Coaster Brook Trout on Road to Recovery?

Coaster Brook Trout Population Rebounds in Salmon Trout River
Author: 
Jerome Maynard

Superior Watershed Partnership
Monday, August 24, 2009
Lake Superior Watershed Recovery
Coaster Brook Trout Population Rebounds in Salmon Trout River

MARQUETTE, MICHIGAN – This summer the Superior Watershed Partnership (SWP) is celebrating a decade of implementing on-the-ground habitat restoration projects in the Salmon Trout River watershed and recently released state monitoring data has documented a dramatic increase in the threatened Coaster Brook Trout population.

The Salmon Trout River is located in the Huron Mountains of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and has become well known in recent years due to a proposed nickel mine near its headwaters. But the Salmon Trout is also known for being the last river on the south shore of Lake Superior with a naturally-reproducing population of Coaster Brook Trout.

The SWP has completed over twenty large-scale, watershed improvement projects in the Salmon Trout. These projects prevent hundreds of tons of sediment from entering the river annually and smothering important fish habitat. All totaled over the last ten years the SWP, with local, state, federal and tribal support, has implemented nearly $1 million in protection and restoration projects just in the Salmon Trout watershed alone. The SWP works in Upper Peninsula watersheds draining to Lake Michigan, Lake Huron and Lake Superior.

After a long period of decline, monitoring by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) and Michigan Technological University (MTU) has documented a steady increase in the number of large Coaster Brook Trout in the Salmon Trout River. While Coaster Brook Trout populations in the Salmon Trout River remain relatively small monitoring data indicates a 70% increase in the number of adult fish since 2002.

The SWP continues to implement projects that have been prioritized in the Salmon Trout Watershed Management Plan. The plan was developed by the SWP and approved by the EPA and Michigan DEQ. SWP Watershed Planner Geraldine Larson credits the plan for providing an effective, science-based approach to Great Lakes habitat restoration; “The plan provides a snapshot of existing and potential impacts to the watershed and helps us prioritize projects and get the best ecological benefit with the funding we receive.”

The plan includes a comprehensive inventory of degraded sites and identifies roads and stream crossings as the primary source of impacts, contributing hundreds of tons of sediment per year. Potential threats to the watershed include recreational development, land fragmentation and logging impacts. The plan also includes the primary recommendation to prohibit sulfide-based mining.

Watershed restoration projects that have been installed by the SWP include; erosion control, clear-span bridges, bottomless arch culverts, sediment traps, storm water controls, native plant restoration and stream bank stabilization. As a non-profit organization the SWP has secured local, state, federal and tribal funds to implement these projects but there is more work to be done and additional funding is still needed. SWP funders include but are not limited to; EPA, MDEQ, Michigan Coastal Management, US Fish and Wildlife, Great Lakes Commission, the Joyce Foundation and the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community.

“The restoration work has been very successful and needs to continue but equally important is preventing future problems” said Carl Lindquist Executive Director of the Superior Watershed Partnership. “I think the Salmon Trout is a bellwether for Lake Superior and the Great Lakes in general. The real work is implementing effective, measureable restoration projects and promoting a regional, community-driven approach to pollution prevention.”

The SWP has a dedicated staff of biologists, planners, technicians and educators who provide creative, science-based solutions for a wide range of Great Lakes challenges facing communities and watersheds across the Upper Peninsula. For more information contact the SWP at (906) 228-6095 or www.superiorwatersheds.org.