Removing dams boosts brook trout population

Project Summary Removing several dams from a defunct fish farm in northern Michigan restored natural conditions in 37 miles of a trout stream, which increased the native brook trout population.

Project name:  Flowing Well Trout Farm Restoration Project.

Location: Kalkaska, Mi.

The north branch of the Manistee River before the dams were removed (Photo courtesy of Conservation Resource Alliance)

Description: The Flowing Well Trout Farm, built in the mid-1900s, erected 12 small dams to create fish rearing ponds. The dams, built in the North branch of the Manistee River and the Flowing Well Creek, diverted the natural flow of a trout stream, caused unnaturally high water temperatures, blocked fish passage and disrupted the natural movement of sediment and woody debris in the river.

Approximate cost of project: $626,000

Resource challenges addressed: Fish passage, excessive warming of water temperatures, fragmentation of a river ecosystem, the loss of wetlands and the loss of fish spawning habitat.

Key partners (public and private): The Michigan Department of Natural Resources Fisheries Division, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Great Lake Restoration Initiative, Elliott Donnelly Chapter of Trout Unlimited, Paul Young Chapter of Trout Unlimited, Sustain Our Great Lakes grant (administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation), U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Conservation Resource Alliance’s River Care program.

The north branch of the Manistee River after the dams were removed (Conservation Resource Alliance photo)

Types of jobs created: Biologists, ecologists, environmental engineers, civil engineers, truck drivers, excavators, project monitors and administrative support personnel.

Results and accomplishments: The project restored natural conditions in 37 miles of a trout stream, increased the native brook trout population, lowered water temperatures, eliminated sediment buildup, removed the risk of dams failing and restored 100 acres of wetlands.

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Originally Published: January 25, 2012