Pine Creek Update —Greg Meyer, Chapter board, webmaster
Work on Pine Creek for 2010 was limited. Due to overwhelming flooding conditions in the region and strapped resources, the final phase of the Pine Creek project has been delayed until 2011. The good news is that the Kiap Board has money set aside for project completion, and the recent flooding in the area did not adversely affect Pine Creek.
Check out the recently attached documents below for new reports on trout populations and how the project improvements have impacted this quality fishery.
There will be more information on the status of the project, and how you can help the completion phase in the next few months. Check back for more info.
“The Pine Creek Project has been listed as one of ten National Fish Habitat Action Plan’s ‘Waters to Watch’ for 2009”
The Stream Pine Creek is located in Maiden Rock Township, Pierce County, Wisconsin at the northwestern end of the Driftless Area. Pine Creek emanates from springs at the base of bluffs along the Mississippi River and flows directly into the Mississippi at Lake Pepin. The creek supports a native population of Eastern Brook Trout.
The West Wisconsin Land Trust (WWLT) approached Trout Unlimited to inquire about the potential for restoration of Pine Creek. WWLT had purchased two large properties that encompass the majority of the Pine Creek trout fishery, thus conserving these areas forever. In the summer of 2006, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR), three TU chapters (Kiap-TU-Wish, Twin Cities, and Clear Waters), WWLT members, and local landowners toured the stream and began planning for its future restoration.
photo by Gary Richardson
The Pine Creek watershed is part of the karst landscape of the Driftless Area, which is characterized by thin loess soils underlain by fractured limestone. As is characteristic of many streams in the Driftless Area, Pine Creek has outstanding water quality but suffers from severe stream bank erosion. In the early 20th century, poor agricultural practices and runoff from the watershed mobilized the thin loess soils at the tops of the surrounding bluffs and deposited them in the valley floor. Pine Creek is still moving these deposits today, resulting in steeply eroded and raw banks with massive deposition of fine sediment in the streambed. Recent overgrazing has compounded the erosion and sedimentation problem, which severely limits habitat and trout reproduction in Pine Creek.
Project Goals and Objectives
The restoration of Pine Creek is consistent with the mission of Trout Unlimited and the National Conservation Agenda, and will comprise an important piece of the Trout Unlimited Driftless Area Restoration Effort (TUDARE). This project provides Eastern Brook Trout conservation, protection, and restoration. In the Driftless Area, the Eastern Brook Trout usually occupies the headwater portions of streams, and is often in direct competition with the exotic Brown Trout for prime habitat. Pine Creek is somewhat isolated from invasive stocks of Brown Trout, since it drains directly into the Mississippi River. The overall goal of the Pine Creek Project is to restore and conserve the native Eastern Brook Trout population in Pine Creek. The restoration work on this stream will result in increased stocks of Eastern Brook Trout, in both numbers and distribution within the improved stretch. Based on similar restoration work on other streams within the county, there will also be improvements in the survivability of subsequent year-classes of fish and an increase in young-of-year and adult densities of Eastern Brook Trout. Recent restoration work on Cady Creek, also in Pierce County, has yielded dramatic increases in Eastern Brook Trout abundance and size, with trout densities increasing from 350 trout/mile before restoration to 5,000 trout/mile after restoration. Bank stabilization and re-establishment of the Cady Creek floodplain have also improved water quality by reducing in-stream sedimentation and polluted runoff.
Key components of the restoration work included:
• Grading and shaping of stream banks, to achieve a 3:1 slope
• Building and installing LUNKER structures and root wads
• Rip-rapping the stream banks at water level
• Installing plunge pools
• Installing boulder clusters
• Re-seeding and mulching the new stream banks and riparian areas
| photos by Gary Richardson
The conservation goal of the Pine Creek Project is to stabilize severely eroding banks, provide in-stream cover, and provide increased trout spawning and aquatic habitat in the stream. This will be accomplished using techniques developed by WDNR fish managers across the Driftless Area. Steep eroding banks will be graded and shaped to achieve a 3:1 slope. This provides a gentle slope for rising floodwaters, which in turn greatly diminishes erosion and sedimentation. Where suitable, “LUNKER” structures will be added to provide trout cover from predators and refuge during floodwaters. These structures are covered with rock and soil and then reseeded to stabilize the banks. In addition, plunge pools will be installed to create deep water and over-wintering habitat. Boulder clusters will be installed to enhance midstream cover. The installation of bank cover narrows the stream, which results in a scouring of the bottom, exposing the gravel substrate favorable for aquatic insects and successful trout reproduction. Bank stabilization will result in a decrease in suspended solids and sediment during runoff events, thus improving water quality within the stream and Lake Pepin. An improvement in the thermal regime of the stream may also be apparent, due to a narrower, deeper channel, increased current velocity, and bank shading. Measurable project objectives include:
- Restore 3,500 feet of stream bank and habitat in lower Pine Creek.
- Increase numbers of Eastern Brook Trout by 40-50%.
- Increase numbers of Eastern Brook Trout 10 inches and larger by 50-100%.
- Reduce stream bank erosion to 10% of pre-existing conditions.
- Reduce fine sediment and increase coarse stream bottom substrate by 50%.
- Increase aquatic macrophyte growth by 25%.
An impressive final result! LUNKER structures have been
installed, riprap has been placed on top of the structures, and the stream bank
has been seeded and mulched with straw. Trout quickly moved into the new
habitat, with dozens of fish observed within one week after restoration.
Phase 1 of the Pine Creek Restoration Project was financed by:
- Wisconsin Trout Stamp Funds
- An Embrace-A-Stream grant from Trout Unlimited
- Friends of Wisconsin Trout Unlimited photo by Andy Lamberson
- Kiap-TU-Wish Chapter of Trout Unlimited
- Twin Cities Chapter of Trout Unlimited
- Private donations of money, goods, and services of volunteers, including more than 750 hours of volunteer time contributed to the stream restoration work.
Heavy equipment, many volunteers—and hours of work.
Special Thanks to Fairmount Minerals
Volunteers from Fairmount provided significant help on Pine Creek. In additonal to an army of volunteers on works days, there actually were significant rainevents that washed out seeding and mulching; Fairmount stepped in to reseed and re-mulch.
photo by Andy Lamberson
Pine Creek status in 2009 —Greg Dietl, chapter Vice President
2009 work on Pine Creek finished in September. A total of 2538 feet of stream was restored. Most of the work was above the bridge and half of it included work on a spring feeder. There were 380 feet restored on the lower portion just below the bridge. For the record, 8 structures were installed; 9 pools were created; root wads and logs were installed where appropriate. John Sours, Nate Anderson and the DNR crew did an outstanding job on the project.