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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.

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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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Stream Mitigation Benefits to Private Landowners

Section 404 of the Clean Water Act authorizes the Secretary of the Army to issue permits for the discharge of dredged or fill material into streams, wetlands, and other waters. Applicants for Section 404 permits generally must mitigate for unavoidable impacts to streams and wetlands associated with their development. Stream mitigation may include such on-the-ground activities as preservation or restoration of vegetated riparian buffers; fencing of livestock from riparian buffers; stream bank stabilization activities; installation of in-stream habitat structures; and reshaping of streams to make them more stable and less likely to erode.
READ MORE at:  http://www.etowahriver.org/stream%20mitigation.pdf
 

2014 National Mitigation and Ecosystem Banking Conference, Session 1 – Aligning Agency Programs

Kicking off the educational track at this May’s National Mitigation & Ecosystem Banking conference, this session is classified as “advanced” but the presenters’ topics could not be of more importance in today’s changing world.

Moderator: Erik J. Meyers, The Conservation Fund
As a Vice President at The Conservation Fund, Erik Meyers works to advance business strategy for mitigation opportunities, mainly for projects that impact energy, water and transportation infrastructure. He also chairs the Board of Directors of the Natural Capital Investment Fund, advises companies on sustainability initiatives, manages relationships with water-related agencies, and oversees climate adaptation projects. Working with the Fund since 2004, Erik has led an array of efforts, including a pioneering climate adaptation project to help vital coastal ecosystems persist despite sea level rise. He holds a B.S.F.S. from Georgetown University and a J.D. from Fordham University School of Law.

Travis Hemmen, Westervelt Ecological Services, “Habitat Conservation Plans – A New Market or Challenge?”
Mr. Hemmen directs the Business and Market Development for WES. Mr. Hemmen coordinates with private and public clients on project specific mitigation and manages sales of existing bank credits. Mr. Hemmen identifies potential site acquisitions, analyzes market information to ensure the finished mitigation banks are a viable product. He has a background in environmental consulting and regulatory compliance planning for one of the national residential home builders. As a consultant, he has managed small- and large-scale projects, including state and federal permitting of projects by local water agencies, port redevelopment and dredging programs, and development of master planned communities. He has a B.A. degree in Biology with an emphasis in Ethics from the University of Northern Iowa, and a M.S. degree in Environmental Law and Policy with an emphasis in Alternative Dispute Resolution from Vermont Law School.

Roselle Henn, USACE North Atlantic Division, “Potential for Sage Mitigation Banking”
Ms. Hemm is Environmental Team Leader for the North Atlantic Division (NAD) of the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) with primary responsibility for ecosystem restoration throughout the region and the Environmental Lead in the Hurricane Sandy North Atlantic Coast Comprehensive Study (NACCS), National Planning Center of Expertise for Coastal Storm Risk Management (PCX-CSRM). While compiling the study, scientists and engineers will consider future sea-level rise scenarios and integrate economic, climatological, engineering, environmental and societal data from Virginia to Maine to develop a comprehensive framework to reduce coastal flood risk and promote resiliency. The study will be collaborative, comprehensive and integrated, and conducted in partnership with federal, tribal, state and local government representatives as well as non-government organizations, academia, technical experts and interested parties.

Steve Glomb, US Department of the Interior, “National Resource Damage Assessment & Restoration and Other Opportunities”
The U.S. Department of the Interior’s (DOI) Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration Program (NRDA Restoration Program) manages the confluence of the technical, ecological, biological, legal, and economic disciplines and coordinates the efforts of six bureaus and four other offices within DOI to accomplish the mission.  The NRDA Restoration Program has a nationwide presence encompassing nearly the full span of natural and cultural resources for which the Secretary of the Interior has trust responsibility and authority.  Each bureau has its unique natural resource trusteeship and brings its expertise to bear on relevant sites. The NRDA Restoration Program is a truly integrated Department-wide program, drawing upon the interdisciplinary strengths of its five bureaus (Indian Affairs, Land Management, Reclamation, Fish & Wildlife Service, and National Parks Service.)

I look forward to seeing you in Denver in May!