Dave Carlson Previews 2019 Conservation Work Day Projects and Financial Support

Oak Brook TU’s 2019 conservation activities include financial and volunteer support for projects in both Wisconsin and Michigan in support of Trout Unlimited’s mission of conserving, protecting and restoring coldwater fisheries and their watersheds in the Midwest.

Our conservation financial commitments this year include support for the Trout Unlimited Driftless Area Restoration Effort (TUDARE); Kickapoo River watershed stream restorations in Vernon County, Wisconsin; continued stream improvement work near Sparta, Wisconsin; and biological monitoring and survey work on the Coldwater and Dowagiac Rivers in Michigan.

Volunteer support is needed for our May 18 and October macroinvertebrate studies on the Coldwater River Watershed in Alto, Michigan outside of Grand Rapids and a June 22 stream improvement work day in Sparta.

“We plan to continue the important conservation work on our Chapter’s priority projects in support of the Wisconsin’s Driftless Area and Michigan’s Coldwater River watershed,” said Dave Carlson, Conservation Committee Chair.  “The Conservation Committee is also pursuing new opportunities ‘closer to home’, such as a DuPage River Cleanup Day on May 4 in Naperville, Illinois. Interested volunteers should contact Dave Carlson via email (dmcarlson@hotmail.com).

“Planned work days provide an opportunity for fun and friendship along with making a valuable contribution to stream conservation. As our projects are several hours from Chicago, we try to coordinate carpooling, lodging and fishing opportunities for interested members,” said Dave Carlson.

2019 Conservation Project Highlights
The Trout Unlimited Driftless Area Restoration Effort (TUDARE) is a long-term initiative to protect, restore and enhance cold water rivers in the Driftless Area of southeast Minnesota, southwest Wisconsin, northeast Iowa, and northwest Illinois. TUDARE relies greatly on the work and passion of TU volunteers. OBTU’s support includes money donated to directly support TUDARE general operations. For more information on TUDARE, read the interview with Duke Welter, who helped found the effort over 15 years ago.  For more information on TUDARE, read the interview with Duke Welter, TUDARE Coordinator, who helped founded the effort over 15 years ago.

Several creeks in the Kickapoo River watershed are scheduled for improvement work in 2019, including Warner Creek, Billings Creek, Tainter Creek and Weister Creek. Weister Creek is a great example of a stream restoration in the Driftless Area supported by OBTU. For the past several years, OBTU along with a wide range of other organizations have provided financial support for this project within the Kickapoo Valley Reserve. It is a multi-year project with a total length of 2.6 miles that, in addition to stream improvement, provides habitat for hunting and is a demonstration site for many nongame wildlife habitat practices. In-stream work on the final Phase 5 section is expected to be completed this summer. See the interview with project manager Paul Hayes for more information on the Weister Creek restoration plan which was originally published in the OBTU Flyer newsletter.

Other stream restoration projects in the Driftless Area encompass work to reduce soil erosion and phosphorus discharge near the city of Sparta. Since 2014, OBTU has provided both volunteer manpower and financial support that has been leveraged with local government funds. This year, stream restoration work will continue on Beaver Creek just north of Sparta. A half-day project planned in June will provide an opportunity to get together for some fishing in the heart of the Driftless Area before and after our work.

Conservation activities in Michigan will be focused on the Coldwater River watershed near Grand Rapids and the Dowagiac River near Niles. Two macroinvertebrate survey work days will be part of our ongoing cooperative effort with the Coldwater River Watershed Council (CRWC) that began 14 years ago. Members collect stream samples from designated sites, then count and classify the aquatic insects and various macroinvertebrates found. By classifying and trending the population data, the CRWC gets an idea of how stream health is evolving. This year, we will be expanding data collected at the Coldwater survey sites to include water temperature monitoring. Volunteers are encouraged to plan some fishing on the Coldwater River watershed or other rivers in the area such as the Rouge, Muskegon or Pere Marquette.  OBTU is represented on the Coldwater River Watershed Council by Marvin Strauch.

The Dowagiac River represents a relatively new stream restoration opportunity for OBTU. It is one of the closest rivers to our chapter with potential for a high-quality coldwater fishery. The planned removal of the Pucker Street Dam in Niles, Michigan appears to be on track for this summer. This will open up the entire river system to upstream migrations of steelhead, salmon, and other fish species. It will also expand opportunities for volunteers to help with watershed planning and habitat monitoring. Conservation efforts on the Dowagiac River are driven by MEANDRS (Meeting Ecological and Agricultural Needs within the Dowagiac River System), of which OBTU is a Board member. (See the interview with Marcy Hamilton, Senior Planner with the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission, for more information on the Niles dam removal and Dowagiac River restoration plan which was originally published in the OBTU Flyer newsletter).

An exciting initiative closer to home is development of coldwater habitat and fishing access in the Illinois Driftless Area. TUDARE and its partners were awarded a large grant from the USDA’S Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) that includes areas not been served in the past, including part of northwest Illinois. The grant will provide funding for restoration projects for the period from 2019-2023. This funding will cover a significant share of individual project costs, with matching dollars—usually around 20-35% of the costs—provided by state or county agencies, foundations, businesses, individuals, TU and other conservation nonprofits. OBTU activities in 2019 will be focused on planning, bringing together local landowners and agency partners and identifying potential conservation projects. Plans include expanding a pilot project to monitor water temperatures in Coon Creek in Jo Davies County that was begun in 2018.

2019 Volunteers Needed
Volunteers are needed to make these 2019 commitments happen. The Conservation Committee is looking for members who are interested in leading or supporting an event. If you’d like to be on the Conservation Committee, email Dave Carlson at dmcarlson@hotmail.com. The Committee meets by phone conference calls each month, so location should not be an issue for ongoing participation.

The financial support of conservation efforts is made possible by the fundraising efforts of the chapter. Watch for additional information on fundraising activities in the OBTU May-June newsletter.

Wisconsin Driftless Area 2018 flood damage.