The Department of Natural Resources today announced fish and insect communities will soon benefit from another habitat project in the South Branch of the Au Sable River. Contractors will place large woody complexes – clusters of a small number of trees – in select areas from the mouth of Thayer Creek in Crawford County to the main stem of the Au Sable River. This will create a better environment for fish and other organisms.
The Au Sable River is one of the country’s most notable cold-water rivers. High groundwater inputs provide excellent water temperature for cold-water fish in most streams in the watershed, including the South Branch of the Au Sable River. Historically, the river has been noted for clear, cold, stable flow. Clusters of woody debris and high gradient create an ideal habitat for a productive and diverse fishery.
European settlement of the region stripped areas along the Au Sable of its natural woody debris in the last half of the 1800s, creating problems that continue to exist today. These problems include a scarcity of wood in portions of the stream channel and near-shore areas, and excessive amounts of sand.
Efforts to restore fisheries in the South Branch of the Au Sable River have been ongoing for more than 10 years. Recently, the DNR Fisheries Division contracted with Restoration Dredging, Inc. to assist in these activities. The final two-year segment of a 10-year commitment to restore the river system will occur between June 2013 and July 2015.
Restoration Dredging, Inc. will be responsible for planning and implementing the placement of large woody debris complexes into the South Branch of the Au Sable River, on private and public shorelines. Landowner permission will be obtained for work along private shorelines.
All trees will be transported and placed into the river solely by helicopter. Trees will be harvested on either state or federal land. The placement sites will be discussed in a public review process before they are approved by Fisheries Division.
Landowners along the South Branch of the Au Sable River in Crawford County will have an opportunity for their property to be considered for stream enhancement locations and contribute to ongoing rehabilitation efforts. Permission will be required from landowners to place one or more large woody debris structures on the river bottom of their property after Sept. 1, 2013.
This rehabilitation project is an example of the DNR’s commitment to protecting natural resources and ensuring sustainable recreation use and enjoyment. The enhancements in the South Branch of the Au Sable River enables a strong natural resource-based economy in Crawford County and builds upon strong economic relationships and partnerships between the DNR, the USDA Forest Service and area businesses. Local subcontractors on this project include Northpoint Fisheries Management in Grayling and S&J Excavating in Roscommon. Construction Helicopters, Inc. of Howell is providing the aviation portion of this project.
Questions on this rehabilitation initiative can be directed to Tim Cwalinski, fisheries biologist for the Northern Lake Huron Management Unit at 989-732-3541, extension 5072.
Logo courtesy Michigan Department of Natural Resources