Fish Habitat Restoration by Buffer Strip Installation
Green Bay Area, WI

Grantee: Outagamie County Land Conservation Department
Basin Program Funds: $25,249
Non-federal Funds: $9,662
Project Duration: 07/2003 - 11/2005
Status: complete

Problem Statement
Nonpoint source pollution annually renders many square miles of fish spawning habitat unusable. These non-point source inputs of sediment and nutrients have acute impact upon the aquatic ecosystems of the receiving water body of Green Bay and the lower Green Bay Area of Concern (AOC). Continued input of sediment and nutrients compromise any potential for proper management and restoration of Green Bay, connected wetlands, and tributary streams. Non-fishery wetland values are also negatively impacted. Cropland is the major source of this sediment contributing an estimated 98 percent of the load.

The method by which sediment and the attached nutrients render northern pike spawning and rearing habitat unusable is direct. Higher nutrient input leads to blooms of both epiphytic and filamentous algae. This algae coats submerged vegetation in the streams. This coating prevents the attachment of northern pike eggs and fry. Northern pike scatter their adhesive eggs over vegetation, the eggs attach and remain attached until they hatch. Normally, upon hatching the fry swim about very actively for a day or so and then reattach to vegetation by means of a mucilaginous sucker that is secreted by specialized epithelial cells on their foreheads. The algae coating on the vegetation makes attachment impossible at both phases in their early life histories and precludes reproduction of pike in affected areas. Production of northern pike can be as high as 20,000 young-of-the-year pike per acre so loses can be very substantial.

Northern pike spawn in small shallow low order streams. Although these low order stream segments play an important role as a Northern Pike nursery they are not eligible for the Continuous CRP practice of Filter Strips because of their hydrology. Throughout the watersheds, farmers are planting crops right up to the very edge of these low order streams. And in some cases, have plowed up and started cropping the streams in an attempt to increase production.

The goal of the project is to install 21 acres of vegetated buffers in the Duck Creek and Apple-Ashwaubenon Watershed and the Outagamie County reaches of the Suamico/Little Suamico River Watershed on low order streams. Cost share for the establishment of buffers will be at a rate of 70% not to exceed $270 per acre and to provide an incentive payment of $1,000 per acre. Five hundred dollars will be paid at establishment and $500 will be paid later. Buffers will be required to be maintained a minimum of 10 years. Conservation tillage and other practices will be promoted, particularly in those fields that have concentrated flow water courses running through them.

Twelve contacts (mail, phone & in person) were made with landowners informing them of the Buffer Programs available to them for cost-sharing the installation of grassed buffers. Cost-share Agreements with four landowners for 20 acres of grassed buffer along low order streams were signed. The grassed buffer strips developed in this project differ from the buffers used in other programs in that they buffer low order streams not normally eligible for other programs and allow for harvesting and grazing (with approved grazing plan) with out penalties to their incentive payment. The materials used in this practice were mixed cool season grasses chosen for their longevity and suitability to the site conditions. The buffer areas were marked with steel posts and buffer protection signs, and recorded with GPS on local GIS mapping systems and a project information sign was posted by the road at each buffer site. The signs and posts were chosen and designed for visibility, durability and easy installation. Provisions were made in the Cost-share Agreement for operation and maintenance of the grassed buffer for the life of the agreement period.

The Wisconson DNR programs connected to the Northern Pike buffer project priority area protected approximately 40 acres of wetlands and planted 101 acres of warn season native grasses.

An interview and tour was conducted for the national "Buffer Notes" newsletter that was published in the November/December 2003 issue. A workshop and outdoor tour was held at the Barkhausen Wildlife Sanctuary in Suamico. The workshop had about 30 people present and received good reviews by the attendees.

Contact: Ms. Ann Francart, 920-832-6072


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