Tenth Round of Habitat Conservation Projects Approved for Funding and ACFHP Endorses Three Projects

December 26, 2019

ACFHP is excited to announce that the following four projects will be receiving National Fish Habitat Action Plan funding for the 2019 fiscal year, based on our recommendations to the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

Fish Passage, Outlet and Box Mill Dams on Outlet Stream, Maine

Maine Rivers will work with partners to construct Denil fishways at the Outlet Dam and Box Mill Dam on Outlet Stream in Maine. This work is part of the Alewife Restoration Initiative, which is providing access from the ocean to China Lake’s 3,939 surface acres through barrier removal or added fish passage at the six dams located on the stream. For over 240 years, a run of 800,000 – 950,000 alewives have been blocked from accessing the lake’s spawning and nursery habitat. American eel, sea lamprey, blueback herring, white sucker, and brook trout will also benefit from this work and the larger Alewife Restoration Initiative. Providing fish passage into China Lake meets objectives within three management plans: 1) the Kennebec River Resource Management Plan, 2) the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission Amendment 2 to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Shad and River Herring, and 3) the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission Interstate Fishery Management Plan for American Eel.

Whitford Pond Dam River Restoration Design, Mystic River, Connecticut

The Whitford Pond Dam is an 8-ft-high, 300-ft-long earthen dam with a 32-ft stone masonry spillway. The original lumber mill on the site went out of business at least a century ago, but the dam continues to block access to natural spawning and nursery habitat for diadromous fishes such as river herring, sea lamprey, and American shad, which are vital to the health and diversity of the Long Island Sound ecosystem. Funding for this project will result in a fully-designed and shovel-ready barrier removal project at Whitford Pond Dam on Whitford Brook, a tributary of the Mystic River in southeastern Connecticut. It will complete critical design work at the first barrier to migration on an historically prolific diadromous run, which will restore 1.2 miles of riverine bottom, provide 26.4 acres of improved ecosystem function for fish and wildlife species, and leverage fish passage restoration momentum among regional stakeholders. This work is being led by the Connecticut Fund for the Environment/Save the Sound, with the help of state and federal project partners.

Old Mill Pond Dam Fish Passage, Wreck Pond Brook, New Jersey

Impediments to upstream spawning habitat are believe to be a significant contributor to the decline of Atlantic coast river herring populations. Stream assessments conducted in 2015 and 2017 within the Wreck Pond Brook Watershed in New Jersey have identified good spawning habitat for river herring upstream of Old Mill Pond Dam. This concrete dam is 10 ft high and 44 ft long, impeding passage for river herring that use Wreck Pond Brook to spawn. The American Littoral Society will work with partners on this project to install a 60 ft straight run Alaska steeppass fishway at Old Mill Pond, opening 0.9 miles of upstream spawning habitat. There is already a strong Citizen Science Program at Wreck Pond, and the installation of this fishway will be incorporated in their current monitoring program.

Restoration of SAV in the Freshwater and Meso-haline Region of the Chesapeake Bay, Maryland

Submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) beds in the Chesapeake Bay filter polluted runoff; provide food for waterfowl; and provide habitat for blue crabs, juvenile striped bass, and other aquatic species. SAV can improve water quality by absorbing nitrogen and phosphorus, reducing erosion, and anchoring sediments. Unfortunately, SAV acreage has declined significantly since the 1950’s in the Bay due to degraded water quality, physical anthropogenic disturbance, and storms. Maryland Department of Natural Resources and Anne Arundel Community College are working with partners to increase populations of three mesohaline (widgeon grass, redhead grass, and sago pondweed) and one freshwater species (wild celery) of SAV through seed collection and distribution. This will restore an estimated 10 acres of fish habitat, contributing to the Chesapeake Bay Program’s overall goal of restoring and maintaining a total of 185,000 acres bay-wide.

ACFHP also endorsed three projects recently:

Upper Kickemuit River Dam Removal, Rhode Island

The Upper Kickemuit River Dam was built in 1960 after Hurricane Carol in order to protect the water supply in the upper river from tidal inundation. However, the impoundment is no longer being used as a water supply due to the vulnerability to sea level rise and poor water quality. Save the Bay is working with partners to have the Upper Kickemuit River Dam removed in order to improve diadromous fish passage, stream flow, and restore riverine and freshwater marsh habitat in the river. The Upper Kickemuit River is one of the State of Rhode Island’s 303(d) impaired waters, and restoring both flow and wetland habitat will improve the water quality of the river.

Atlantic City Oyster Recycling Program, New Jersey

This recycling program will collect clean recycled oyster shell from local businesses and plant the recycled shell on the Mullica River seed beds, the last self-sustaining oyster beds on the Atlantic coast of New Jersey. This shell will result in enhancement of these naturally occurring beds, increasing the potential for oyster settlement, water filtration, and fish habitat availability. Increasing the area of these oyster beds will help to combat sedimentation issues and increase resiliency to climate change-induced increases in salinity, predation rates, and disease. Many partners – including the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Bureau of Shellfisheries, Atlantic City Hard Rock Cafe, Jetty Apparel, Jetty Rock Foundation, ReClam the Bay, Inc., Stockton University, and Rutgers Cooperative Extension – are involved in making this effort a success.

Swan Island Oyster Sanctuary, North Carolina

The Swan Island Oyster Sanctuary is a 60-acre marine protected area comprised of limestone marl and granite that supports nearly 50 million oysters. It is part of a long-term management and restoration strategy for wild Eastern oysters (Crassostrea virginica) in Pamlico Sound, North Carolina. Swan Island is one of 15 oyster sanctuaries in the Jean Preston Oyster Sanctuary network that are closed to harvest. These marine protected areas support high density populations of broodstock oysters, producing large quantities of viable oyster for natural settlement on nearby reefs. These reefs provide habitat for a variety of finfish species, and water filtration services for the entire ecosystem. This project was a collaboration among many federal, state, NGO, and industry partners, and was led by the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, Division of Marine Fisheries and North Carolina Coastal Federation.

To learn more about all of ACFHP’s funded and endorsed projects, visit: https://www.atlanticfishhabitat.org/on-the-ground-projects/.

Thumbnail credit: Old Mill Pond Dam, photo by Zack Royle, American Littoral Society.

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