On a completely different scale of success, the project brought millions of dollars in federal monies to local contractors and planning agencies within Ozaukee County.
Visit http://www.co.ozaukee.wi.us/619/Fish-Passage and http://clean-water.uwex.edu/pubs/pdf/fishfriendlyculverts.pdf for further information.