River Habitat Restoration
Leads to 38-fold Increase in Trout Population
Reducing riverbank erosion and placing fallen trees in the Coldwater River restored fish habitat and led to a 38-fold increase in the site’s trout population.
The Coldwater River is one of the largest and highest quality cold water streams in southwest Michigan. The 34-mile-long trout stream is home to 32 species of fish, including brown, rainbow and brook trout. However, riverbank erosion and the lack of fallen trees over the river that would provide prime habitat for fish have left stretches of the river with low fish populations. One such area is a 2,500 foot stretch of the river adjacent to Schrems West Michigan Chapter of Trout Unlimited’s Dolan Property. The river has been dredged, is straight and shallow, and contains little woody debris or other cover for fish—resulting in limited and unfriendly aquatic habitat for trout. In 2010, 38 trees were harvested from the Dolan Property and positioned in the Coldwater River to create fish habitat at 31 locations along the nearly half-mile stretch of river. The log structures have remained in place since construction and have greatly increased the site’s trout population.
Resource Challenges Addressed
- Lack of native habitat
- Limited ecosystem diversity
- No cover for fish populations
- Poor fish migration
COLDWATER RIVER TROUT RECOVERY
Location: Grand Rapids, Mich.
Approximate cost: $127,000
Key partners: Schrems West Michigan Trout Unlimited; Coldwater River Watershed Council; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program; Kent County Drain Commissioner; Coldwater River Intercounty Drainage Board; Streamside Ecological Services; Frank “Bob” Perrin – Lansing Trout Unlimited; Michigan Trout Unlimited
Types of jobs created: Machine operator, laborers, design and construction consultants
Results and Accomplishments
The trout population, according to a July 2014 fish survey, has increased tremendously — from 40 per mile at the Dolan Property in 2009, to 1,523 per mile. The project exceeded its goal of 800 fish per mile by 2013. The survey also found an increase in fish species diversity in the river. The habitat improvement work has remained in place, as documented by annual post-project monitoring.