Sunday, October 21, 2007

Sand Creek's trout are in danger

I'm not normally given to sensational titles, but I don't believe I'm exaggerating one bit on this one.

It all started yesterday afternoon when we were baking chocolate chip cookies. It turns out I was out of baking soda. I called one neighbor; not home. I called another, and they were home and had some baking soda I could use. They live on the road to the north, just east of the creek, less than a mile as the crow flies. As I was driving there, this is what I saw:



Six shiny new culverts, and a backhoe. Uh-oh.

The neighbor informed me that the highway department was planning to replace the culverts on Monday. He looked baffled when I said "They're not supposed to be doing that this time of year!"

Now, I'm not against road improvement projects when they are necessary, AS LONG AS the county takes proper steps to protect wildlife and water resources in the process. I don't want to stand in the way of someone just doing their job. BUT, OCTOBER IS THE WORST POSSIBLE TIME TO REPLACE CULVERTS ON A BROOK TROUT STREAM!!! It's their spawning time, and any digging in the stream bed WILL cause sediment to be washed downstream, destroying any eggs that have been laid in the round gravel bottom nests called redds. One culvert would be bad enough, but SIX of them, several in a small feeder tributary, will in effect destroy that area for spawning. The brook trout population in this part of the stream has at most two or three year classes; one missed year class could significantly reduce the population, if not wiping it out altogether. The culverts could also impact upstream areas; if they are not placed at the proper height, water could be impounded; brook trout do not thrive in stagnant water.

If that ain't enough, stream flows are very high after recent rains. I'd like to know how they plan to pull a culvert without washing out the entire road and having to haul in more fill. It would have been a perfect time to do this project earlier in the summer, when flows were low and trout weren't spawning.

I've left messages with the conservation officer, the area fisheries manager (my supervisor), and the area hydrologist. If all else fails...maybe a little activism, Monkey Wrench style???

I'm mad enough to do it, but I have so much at stake...

8 comments:

Sue said...

Oh. That's horrible. I'd also contact the DOT area supervisor, local Division of Water Quality officer, US Army Corps of Engineers area supervisor, and anyone else you can think of that has regulatory control in your area. Culverts are evil under the best of circumstances, but to replace them in a trout stream in October???!!! Inexcusable.

Deb said...

Sue- Absolutely right. I think the Conservation Officer is the appropriate first contact, as she has legal authority and knows who else to contact. But our CO's are spread out pretty thin...

I did go back and post a hand-published "notice", on a wooden stake that was placed earlier, that this project was in violation of the county's general public waters works permit. (this activism gave me an adrenaline rush!) I just want this thing stopped, at whatever the cost. I love these trout, although I have yet to catch one.

Deb said...

Okay, here's what I did...posted this sign on a wooden stake they already had there:

NOTICE

SAND CREEK, AND THE UNNAMED TRIBUTARY FLOWING ALONG COUNTY ROAD 148, ARE DESIGNATED TROUT STREAMS (MINNESOTA RULES, CHAPTER 6264.0050). ACCORDING TO GENERAL PUBLIC WATERS WORK PERMIT 2004-0001, ATTACHMENT A, PART 18, ISSUED TO THE MINNESOTA DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION:

“Work within public watercourses may be restricted due to fish spawning and migration concerns…Statewide, work exclusion dates fall within the following ranges…DESIGNATED TROUT STREAMS: EARLY FALL THROUGH JUNE…Where work is proposed during (these dates), the DNR Area Fisheries Supervisor shall be contacted for appropriate dates for the specific body of water.”

THE PINE COUNTY GENERAL PUBLIC WATERS WORK PERMIT INCLUDES SIMILAR LANGUAGE. SAND CREEK AND THE UNNAMED TRIBUTARY CONTAIN A NATURALLY REPRODUCING BROOK TROUT POPULATION THAT SPAWN FROM OCTOBER-DECEMBER. IF THIS CULVERT REPLACEMENT PROJECT PROCEEDS, IT IS IN VIOLATION OF ANY PUBLIC WATERS WORK PERMIT, IF SUCH EXISTS.

A CONSERVATION OFFICER HAS BEEN NOTIFIED.

I'm scared and excited.

Actually, what I really would have liked to have done was take spray paint in brown and yellow and red and blue and paint trout on all the culverts. Huge pictures of brook trout. With some messages. Oh God I'm such a wimp. Nothing I can do is too much.

RuthieJ said...

Way to kick some ass, Deb! Was your heart pounding when you put up the sign? (mine was as I was reading your story.)
I think it's awesome that you have found the correct information stating why this project is illegal at this time of the year. I also sometimes have dreams of "monkey wrench" activism, but you have proven LEGALLY why this is wrong.
Keep us posted....maybe a picture of them taking those shiny new culverts back to storage for the winter.

barefoot gardener said...

Sic 'em, Deb! I am so rooting for you.


The local trout are very lucky to have you on their side. I would have looked at the culvert and never even known that it was a bad time to be messing with the road. I hope that you are successful in stopping this.

Nature Knitter's Mom {Betty K] said...

YOU GO GIRL!! Someone has to kick butts and you are on the way in my book. How can some men be so stupid when it comes to fishing for trout. Putting in culverts this time of year is a sin to say nothing of the damage that will be done to the trout stream.
Nature Knitter's Mom {Betty K]

lené said...

GO DEB!!!

dharma bum said...

Great work Deb! Those trout are awful lucky to have you. Keep us posted!