Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

LIVE STREAMING ; River Effort Aids Brook Trout; Watershed Enhancement Team Creates Ideal Habitat for Native Fish

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

LIVE STREAMING ; River Effort Aids Brook Trout; Watershed Enhancement Team Creates Ideal Habitat for Native Fish

Article excerpt

RICHWOOD - A dusky shadow the size and shape of a small banana darted through the lower depths of a sun-dappled pool and took cover in the shade of a fallen tree overhanging the width of a mountain stream. "There's another one near the leaf litter next to that flat rock, said Roger Wolfe, pointing out the location of a second brook trout, just before it too streaked through the pool and away from a small group of human visitors.

The upper reaches of the South Fork of the Cherry River have long hosted a population of brook trout like the half dozen spotted in and around this headwater pool during a brief stop one day last week. Thanks to a stream enhancement project involving the West Virginia Conservation Agency and Plum Creek, the forestry company that owns virtually all the land in the South Fork's watershed, the stream is becoming an even more hospitable locale for the only trout species native to the state.

"Plum Creek's biologists contacted us about working together on the South Fork of Cherry, and we got together in May of 2014 to lay the groundwork for a stream survey, said Ross Tuckwiller, watershed technical design specialist for the West Virginia Conservation Agency.

"We measured pool depths and widths, with a goal of having the same quantity and quality of pools here as there are in streams that are in really good shape.

While the South Branch watershed has been affected by logging, mining and road-building, the stream itself turned out to be in fairly good shape. "That's why this is an enhancement project rather than a restoration project, Tuckwiller said.

After determining which portions of South Fork's headwaters could benefit most from enhancement work, a contractor using a rubber- tracked dozer to minimize impact was hired to strategically place tree trunks, snags and boulders in the stream to create channels, riffles and pools in flat, shallow stretches of water that now provide little cover or resting and feeding spots for the trout.

"All the materials came from Plum Creek, which saved a lot of time and money, Tuckwiller said.

Tree trunk sections were anchored to the bank at angles designed to create and maintain pools, and stream-bed boulders were rearranged to carve out channels and create oxygen-producing riffles.

"We're creating channels that will be deep enough during summer's low flow periods to let trout travel from pool to pool, Tuckwiller said. Pools provide water cold enough for trout to survive summer heat waves and deep enough to provide cover from predators. The channels also connect stream segments with good habitat that don't need enhancement with sections where restoration work has taken place.

Work on the project began in mid-September, but was halted a few weeks later to avoid interrupting the brook trout spawning season. It will resume after the spring snow-melt period ends. …

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