- Associated Press - Saturday, December 26, 2015

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) - Researchers say it’s too early to definitively tell if the nine fish habitat improvement projects in the St. Clair River from Port Huron to Harsens Island have made a difference.

But The Times Herald (https://bwne.ws/1QsieGm ) reports the preliminary results are encouraging.

“We can see pretty good numbers of baitfish, shiners and sportfish as well,” said Ed Roseman, research fishery biologist at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Great Lakes Science Center in Ann Arbor.

“We get surgeon larvae pretty much everywhere in the river,” he said. “Right below our reefs we’re seeing pretty good reproduction.”

Crews from the USGS have been checking for fish eggs and larvae in areas close to the shore, such as the Blue Water River Walk in Port Huron, as well as in deeper parts of the river near artificial reefs.

Roseman said one of the reefs is near Pointe Aux Chenes in the North Channel near Algonac; a second reef is in the Middle Channel between Harsens Island and Dickinson Island; and a third reef is just south of St. Clair at Harts Light.

Other habitat restoration projects funded through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative include:

-Port Huron North, south of Pine Grove Park near the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Hollyhock mooring;

-Port Huron South, near the Municipal Office Center;

-Upper St. Clair River Shoreline, along the Blue Water River Walk;

-Marysville Living Shoreline, off River Road;

-Cuttle Creek, from the Marysville Golf Course to the river;

-Cottrellville Township Park, along the river between Marine City and Algonac;

-Marine City Drain, north of Algonac;

-And the Krispin Drain on Harsens Island.

“We have a couple of different things going on,” Roseman said. “The river walk area, they have restored a lot of shoreline there and put in a lot of fish habitat.

“We’re looking for evidence of spawning fishes like lake whitefish and lake trout. They are native species that have historically spawned in the St. Clair River.”

He said study efforts, which will continue until the weather changes, are focusing on the fall spawners. Crews will return in the spring to look for spring spawners such as sturgeon.

Crew members are wading or using small boats in shallow areas looking for larvae and eggs. They’re using a larger vessel, the Lake Whitefish, in deeper offshore areas, Roseman said.

“We have a few reefs we have restored in the river that we are assessing as well as general habitat for spawners,” he said.

Researchers use egg mats - mats of tangled fibers that trap fish eggs - and small-mesh plankton nets to snag the tiny bits of life they need for the study.

“Our work is part of a larger effort that involves the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry and Michigan Sea Grant,” Roseman said.

He said 2016 will be the last year for intensive study in the St. Clair River.

“The goal is to restore functional spawning habitat and remove beneficial use impairments,” he said.

Beneficial use impairments on the St. Clair River are:

-Restrictions on fish and wildlife consumption;

-Restrictions on drinking water consumption, or taste and odor;

-Beach closings;

-Bird or animal deformities or reproduction problems;

-And loss of fish and wildlife habitat.

Other beneficial use impairments were tainting of fish and wildlife flavor, removed in 2012; added costs to agriculture or industry, removed in 2011; degradation of benthos, removed in 2014; restriction on dredging activities, removed in 2009; and degradation of aesthetics, removed in 2012.

Roseman said researchers are crunching the numbers collected during fieldwork.

“We’re in the process of counting our samples and doing the math from this past year,” he said. “There’s a lot of lab work that goes on after the field work. There’s not a lot of instant gratification.”


Information from: Times Herald, https://www.thetimesherald.com

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