Musky Home River Initiative Update - Fall 2009

by Brian Cowden

October 2009

Cattle abatement and riparian buffer project

In early August, Brian Cowden, Musconetcong Home Rivers Coordinator, coordinated and oversaw a riparian buffer planting and caging project on an important Musky tributary for spawning brook and brown trout. This project, funded by partners, will help reduce bovine fecal coliform waste from entering the river. Students from the SCA were used to perform this work where well over 200 native trees and shrubs were planted and caged within the area fenced to keep the cattle away from the tributary.

Projects such as these are important to the water quality in both this tributary and in the main Musconetcong which mixes ground with surface water, especially in the lower half of the watershed where our diary farms are mainly located. TU and partners continue to focus in this area, identified as having exceptionally high levels of bovine fecal coliform, to fence the cows out of the majority of the stream corridor, restore the streambanks damaged from being trampled over many years by the cattle, and plant proper riparian buffers to maintain bank stability, shade the stream, and to filter out pollutants including fecal coliform from entering this important trib which contributes wild fish to the Musky.

Autumn 2009 work projects announced

Several riparian buffer projects are planned for the fall months. With September now upon us, look for specifics on dates and locations from your chapter news alert system or website.

One major project is to plant native trees and shrubs along route 57 north in lower Mansfield just above the Penwell Dam. There is nearly a 500 yard stretch of river with very few trees and this stretch runs slowly due to the downstream dam. This creates thermal issues for the river's trout and trees will reduce river temperatures as they grow and shade this important stretch of the Musky. Several other smaller plantings are also planned for the lower river in Holland Twp. and the upper river in Mount Olive on State Park

Electro sampling Musky tribs

TU has been helping Pat Hamilton, NJF&W’s principal fisheries biologist, in electro sampling Musky tributaries this summer, many for the first time. These sampling reconfirm or create surface water quality standards for the state based on no trout (NT), trout maintenance (T M) and trout production (TP), New Jersey’s highest standard for water quality. Here you see a Heritage strain brook trout sampled from a small tributary on the upper river. Below is a photo of electro sampling of a section of Will's Brook, another tributary that has many branches, all of which are located in Mount Olive Twp. Will's Brook is one of the potential wild brook trout or heritage brook trout reintroduction streams targeted by TU and NJ F&W. Much work will need to be done to re- store this stream to a brook trout stream, but the efforts will certainly pay off if this becomes a selected stream for this project. On one unnamed trib of the lower river, we electro fished a solid 14" wild male brook trout, beginning to show his magnificent fall spawning colors. Another trib nearby though to hold no trout had both young of year and multiple age classes of adult browns.

Dam removal update

With two dams removed to date with our partners at the Musconetcong Watershed Association, the Finesville Dam is next on our list to remove. This dam is the first dam up-stream of the river's confluence with the Delaware River and blocks anadromous fish passage for such species as river herring, American Shad and eels. There is a second NEPA required public meeting on Tues., December 1st at 7 pm at the Bloomsbury Fireman's Hall (above town hall). This meeting should quickly lead us to removal of this dam in 2010.

We have been in talks with virtually every dam owner in the watershed and many have ex- pressed a desire to work with us to remove their obsolete dams. Dam removals can be both difficult to obtain public support for as well as difficult to fund properly. So far the various partners, including TU, have had good success with identifying public sources, typically federal, for these highly visible projects. Stay tuned for more announcements on additional dams to be removed in the future.

River restoration via “bedload manipulation”

TU has plans to use Joe Urbani and his team out of Bozeman, MT to restore 5 proper- ties comprising a little over 1 mile of river in 3 different locations over the next few months. Here is an excerpt from Joe's website better describing his work:

“Joseph Urbani & Associates, Inc. has ex- tensive experience with enhancement and restoration of stream fisheries degraded by past land management practices or human development. Through stream enhancement, we create fluvial components such as riffles and pools using natural materials. These components are constructed in a manner that allows them to appear and function as natural features and remain stable during varying hydraulic regimes. The design and construction of spawning habitat is an important consideration for most projects and al- lows many streams, lakes and ponds to become self perpetuating fisheries where previously spawning was compromised or non-existent. In most projects, both the riparian zone and stream channel are simultaneously enhanced to assure that the entire stream ecosystem is healthy and stable.”

Work will begin as soon as permits are obtained. Survey and design work for these projects to occur in late September of this year.

We have plans to perform this same work in the Point Mountain Year Round Trout Conservation Area (YRTCA), but funding for public lands is actually far more difficult than for the other private lands that are now funded projects. We hope that several outstanding grants will allow us to work in Point Mountain on a nearly 1/4 mile stretch of that 1.1 mile TCA.