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Thursday, July 29, 2010

2010 "Waters to Watch" List Released

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) - The National Fish Habitat Action Plan (www.fishhabitat.org) has unveiled the 2010 10 "Waters to Watch" list, a collection of rivers, streams, lakes and watershed systems that will benefit from strategic conservation efforts to protect, restore or enhance their current condition.

These waters represent a snapshot of current conservation efforts that the Action Plan is undertaking to provide cleaner and healthier habitats for the many fish and wildlife species and people who call these areas home.

Thanks to the combined actions of concerned community groups, non-profit organizations, local watershed groups, Native American tribes and state and federal agencies, these waters are being improved by planting stream-side vegetation, removing structures blocking fish from habitat and protecting bodies of water from the effects of industrial processes, agriculture and livestock.

The 10 "Waters to Watch" are representative of freshwater to marine waters across the country including lakes and reservoirs that are improving through the conservation efforts of the National Fish Habitat Action Plan-a bold initiative to reverse persistent declines in aquatic habitat.

The Action Plan's 10 "Waters to Watch" Initiative was first unveiled in 2007 through its Fish Habitat Partnerships. Since 2006, the Fish and Wildlife Service has provided $8.5 million to support 188 on-the-ground projects in 36 states, leveraging $20 million in partner match, to address the priorities of the Fish Habitat Partnerships, along with funding from several other State and Federal Agencies and NGO's.

"Our approach-teaming federal, state and local partners-is helping to bring these waters back to life in most cases...in a faster more strategic way," said Kelly Hepler, Chairman of the National Fish Habitat Board. "By watching these 10 models of our nation's aquatic conservation efforts, we can see real progress in treating the causes of fish habitat decline, not just the symptoms. Through sound science and on-the-ground partnerships, these select projects can be held high as a vision of what quality habitat should be, which affects all people throughout the United States."

The 10 Waters to Watch in 2010 include:

* Bobs Creek, Pennsylvania -
(National Fish Habitat Partnership - Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture)
This project will benefit brook trout populations in Wallack's Branch of Bobs Creek, Pennsylvania by removing fish barriers and creating in-stream habitat. Modifications to five small structures (including small dams) which currently reduce free movement of trout within the stream in Wallack's Branch will allow fish to move without impediment through the stream.

• Diamond Lake, Iowa -
(National Fish Habitat Partnership - Midwest Glacial Lakes Partnership)
This project focuses on improving water quality by shifting the lake to a clear water state using water-level management to consolidate bottom sediments, re-establish aquatic plants, and control common carp populations. The restoration of Diamond Lake is Iowa's inaugural shallow lake restoration project providing resource management professionals with experience and expertise for managing shallow lakes. The project also provides stakeholders a demonstration of the restoration potential for other shallow lakes.

* Fairbanks and Soda Springs, Nevada -
(National Fish Habitat Partnership - Desert Fish Habitat Partnership)
Through historic development for agriculture, the surface hydrology and aquatic habitats in Ash Meadows have been highly modified by spring diversion, peat mining, irrigation ditches, and water storage impoundments. Anthropogenic landscape alteration has resulted in the loss of habitats vital for to Ash Meadows speckled dace and Ash Meadows pupfish and has resulted in the alteration of hydrologic processes that create and maintain those aquatic habitats. This project supports the restoration of Fairbanks and Soda Springs as a component of the larger Upper Carson Slough restoration across the northern extent of Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge.

* Georgetown Creek, Idaho -
(National Fish Habitat Partnership - Western Native Trout Initiative)
The Georgetown Road Relocation Project is a multi-year project to remove approximately 2 miles of road from the bottom of Georgetown Creek (including 3 impassable culverts) to improve aquatic and riparian habitat, water quality, and fish passage in the canyon. In 2008, the new road was built in the uplands and in 2009 the Caribou-Targhee National Forest initiated the removal of the old road. The project will restore water quality and riparian and in-stream habitat through the removal of the old road and the building of a fish ladder.

* Green River Basin, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming -
(National Fish Habitat Partnership(s) -
Desert Fish Habitat Partnership and Western Native Trout Initiative)
Both the Desert Fish Habitat Partnership and the Western Native Trout Initiative have recognized the outstanding aquatic resources of the Green River Basin. Both partnerships support projects, directly and indirectly, that benefit fish populations and habitat in ways that place local projects within a larger basin-wide perspective.

• Koktuli River, Alaska -
(National Fish Habitat Partnership - Southwest Alaska Salmon Habitat Partnership)
This fish habitat partnership conservation project was initiated through voluntary actions to ensure public protection of important and intact fisheries. The work on the Koktuli River project will be adequately balanced with considerations of other natural resource uses including uses of land and water resources associated with improved access and human population growth and other future actions that might be considered, for enhancing socioeconomic conditions for local residents and others.

• Lake Vermilion, Minnesota -
(National Fish Habitat Partnership - Midwest Glacial Lakes Partnership)
The purpose of this project is to protect undeveloped shoreline and provide public access to the land and water via a state park, scheduled to open in 2010. The state of Minnesota will acquire 3,000 acres and 4.93 miles of undeveloped shoreline on Lake Vermilion, St. Louis County, MN. Minnesota state parks allow visitors to fish for free. It is expected that this park will quickly become one of the most visited parks in the state, with an estimated 500,000 visitors per year.

* Mackeys Creek, Mississippi -
(National Fish Habitat Partnership - Southeast Aquatic Resources Partnership)
The focus of the Mackeys Creek project involves restoration of a Gulf Coast Strain (GCS) of walleye in a headwater stream of the Tombigbee River. Over time, the stream bank had washed out due to downstream modifications of the stream channel. An 80-ft long rock dike was constructed in 2009 with fill material backfilled behind it to restore the natural slope. The bank was seeded, and willow tree shoots were planted to restore riparian habitat. Washed gravel was placed in the adjacent shoal to create a potential GCS walleye spawning site. Plans for 2010 include creating or enhancing additional GCS walleye spawning habitat, and stocking hatchery-reared fish.

* Wasilla Creek, Alaska -
(National Fish Habitat Partnership - Mat-Su Basin Salmon Habitat Partnership)
Wasilla Creek is one of three main creeks draining the core area of the Matanuska-Susitna Valley, and is home to five species of Pacific salmon. Many partner organizations are working on projects to assure sufficient amounts of clean water, continuous fish passage and overall healthy fish habitats will be maintained within the Wasilla Creek drainage. Significant efforts have been completed and others are in progress to protect and restore salmon habitat in Wasilla Creek.

* West Branch, Machias River, Maine -
(National Fish Habitat Partnership - Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture)
With stream connectivity functionally restored to the main-stem of the Machias River, current restoration needs are focused predominately in its major headwater tributaries Including the West Branch. A range-wide Conservation Success Index indicates that the West Branch Machias River sub-watershed ranks very high in terms of both habitat quality for native Eastern brook trout and future security from anthropogenic threats such as urbanization.

"Whether you measure the effect of these 10 success stories in feet or miles of fish and wildlife habitat conserved, these kinds of concerted actions are what it is going to take to get our nation's waters back into shape," said Hepler. "We believe the Waters recognized today will be the impetus for thousands of projects accomplished in the future."

The National Fish Habitat Action Plan is built on a framework of National Fish Habitat Partnerships. These regional-scale efforts include, the Southeast Aquatic Resources Partnership, Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture, the Western Native Trout Initiative, the Driftless Area Restoration Effort, the Matanuska-Susitna Basin Salmon Habitat Partnership, the Southwest Alaska Salmon Habitat Partnership, the Midwest Glacial Lakes Partnership, the Desert Fish Habitat Partnership, the Hawaii Fish Habitat Partnership, the Kenai Peninsula Fish Habitat Partnership, the Fishers and Farmers Partnership, the Ohio River Basin Fish Habitat Partnership, the Great Plains Fish Habitat Partnership, the Great Lakes Basin Fish Habitat Partnership, the California Fish Passage Forum, the Reservoir Fisheries Habitat Partnership and the Atlantic Coastal Fish Habitat Partnership. There are also four "Candidate" Fish Habitat Partnerships that have stated their intent to apply for full NFHAP Board recognition.

The Action Plan has met its objective of establishing at least 12 Fish Habitat Partnerships by 2010 to help identify the causes of habitat declines and implement corrective initiatives for aquatic conservation and restoration, with currently 17 Fish Habitat Partnership working on the ground in aquatic conservation.

National Fish Habitat Action Plan (Mission, Goals & Objectives)

The mission of the National Fish Habitat Action Plan is to protect, restore and enhance the nation's fish and aquatic communities through partnerships that foster fish habitat conservation and improve the quality of life for the American people.

This mission will be achieved by:
• Supporting existing fish habitat partnerships and fostering new efforts.
• Mobilizing and focusing national and local support for achieving fish habitat conservation goals.
• Setting national and regional fish habitat conservation goals.
• Measuring and communicating the status and needs of fish habitats.
• Providing national leadership and coordination to conserve fish habitats.

• Protect and maintain intact and healthy aquatic systems.
• Prevent further degradation of fish habitats that have been adversely affected.
• Reverse declines in the quality and quantity of aquatic habitats to improve the overall health of fish and other aquatic organisms.
• Increase the quality and quantity of fish habitats that support a broad natural diversity of fish and other aquatic species.

• Conduct a condition analysis of all fish habitats within the United States by 2010.
• Identify priority fish habitats and establish Fish Habitat Partnerships targeting these habitats by 2010.
• Establish 12 or more Fish Habitat Partnerships throughout United States by 2010.
• Prepare a "Status of Fish Habitats in the United States" report in 2010 and every five years thereafter.
• Protect all healthy and intact fish habitats by 2015.
• Improve the condition of 90 percent of priority habitats and species targeted by Fish Habitat Partnerships by 2020.

Since its launch five years ago, the Action Plan has received wide public support. To date nearly 1,200 partners have pledged their support including a range of organizations interested in the health of the nation's fisheries such as fishing clubs, international conservation organizations, federal agencies, angling industries and academia. Complete information on the scope of the plan is available at www.fishhabitat.org.

# # #

About the National Fish Habitat Action Plan
The National Fish Habitat Action Plan is the most comprehensive effort ever attempted to voluntarily conserve freshwater, estuarine and marine waterways and habitat across the country. The Action Plan is a science-based investment strategy to conserve waterways and make conservation dollars stretch farther by combining federal and privately raised funds to build regional partnerships. For more information, visit www.fishhabitat.org.
Ryan Roberts, Communications Coordinator (202) 624-5851 or rroberts@fishwildlife.org

PA DEP Reports on First-Year Efforts to Protect, Restore Walnut Creek Watershed

First Stage in Plan to Improve Health of At-Risk Erie County Resource

MEADVILLE -- The Department of Environmental Protection has compiled a report on the first-year accomplishments of a plan to protect and restore the Walnut Creek watershed, a key local resource that is under pressure from land development and related activities in Erie County.

“We have made great progress in the first year,” DEP Regional Director Kelly Burch said. “We are creating a ‘to-do’ list for the second year and beyond as we focus on improving environmental quality within the Walnut Creek watershed.”

The Walnut Creek watershed includes parts of five municipalities: Millcreek, Fairview, Summit, McKean and Greene townships. Commercial and residential development in these areas has surged in recent years, greatly increasing environmental stress and impairing the watershed’s ability to support public health and safety, economic stability, and quality of life for Erie County residents.

“During the first year, DEP worked with community partners at all levels to capitalize on the resources and community knowledge that each entity brought to the table,” Burch said. “Working as a team, we were able to tackle projects that individual agencies would not have been able to accomplish alone.”
Among the first year projects highlighted in the report:

• DEP, the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the Fish and Boat Commission and Millcreek Township’s water and sewer authorities funded and began designing the $700,000 Zimmerly Road Park project to enhance Walnut Creek water quality, recreational opportunities, and fishing access.

• Mercyhurst College received more than $100,000 through a DEP Growing Greener grant to conduct a comprehensive investigation and research study into the contamination levels and potential sources of E. coli bacteria within the watershed.

• Erie County Conservation District used a DEP Coastal Zone Management grant to send more than 8,000 direct mailings to property owners within the watershed to educate them on stormwater management and the importance of maintaining trees and other vegetation along streambanks.

Burch said that identifying sources of stormwater pollution within the watershed will be a top priority in the second year of the protection and restoration plan. Hard surfaces like roofs, parking lots and streets that come with development contribute to stormwater pollution if not properly managed.

The first year annual report is available online at www.depweb.state.pa.us  by clicking “Regional Resources,” then “Northwest Region,” followed by “Community Information.”  The report also is available for review at the DEP Northwest Regional Office, 230 Chestnut St., Meadville.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

NY Artificial Reef Program to Get Boost from Saltwater License

Funds from the state saltwater fishing license and the Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Act (Wallop-Breaux) are being used to restore and enhance 11  reef sites and add one new one by creating reefs from a variety of materials that include rock provided by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from its dredging operations in New York Harbor. The south shore reef sites are Atlantic Beach, Fisherman (Yellow Bar), Fishing Line (McAllister Grounds), Fire Island, Hempstead, Kismet, Moriches, Rockaway and Shinnecock. The north shore sites are Matinecock and Smithtown. The new site is Twelve Mile reef, located south of the Moriches and Shinnecock reefs.

"By keeping saltwater license fees in-state, New York can improve an array of conservation programs - to the benefit of anglers and other outdoor enthusiasts," NYDEC Commissioner Pete Grannis said. "With the partnership developed by the State Legislature, the Army Corps of Engineers, DEC and the fishing community, this popular initiative can move forward."

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and its local sponsor, the Port Authority of NY & NJ, have multiple harbor dredge projects continuing through 2015. These projects could yield good rock material for several of the reef sites. This restoration plan will create valuable marine habitat and recreational opportunities.

"Maximizing all feasible, beneficial uses of material gathered in constructing and maintaining a world-class port and estuary, such as the further creation of artificial reefs in New York's waters, is a top priority for us," said Col. John R. Boulé, commander of the New York District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. "We are pleased to be able to partner with New York to further improve and enhance the waters that we all share."

Up to now, the state has sold about 137,000 lifetime, annual, weekly and daily resident and non-resident saltwater licenses, with sales totaling $2.5 million. These funds supports important marine resource programs and is matched with federal sport fish restoration funding from the Wallop-Breaux Act. New York received $9.5 million from the Wallop-Breaux Act for licensed freshwater and saltwater anglers for use in this year's budget. $3 million of this money will be available specifically for the projects in the state's marine district. The state will get an additional $9 per newly licensed angler in future years' funding allocations.

Charles Witek, Vice Chair of the Coastal Conservation Association New York (CCA NY), said: "CCA NY has long supported the marine fishing license. We believe that this restoration of the artificial reef program is only the first of many benefits that anglers will enjoy in return for their license revenues."

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Lock Out The Carp

One solution to keeping Asian carp out of the Great Lakes is to close the locks that connect the Chicago Area Waterway System (CAWS) to the Mississippi River basin.  This idea has picked up steam after the recent discovery of bighead carp in the CAWS. This discovery represents a failure of the muti-million dollar electronic barrier that was installed to prevent the passage of unwanted fish species.

Closing the locks isn't as easy as it might seem.  Michigan recently sued Illinois to try to have the locks closed but the Supreme Court denied hearing it.  So for now, it looks like the carp can't be locked out of the Great Lakes.

There are still other doors the invasive carp can use to enter the Great Lakes.  The Carp are in the Des Plaines River and river flooding can give the fish a passageway into Lake Michigan.  Lake Erie, the shallowest and warmest of the Great Lakes could be at a greater risk than the others and also provides an entrance for the carp via the Maumee River.  In order for the fish to enter the lake this way, the Wabash River which already is invaded by Asian carp would have to flood and connect to the Maumee River through tributaries and drainage ditches.

Asian carp have been reported in Lake Erie as far back as 1995.  These finding are thought to be isolated instances perhaps due to stocking and have shown no evidence of a sustainable population. It's not believed these fish enetered Lake Erie through the Maumee/Wabash River connection.

To learn more about bighead carp visit the USGS web-page on them: http://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/FactSheet.aspx?SpeciesID=551

The Asian Carp Control Regional Coordinating Committee also maintains an informative website at: http://www.asiancarp.org/Wordpress/

Friday, July 09, 2010

Top Ten Freshwater Fishing Locations in New York

The top 10 most frequently fished water bodies in New York were:

1.Lake Ontario

2.Oneida Lake

3.Lake Erie

4.St. Lawrence River

5.Hudson River

6.Chautauqua Lake

7.Niagara River

8.Seneca Lake

9.Salmon River

10.Cayuga Lake

*This is from the NY Angler Survey 2007 (revised July 2009)

Potential Drought Conditions

Pennsylvania DEP & Other Agencies Monitoring Potential Drought Conditions
No Statewide or Regional Declarations in Effect

HARRISBURG -- The Department of Environmental Protection and other state and federal agencies continue to monitor water and moisture levels throughout Pennsylvania to assess the severity of dry conditions that would signal the beginning of a drought.
Although much of the state saw very hot weather earlier this week and many areas have received little significant precipitation in recent weeks, no drought declarations are in effect at this time.
The department considers various indicators - precipitation deficits, surface water and ground water levels, soil moisture content, as well as reservoir levels and public water supply sources - when determining if the state is experiencing or entering drought conditions.

"We are experiencing dry conditions, particularly in the central and northeast regions of the state," said DEP Secretary John Hanger. "While we could certainly use some significant rainfall in the coming days and weeks, overall conditions are such that it has not been necessary to declare a drought watch anywhere in the commonwealth."

Pennsylvania's Drought Task Force is scheduled to meet July 21 to discuss conditions and provide input on possible drought declarations. Only the Governor can declare a drought emergency. The task force consists of members from DEP, the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, United States Geological Survey, the National Weather Service, the state and U.S. departments of Agriculture, the Public Utility Commission, PennVEST, the Fish and Boat Commission, the Department of Conservations and Natural Resources and the Pennsylvania State Police.

A drought watch is the lowest of three levels of drought status. It asks for a voluntary five percent reduction in water use by residents. The next stage, a drought warning, calls for a voluntary reduction of 10 percent to 15 percent. A drought emergency, the final stage, includes mandatory water use reductions of at least 15 percent. Pennsylvania’s last declared drought emergency was in 2002. Changes in drought status can be issued for specific counties or for the entire state.

"Although no declarations are currently in effect, this is certainly a good time to exhibit common sense when dealing with the dry conditions," Hanger said. "Everyone should be careful when outdoors and remember that acts of carelessness involving burning and discarded smoking materials can cause serious problems."
Drought information and water conservation tips can be found at www.depweb.state.pa.us, keyword: Drought.

Sunday, July 04, 2010


For Immediate Release June 29, 2010
Contact: Walt Dietz, Regional Outreach and Education Coordinator
570-477-2206 or wdietz@state.pa.us

Sweet Valley, PA – The Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission will be instructing a Family Fishing Program at the Luzerne County River Common on Wednesday July 7th. The program will be held from 5:30pm to 8:30pm. This program is being offered in partnership with the River Common (www. rivercommon.org), the City of Wilkes-Barre (www.wilkes-barre.pa.us) and the Luzerne County Keystone Active Zone (KAZ) Passport program (www.kazpassport.org).

The program is designed for families with children ages eight and older with little or no fishing experience. Families will learn about basic fishing skills, techniques, safety, tackle and regulations. Participants will also be given the opportunity to fish together as a family.

The program is free and there will be no fishing license requirement. Equipment and bait will be provided. Each participant should plan to bring a chair and meet at the River Common fishing pier which is located along the Susquehanna River in Wilkes-Barre. A map and directions are available at the River Common’s website.
Registration is required for this program. Please contact the Northeast Region Outreach & Education office at 570-477-2206 to register.

The mission of the Fish and Boat Commission is to protect, conserve, and enhance the Commonwealth’s aquatic resources and provide fishing and boating opportunities. For more information about fishing and boating in Pennsylvania, visit www.fishandboat.com.