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Project Planning

Seagrass - Salt Marsh - Anadromous Fish Habitat

Anadromous Fish Habitat

Site Selection | Goals & Objectives | Baseline Data | Funding | Permitting

Site Selection
Within a particular geographic region, or river system, there may be a large number of potential dams or impediments to be considered for removal. Project proponents or stakeholders should conduct a comprehensive inventory of potential impediments for consideration. Evaluation of site-specific factors (e.g., ecological, land-use, ownership, construction costs, etc.) would result in a prioritization or ranking of potential projects to be considered for funding.

Upon selection of a dam or other impediment to be removed or modified, several initial planning tasks should be conducted (Connecticut River Watershed Council, Inc. 2000):

  • Document the presence of anadromous fish.
  • Document the presence of suitable habitat upstream of the barrier, dredging, channelization, or siltation may have altered upstream habitats.
  • Determine whether dam removal is possible (as an alternative to fishways). Often, recreation or infrastructure prohibits dam removal or partial breaching.
  • Determine dam ownership (private vs. municipal or state).

An Anadromous Fish Run Site Selection Tool has been developed for Rhode Island through a partnership of the Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC), Department of Environmental Management (DEM), Save The Bay, and the NOAA Coastal Services Center. Fisheries biologists and restoration practitioners from various organizations throughout the state combined expertise to develop the model. Inputs include population density, land use, public access, dam ownership, upstream habitat, and water quality. This site selection tool is anticipated to be a valuable aid in the project screening and prioritization process.

Goals and Objectives
It is important to determine the goals and objectives of a fish run restoration project at the outset. Fish run restoration projects, which lack clearly defined goals and objectives, are less likely to achieve success. In many cases, it may be impossible to gauge success in the absence of a clearly defined project plan. Project goals refer to the ecosystem attributes to be restored, such as water quality, hydrology, stream channel morphology, and stream or river biota. Project objectives are more precise, and may include the specific characteristics of water quality, hydrology, channel morphology and the size, age class, or species composition of the fish run(s) to be restored. Performance indicators are developed during the life of the project and represent measurable characteristics. For example, the number of juvenile river herring which are recruiting to the adult population, or the number of adults observed passing through a newly breached dam or moving into a fishway may be used as performance indicators (Pastorok et al. 1997).

Baseline Data Collection
Detailed site characterizations are needed to formulate site-specific restoration plans and to develop success criteria for individual projects. Examples of baseline data which are collected during pre-restoration baseline surveys of anadromous fish run projects may include:

  • Size and age class distribution of the target species to be restored upstream (if present) and downstream of the impediment
  • Current flow in upstream and downstream portions of the study area
  • Water quality conditions in upstream and downstream portions of the study area (e.g., temperature, salinity, pH, turbidity, dissolved oxygen)
  • An assessment of stream channel morphology, depth, and sediment/stream bed characteristics (including the presence of contaminated sediments) upstream and downstream of the impediment
  • A survey of spawning habitats upstream of the impediment
  • A survey to identify other species which may be affected by the proposed restoration activities, both upstream and downstream of the impediment

Fisheries biologists can monitor downstream migration of juveniles using nets and hydroacoustics technology, and are able to provide information on movements, estimates of population size, and size class distribution. Additional survey techniques include radio tagging of adult herring to track movements and residence time in a particular habitat, and mark and recapture studies to track fish movements over extended (multi-year) time periods.

The DEM Division of Fish and Wildlife is currently using electronic fish counters at Gilbert Stuart's Birthplace, one of the few remaining herring runs in Rhode Island. Data collected from that fish run will be used as a reference for the restoration of other runs in the state (Gilbert Stuart Museum 2002).

Funding Opportunities
The costs of restoration are largely dependent on site-specific conditions and the types of restoration and monitoring activities planned for a project (see Cost Analysis for details). Several federal and state agencies provide funding for anadromous fish run restoration. For example, the NOAA Damage Assessment and Restoration Program provides funds for habitat restoration in areas that have experienced environmental degradation as a result of oil spills and other ecological disasters; and the R.I. Corporate Wetlands Restoration Partnership combines corporate contributions with federal and state matching funds to restore degraded wetlands. The Anadromous Fish Conservation Act provides funding for fish run restoration projects. This program is jointly administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS).

A comprehensive list of funding opportunities for anadromous fish run restoration in Rhode Island is available from this site in the Funding Opportunities section.

Permitting and Regulatory Considerations
Agencies, NGOs, or individuals proposing the restoration of anadromous fish runs in Rhode Island must secure a variety of permits prior to construction of the project. A DEM freshwater wetlands permit or CRMC permit may be required, depending on the jurisdiction within which the proposed project is located. A U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Clean Water Act section 404 permit may also be required.

Specific information on the permitting process, CRMC and USACE permit applications, and contact information for all permitting agencies is available in the Permitting Process section of this site.

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Connecticut River Watershed Council, Inc. 2000. A fishway for your stream: providing fish passage around dams in the Northeast. The Connecticut River Watershed Council, Inc., Easthampton, Massachusetts. Visit http://www.ctriver.org/ to order copies of this publication.

Gilbert Stuart Museum. 2002. "River Herring Restoration" Web page (http://www.gilbertstuartmuseum.com/riverherringpage.htm). Saunderstown, Rhode Island.

Pastorok, R.A., A. MacDonald, J.R. Sampson, P. Wilber, D.J. Yozzo, and J.P. Titre. 1997. An ecological decision framework for environmental restoration projects. Ecological Engineering 9:89-107.

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Project Partner web pages - RIHRT, CRMC, NBEP, STB

This site was created through a partnership of the:

Coastal Resources Management Council
Narragansett Bay Estuary Program
Save The Bay®