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Fish Story?: RS improves migration of iconic shad fish into Piedmont

Sometimes the best works of mitigation bankers go unrecognized, but perhaps not forever. Today we were thrilled at Restoration Systems to see N.C. State University report that our removal of the Lowell Dam on the Little River, a tributary of the Neuse River, has contributed to the improvement of the fishery. We’ve known that for some time — but always gratifying to see it in the journals.

Here is the story from State:

Dam Removal Improves Shad Spawning Grounds, May Boost Survival Rate

For Immediate Release

Matt Shipman | News Services | 919.515.6386

Dr. Joe Hightower | 919.515.8836

Release Date: 05.21.14
Filed under Releases

Research from North Carolina State University finds that dam removal improves spawning grounds for American shad and seems likely to improve survival rates for adult fish, juveniles and eggs – but for different reasons.

Hightower-shad-photo

American shad before spawning. Photo: Joshua Raabe.

 

The researchers focused on a small tributary in North Carolina called the Little River, where three dams were removed in the late 1990s and early 2000s. American shad (Alosa sapidissima) spend the bulk of their adult lives in saltwater, but return to freshwater rivers like this one to spawn. While in these freshwater environments, the adult shad do not feed. As a result, many of the adult fish die before they have a chance to return to the ocean.

Between 2008 and 2010, the research team tagged, weighed and released approximately 3,000 American shad at a weir – or fish gate – that was sited at one of the dam removal sites on the Little River. The shad were tagged on their way upstream to spawn. Researchers set up antennas along the length of the river to detect the fish tags, allowing the scientists to tell how far upstream the fish traveled.

“Shad were using all of the restored habitat,” says Dr. Joshua Raabe, lead author of a paper on the research and an assistant professor at University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point who worked on the project while a Ph.D. student at NC State.

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American shad, emaciated after spawning. Photo credit: Joshua Raabe.

“This is important because upstream sites are generally higher-quality spawning sites, which should improve survival of eggs and juvenile fishes,” says Dr. Joe Hightower, co-author of the paper and a U. S. Geological Survey scientist and professor of applied ecology at NC State. “For example, some key predator species, such as flathead catfish, become less common the further you go upstream.”

The researchers also caught surviving shad on their way back downstream, allowing them to see how much weight the shad had lost while spawning and to estimate mortality rates. Mortality was high overall. Male shad could lose up to 30 percent of their body weight while spawning, while females could lose up to 50 percent.

The researchers found that weight loss was primarily linked to water temperatures and the amount of time the fish spent in the river, rather than how far upstream the fish went to spawn.

“This tells us that the longer fish are detained the more weight they’ll lose, the more likely they are to die and the less likely they are to reach preferred habitat before spawning,” Raabe says. “This is important information when considering waterways where dams or other obstacles could slow the shad’s progress.”

“Basically, the clock is ticking and these fish have a job to do,” Hightower says. “The study indicates that anything we can do to improve fish passage should improve survival rates.”

The paper, “American Shad Migratory Behavior, Weight Loss, Survival, and Abundance in a North Carolina River following Dam Removals,” was published online May 13 inTransactions of the American Fisheries Society. Hightower is also part of the U.S. Geological Survey’s North Carolina Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit based at NC State. The research was supported by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

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Note to Editors: The study abstract follows.

“American Shad Migratory Behavior, Weight Loss, Survival, and Abundance in a North Carolina River following Dam Removals”

Authors: Joshua K. Raabe, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point; Joseph E. Hightower, North Carolina State University and the U.S. Geological Survey

Published: online May 13, Transactions of the American Fisheries Society

DOI: 10.1080/00028487.2014.882410

Abstract: Despite extensive management and research, populations of American Shad Alosa sapidissima have experienced prolonged declines, and uncertainty about the underlying mechanisms causing these declines remains. In the springs of 2007 through 2010, we used a resistance board weir and PIT technology to capture, tag, and track American Shad in the Little River, North Carolina, a tributary to the Neuse River with complete and partial removals of low-head dams. Our objectives were to examine migratory behaviors and estimate weight loss, survival, and abundance during each spawning season. Males typically immigrated earlier than females and also used upstream habitat at a higher percentage, but otherwise exhibited relatively similar migratory patterns. Proportional weight loss displayed a strong positive relationship with both cumulative water temperature during residence time and number of days spent upstream, and to a lesser extent, minimum distance the fish traveled in the river. Surviving emigrating males lost up to 30% of their initial weight and females lost up to 50% of their initial weight, indicating there are potential survival thresholds. Survival for the spawning season was low and estimates ranged from 0.07 to 0.17; no distinct factors (e.g., sex, size, migration distance) that could contribute to survival were detected. Sampled and estimated American Shad abundance increased from 2007 through 2009, but was lower in 2010. Our study provides substantial new information about American Shad spawning that may aid restoration efforts.

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American Shad Migratory Behavior, Weight Loss, Survival, and Abundance in a North Carolina River following…

A spatial capture–recapture model to estimate fish survival and location from linear continuous monitoring…

North Carolina, Neuse River Basin Dam Removal Paying Dividends for Anadromous Fish

Anadromous fish are those, such as shad, that return to freshwater to spawn after spending part of their lives in the ocean. Bennett Wynne, the North Carollina Wildlife Resources Commission’s Anadromous Fisheries Coordinator is quoted as saying “In the Neuse River, hickory shad have been more abundant. Last week, we picked up a few around Goldsboro, along with some American shad. I am cautiously optimistic about shad numbers. Removing dams is important to both species but more so for American shad because they prefer spawning on the rockier substrate above the fall line. Most of the hickory shad population is found from Kinston downstream, where Pitchkettle Creek is the historical place where fishermen catch them. Last year we had strong flows in the river and we saw a good turnout of anglers at Milburnie Dam near Raleigh in Wake County. It is great that we can have a fishery for shad that far inland.”
READ MORE AT  http://www.newsobserver.com/2014/04/09/3771485/neuse-shad-run-nears-peak-numbers.html?sp=/99/103/126/

We plant trees, thousands of them!

Photos of recent tree planting in the buffer zone at Bass Mountain Stream and Nutrient Bank, North Carolina
http://www.restorationsystems.com/projects/bass-mountain/


NC Governor Calls for Removing Coal Ash Ponds from Waterways

As national attention remains focused on North Carolina in wake of Duke Energy’s coal ash spill into the Dan River, North Carolina’s Governor has now called on Duke Energy and North Carolina officials to address the long-term problem of coal ash storage throughout the state in the only way that will stop ongoing pollution and remove the risk of more spills: move the ash. “We’re pleased to see that Governor McCrory has recognized that removing toxic coal ash from the banks of our rivers and drinking reservoirs – the long-term solution that is working today in South Carolina – is the also right solution for North Carolina and our region,” said Frank Holleman, a senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center.

READ MORE AT http://bit.ly/1jOb5jv

Forestry Management in Riparian Buffers

A Guide to Implementing Neuse River Basin and Tar-Pamlico River Basin Riparian Buffer Rules for Forest Management Activities was published by the NC Forest Service in July 2012 but worth re-reading or reading for the first time. The rules apply to perennial streams, intermittent streams, ponds, lakes, and estuaries located in either river basin. READ MORE at http://ncforestservice.gov/publications/Forestry%20Leaflets/WQ11.pdf

NC House Committee on Wetland and Stream Mitigation to meet Feb. 27

NORTH CAROLINA GENERAL ASSEMBLY

The House Committee on Wetland and Stream Mitigation (LRC)(2013) will meet at the following time:

Thursday

February 27, 2014

9:00 AM

544 Legislative Office Bldg

Map: http://www.ncleg.net/graphics/downtownmap.pdf

Co-Chairs
Rep. David R. Lewis (Co-Chair) House Appointment
Rep. Chris Millis (Co-Chair) House Appointment
Legislative Members
Rep. Kelly M. Alexander, Jr. House Appointment
Rep. Becky Carney House Appointment
Rep. Rick Catlin House Appointment
Rep. Kelly E. Hastings House Appointment
Rep. Charles Jeter House Appointment
Rep. Chuck McGrady House Appointment
Rep. Garland E. Pierce House Appointment
Rep. Phil Shepard House Appointment
Rep. Paul Stam House Appointment
LRC Member
Rep. Tim Moore Ex Officio

Overbank Flooding Event, Pancho Mitigation Bank

Overbank sedimentation during flood events represents an important component of stream restoration success. In addition to its importance for floodplain development, overbank deposition of fine sediment frequently results in a significant reduction of the suspended sediment load transported through a river system to the catchment outlet.

For details on Restoration Systems’ Pancho Wetland, Stream and Nutrient Mitigation Bank in the Neuse River Basin (now in Monitoring Year 2), go to
http://www.restorationsystems.com/projects/pancho-stream-wetland-nutrient-mitigation-bank/

Bass Mountain Stream and Nutrient Bank under construction

Five recent photos of construction on Bass Mountain Stream and Nutrient Bank.

Click on the link below for a map of the service area and a drone-taken video:
http://www.restorationsystems.com/projects/bass-mountain/

Southern Environmental Law Center – North Carolina Activity Update

The Southern Environmental Law Center is using the power of the law to champion North Carolina’s environment — from clean energy and healthy air, to rivers and wetlands, to the protection of special places from the Smokies to the Outer Banks. SELC has offices in Chapel Hill and Asheville. SELC is focusing on several transportation projects, including the Monroe Bypass and the replacement Bonner Bridge as well as overall transportation financing reform, Cape Hatteras National Seashore wildlife protection, and the Titan American cement plant in the Cape Fear River basin.

For the latest information on SELC’s current efforts in North Carolina, go to http://www.southernenvironment.org/north_carolina/

Dr. David Robinson: Father of Full-Delivery Mitigation

We just returned from the National Mitigation Banking Conference last week in Sacramento, where old friend David Robinson gave an excellent presentation on the benefits of “Full-Delivery” mitigation procurement systems. You can also view it here on his website:  http://www.full-delivery.com/

By way of background, as some readers will know, the NC Ecosystem Enhancement program is North Carolina’s unique, state-wide, non-regulatory, Fee Program. The NCEEP sells hundreds of millions of dollars of mitigation to the public and the government at government established rates. The NCEEP is the funnel through which the vast majority of mitigation in North Carolina flows.

The program develops the mitigation sold to the public in two ways.  ”In-House,” where the state identifies the land and purchases it themselves, then contracts with separate firms to design, construct, and care for the site, with no firm responsible for the entire project, and various state employees responsible for various parts.

Or, the NCEEP accomplishs the mitigation by conducting a bonded, public, low-bid system called “Full-Delivery.” In the Full-Delivery system, companies like Restoration Systems will identify and contract for the purchase of the land privately; and, if awarded, acquire, design, construct, and care for the site long term — with all resulting credits accruing to the state.

Back to Dr. Robinson. David was instrumental in the development of Full-Delivery mitigation as the preferred alternative for large state purchases of compensatory mitigation in North Carolina. He mid-wifed the birth of the innovative procurement system at the Department of Transportation in the 1990’s and has seen it adopted by other agencies, and other states, lately including South Carolina.

Robinson makes the case here that large government purchases of environmental mitigation should utilize a competitive “Full-Delivery” procurement model that lowers costs, reduces risk for the buyer and stimulates green jobs for the economy.

Take it away Dr. D….

Robinson on Full-Delivery mitigation for wetlands, streams and other natural assets