Fort McCoy News September 13, 2013

Barrier removal improves fishing, habitat

Fishing at Fort McCoy will be improved as the result of a collaborative fish habitat restoration project between the installation and state and federal agencies.

John Noble, Fort McCoy fisheries biologist, said Fort McCoy is completing a fish barrier removal and stream habitat improvement project with the assistance of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS).

Photo for dam removal article
Personnel from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service work in conjunction with the Fisheries Program of the Fort McCoy Natural Resources Branch to remove a dam from WAC pond. Further work will be done to rehabilitate the stream banks to help improve fish passage and the flow of water. Photo by Rob Schuette

The project includes the removal of dams or barriers along Tarr Creek at WAC Pond and culvert structures near the Wisconsin Military Academy (WMA). Concrete wires along Ash Run also will be removed as part of the project.

Following removal of these structures, Noble said stream habitat will be improved at these areas through work under this agreement.

The overall project goal is to improve fish distribution as well as improve instream habitat providing more space and cover for these streams with naturally reproducing brook and brown trout.

"These stream restoration projects support the areas of emphasis of both the WDNR and FWS," Noble said. "FWS wants to improve fish passage, as does the WNDR (in addition to sediment movement), and the WDNR also wants to enhance trout habitat." A fish passage grant also was awarded for this project from the FWS.

The removal of the WAC dam, which is believed to date back to the mid 1940s and is named after the Women's Army Corps, will allow for increased fish movement and also help improve conditions for brook and brown trout, he said. A news article from the May 11, 1945 Real McCoy stated that the lake was established to manage mosquitoes from the wetland area. The dam has not been functional since a storm washed out the dike in 1990. The area has been left alone and managed as a stream/wetland area since then.

A former tank trail located near the WMA no longer required to support the installation mission also will be removed under this agreement.

The tank trail was constructed with two 6-foot culverts that limited fall fish migration to reach suitable spawning areas in the upper Tarr Creek watershed. The crossing affected the stream very similar to a dam, blocking fish passage and stream sediment transport. The Tarr Creek barrier removal project will improve stream characteristics and function, which is expected to further improve the fishery productivity.

Stream habitat work also will occur near the Squaw Lake dam and Stillwell Creek, two streams that are listed on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency 303d Impaired Waters list.

"We expect to see more trout in these waters from enhanced stream habitats," Noble said. "Habitat restoration would include management plans to improve these waters. We anticipate that conditions will be improved sufficiently to remove Squaw and Stillwell Creek from the Impaired Waters list."

Mark McCarty, chief of the Natural Resources Branch, said this project establishes a first-time collaboration between the installation, WDNR and FWS to do stream restoration and habitat improvement.

"John has done a lot of groundwork and coordination with numerous parties in establishing this collaborative process," McCarty said. "Now that we have a pathway in place, our hope is to take advantage of these gains and use this process again for future projects as we work with our WDNR and FWS partners."

Noble said the project also will address the topsoil along the banks at all the sites to help reduce erosion.

The soil removed from the WAC dam and other barriers can be used to support fish habitat improvement projects as well as other projects on the installation, Noble said.

The concrete removed in the projects will be recycled on the installation and used for other projects, he added.