• Wendy Ward

Improving Aquatic Habitat with NRCS


CHESHIRE COUNTY FISH & GAME CLUB - Ferry Brook Project Wood Additions Installation On Saturday September 23, 2017, NH Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Trout Unlimited (TU) assisted the Cheshire County Fish and Game Club (Shooting Sports Education Foundation) to reintroduce instream wood in the Ferry Brook to improve Brook Trout habitat. Why in the world would we add wood into streams? Wood in streams benefit fish populations by creating deeper pools, and a diversity of habitats which sustain Brook Trout during hot summer months and long winters. Cascades and riffles are formed when the stream flows over logs - increasing oxygen content and creating gravel bars for spawning. The logs and brush provide escape cover and collects leaves and twigs. The leaves and twigs (organic matter) feeds insects and invertebrates - the food source for Brook Trout. Brook Trout are our only native stream dwelling trout species in New Hampshire. The populations and range of the Brook trout have declined significantly in recent years. This is in part due to loss of stream habitat features and has created isolated populations of wild Brook Trout in New Hampshire (NH Fish & Game). During hot dry summers first and second order streams can become fragmented and fish are forced to wait for fall rains in isolated pools. Increasing the number of pools in a stream greatly increases cool summer refuge areas to survive drought conditions as well as quality overwintering sites (NRCS 2016). So why do we need to add wood to streams? Doesn’t nature provide the right amount of fallen trees and leaves for fish habitat? Many streams in NH lack adequate amounts of instream wood (logs and twigs that are directly in the water). This is mainly due to lack of old trees along the stream edge that naturally die or are undercut from high water events and fall in the stream. NH slash laws prohibit loggers from leaving woody material within 50’ of streams and many sections of streams and culverts are cleaned out to prevent flooding and damage to roads and buildings, further reducing the opportunities for natural additions of wood to streams. Won’t adding logs and wood into the stream increase flooding? The structures collect sediments behind them and slow the water velocity. The locations of the log structures are planned to create pools and re-connect the stream with its floodplain in areas of undeveloped forestland. This allows flood waters to spread out onto the forested floodplain and reduce the amount of flood water downstream. Each site is planned by professionals from Trout Unlimited, NH Fish and Game, and NRCS. Approximately 1,020 linear feet of Ferry Brook was enhanced with ten total instream structures. Two of these structures used existing large downed trees to construct strainers, designed to trap smaller wood in the event of a large storm event. Using chainsaws, trees up to 18” in diameter and greater than 50’ from the stream were selected and felled prior to the instream workday. For each structure, the stream width was measured and the logs cut to length. Volunteers/staff hand placed the logs in locations selected by TU based on channel configuration for maximum instream habitat benefit. Cut branches were placed in and on the cut log structures to provide three dimensional structure. Work was completed during low flow conditions. NRCS and TU personnel were on site for the entire installation to ensure adherence to the submitted installation plan and biological expertise. The Cheshire County Fish and Game Club along with NH NRCS and TU will monitor the progress of the project over the next few years. Written by: Wendy Ward NRCS Soil Conservationist

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