The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife is assisting Plum Creek in the brook trout habitat restoration of Intervale Brook, an important tributary of First Roach Pond in Frenchtown Township.
Intervale Brook bears the scars of a long history of log driving. Streams like Intervale were straightened, instream boulders and trees were removed, and banks were heightened in order to ease log driving.
However, these changes have negatively impacted brook trout in Intervale Brook, as well as other streams and brooks. Despite excellent water quality, the loss of brook trout habitat in this stream has negatively impacted the number of brook trout in the stream.
The Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, along with willing landowners, has looked for opportunities to restore trout habitat in streams such as Intervale.
“Intervale Brook has great water quality, but we need to provide more habitat diversity,” said Merry Gallagher, a fisheries biologist with the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife who is assisting (overseeing) the project. “By adding woody material, we can provide habitat and help diversify the stream substrate, which enhances the food supply and provides protection for fish.”
Restoration generally means recreating habitat, and Plum Creek has placed boulders back in the stream, removed certain berms to restore flood plain dynamics, restored disconnected stream channels and added trees to the stream to add protective cover for fish. In all, Plum Creek is restoring a total of four miles of the stream.
Restoring the flood plain helps dissipate hydrologic energy during high-water events, protecting trout and not flushing them out of the river. Placing large boulders back into the stream creates habitat diversity, as does placing dropped trees in the channel.
This “chop and drop” method of strategically adding fallen trees to the stream improves overall habitat quality by providing cover, increasing insect population density, creating or enhancing pools, varying the streambed floor through scour and slowing flows during high water events.
Chop and drop, which is becoming more widespread in Maine and other states, offers encouraging signs of improved trout densities or sizes in brooks where this technique is utilized.
On Monday, one of the final steps in restoration was completed when Plum Creek removed the old log driving dam in the headwaters of the stream. These logging dams were installed at the headwaters to ease the movement of logs. Currently, dams such as this fragment habitat for brook trout. With the dam now removed, the main stem of the stream is now reconnected with the additional headwaters of the stream.
Stream restoration, chop and drop habitat enhancement and dam removal are activities that are beneficial to trout and other aquatic life when done properly. These restoration techniques are conducted by trained professionals and require proper planning, a variety of potential environmental permits and approval of the landowner in order to alter the stream.
Logo and video courtesy Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife