MNTU Trout Project Evaluation Does Not Exist

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brntrout
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MNTU Trout Project Evaluation Does Not Exist

Post by brntrout »

I think everyone that reads this message board is aware of the controversy surrounding MNTU LSOH funded trout stream projects. The fact is millions have been wasted on projects that failed to perform any useful purpose. Most have washed away on a large scale and have not provided any meaningful improvement in trout habitat. This problem has been ongoing for almost a decade. The reason this situation has persisted this long is because of a complete lack of a viable evaluation process which would provide definitive conclusions on whether a project is good or bad. This would also tell us whether our LSOH money has been spent wisely or not!

The more I think about a "much needed" process for evaluating trout habitat projects the more i'm convinced a qualitative approach should be taken instead of quantitative approach.

First there is likely no way to do a quantitative (electro-fishing) evaluation that proves or disproves H.I. work is good or bad, not too mention if it was possible, it would take years to do on every single project and cost tens of thousands of dollars per project. There would not be enough DNR man power to do this type of evaluation either.

With a quantitative evaluation approach (electro-fishing - counting numbers of fish) the control station(s) would have to be an exact duplicate of the pre project habitat area in every respect. That means the riffle to pool ratio, forage base, harvest rate, angling pressure (hooking mortality) pool depth, pool abundance, overhead cover, sediment bed load, stream temperatures, and a host of other metrics would have to be identical. On top of that any changes to the habitat in the control station ( major flooding) would null and void the evaluation. BTW with the increase in severe flooding we get today its a strong bet the control station habitat would change guaranteed during the evaluation time frame. Since all these things are likely to be true a quantitative evaluation is not going to be scientific or feasible.

While a qualitative approach to evaluating trout habitat work can easily be achieved. Lets discuss how we can make this evaluation approach work.

The reason trout habitat work is being done in the first place is because its easy to recognize degraded trout stream habitat. Most experienced anglers and especially fisheries biologists can take one look at a streams habitat and tell whether a stream has good or bad habitat. Once its established a stream reach is degraded and would benefit from habitat work being done, then the next step can be taken on the way to restoring its habitat.

The next step would be collecting pre project habitat information.That means the whole pre project area's physical habitat characteristics need to be measured, This includes, pool depth, pool abundance, overhead cover structure, pool to riffle ratio, stream velocity, sediment bed load, stream gradient and the average width of the wet channel dimension.

Having completed all the physical habitat measurements we should now have a good idea what's lacking for trout habitat elements in the degraded reach. With this information we can start devising a habitat design plan to restore stream function and trout habitat.

Lets get to the reason why we've been having a lot of failed projects that wash out and do not provide any significant improvement in trout habitat. In order to devise a viable trout habitat design plan there must be some kind of trout habitat design criteria/ guidelines developed and written that non fisheries trout habitat designers are required to follow when developing a trout habitat design plan. At present, no such trout habitat design criteria/ guidelines have been developed, and that is why most of these projects fail as trout habitat projects. Its also why, at present even a qualitative evaluation of habitat work isn't possible.

However, qualitative evaluation of trout habitat projects is possible if trout habitat design criteria/guidelines are developed and is made mandatory for use by those interested in designing trout habitat projects. IMO MN DNR Fisheries, preferably Lanesboro Fisheries, is by far the most likely qualified to develop a trout habitat design criteria/guidelines document.

Once a written "Trout Habitat Design Criteria Document" has been established and made mandatory for designing trout habitat projects it should be easy for MN DNR Fisheries to evaluate and then reject or accept proposed trout habitat project designs. The only other additional evaluation of trout habitat work that needs to happen is the occasional field inspection done annually or after each significant flood event.

Here's a few ideas for basic trout habitat design criteria that should be met before a proposed project design is approved.

1 Stream banks will be lowered a certain x % to reconnect streams to their flood plains.

2. Stream banks will be stabilized with suitable materials that prevent them from eroding during major flood events. Materials used to stabilize stream banks may vary by area. In SE MN the use of large rock rip rap installed properly has proven to work best in achieving this goal.

3. All pool area will have overhead cover structure added. Types cover structures that may be used: large cover rocks, large wood structures, bank hide structures (lunkers, skyhooks, pole cribs etc) and root wads.

4 Pool abundance will be increased by a minimum 12 to 30 pools per mile depending on size of stream and gradient.

5. Pool depth will be increased to 4 ft.or greater in at least 33% of the pools per mile..

6. Pools over 4 ft.depth will have multiple overhead cover elements added. One example: bank hides, large covers rocks and wood.

7. To maintain a deeper mid stream thalweg rock structures should be used. They include: rock current deflectors, rock vanes, boulder clusters or rock weirs. The number of rock weirs used depends on stream gradient.

8. All bank areas with disturbed soil will be seeded with the grass seed mixture that is suitable for the area being worked on. In areas without cattle prairie grasses should be a consideration.

Once "Trout Habitat Design Criteria Guidelines" are created that will establish and mandate what is an acceptable trout habitat design and what isn't. At that point there is only two types of trout habitat project evaluations.

1. The pre project trout habitat design review/evaluation process which will either accepted or rejected projects based on whether the project design met the established mandated design guidelines/criteria, AND

2. The post project field inspections which will verify everything in the project design was implemented and is holding up well. Of course, post project inspections will continue to be made after every major flood to see if any design flaws were made which might need to be corrected in the future.

It appears to me the only evaluation of trout habitat projects possible is one using a "qualitative evaluation approach".
Last edited by brntrout on Wed Jan 29, 2020 11:23 am, edited 2 times in total.

High Stick
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Re: MNTU Trout Project Evaluation Does Not Exist

Post by High Stick »

I asked HTU habitat coordinator Paul Krolak about collecting evidence that Rosgen/woody debris/LSOHC funded projects are failures. His answer: "We've seen far less failure with wood than rock, and better tendency to naturally narrow the stream when the bank doesn't have rock pounded into it. We'll monitor the performance of both going forward, but we won't stop putting wood into the streams."

In other words. No, there hasn't been any real project evaluation.

brntrout
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Re: MNTU Trout Project Evaluation Does Not Exist

Post by brntrout »

As far as having less failure when utilizing wood, instead of rock, its obvious that statement is totally a lie. This has been proven by countless pictures taken showing past MNTU projects being wiped out by even the most average of flood events. In fact the only type of stream work successful in SE MN utilizes lots of rock provided its been installed properly. In fact anyone with half a brain should know streams today no longer have the ability to narrow themselves naturally. If anything, based on landscape changes by man, and current climate changes, stream flows are ever increasing and severe flooding is getting a lot worse all the time. Under this scenario streams will get wider not narrower and one does not have to be a rocket scientist to figure this out. It is also apparent MNTU and others did zero evaluations of these projects. In fact the opposite is true, MNTU/MN DNR kept on approving the same exact type of projects designs for LSOHC funding that have constantly failed over and over for years. Lets put it this way, if they had evaluated their projects, why did they keep on allowing them to be designed the same way, knowing there likely to fail just like the previous projects that failed utilizing the same kind of designs?

The bottom line, unless there a viable trout habitat evaluation process put in place "that everyone can agree on" we are going to continue to have ongoing controversy for good reason!

S.T.Fanatic
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Re: MNTU Trout Project Evaluation Does Not Exist

Post by S.T.Fanatic »

"That everyone can agree on" That's hilarious.
“What more delightful avocation than to take a piece of land and by cautious experimentation to prove how it works. What more substantial service to conservation than to practice it on one's own land?” Aldo Leopold

brntrout
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Re: MNTU Trout Project Evaluation Does Not Exist

Post by brntrout »

S.T.Fanatic wrote:
Mon Jan 27, 2020 9:04 am
"That everyone can agree on" That's hilarious.
The statement wasn't meant as wanting to get agreement among all trout anglers. It was aimed at trying to get agreement among those deeply involved in the trout habitat restoration controversy that "are suppose to be knowledgeable" of stream restoration techniques. To be more specific, that would probably include MNTU, MN DNR Fisheries, DNR Eco Services, MTA and companies/designers who have been responsible for the majority of trout habitat design work in SE MN for the last 10 years or more! However, it is hilarious from the stand point it won't happen, simply because it wasn't the DNR's idea. It would not matter to them if a qualitative evaluation approach is feasible or not. If Its not their idea, its not happening! :(

S.T.Fanatic
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Re: MNTU Trout Project Evaluation Does Not Exist

Post by S.T.Fanatic »

It's hilarious that you would think a pro woody debris design money recipient would be for more rock and lumber based over head cover when their business is going to loose out on the money from securing the contract. And the same going for a reverse scenario.
“What more delightful avocation than to take a piece of land and by cautious experimentation to prove how it works. What more substantial service to conservation than to practice it on one's own land?” Aldo Leopold

brntrout
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Joined: Tue Apr 05, 2011 8:26 am

Re: MNTU Trout Project Evaluation Does Not Exist

Post by brntrout »

S.T.Fanatic wrote:
Mon Jan 27, 2020 10:57 am
It's hilarious that you would think a pro woody debris design money recipient would be for more rock and lumber based over head cover when their business is going to loose out on the money from securing the contract. And the same going for a reverse scenario.
Actually, its about finding an evaluation process to determine whether different trout habitat designs work or don't work, its that simple. If a trout habitat design plan is evaluated and found to provide all the necessary requirements to meet all the habitat needs for all sizes of trout and associated cold water species and can survive severe flooding its a viable plan. If a design plan does none of those things based on pre project evaluation the plan should be rejected. In the case of companies creating project design plans proven to fail over and over, its up to them to come with a viable design plan or go out of business.

S.T.Fanatic
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Re: MNTU Trout Project Evaluation Does Not Exist

Post by S.T.Fanatic »

I just know that there are going to continue to be habitat projects on streams that hold good numbers and size currently that will never be the same post project. And to top it off you yourself said there is really no scientific way of accurately measuring improvement post project for a number of reasons. It all just seems like a license to steal to me.
“What more delightful avocation than to take a piece of land and by cautious experimentation to prove how it works. What more substantial service to conservation than to practice it on one's own land?” Aldo Leopold

brntrout
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Joined: Tue Apr 05, 2011 8:26 am

Re: MNTU Trout Project Evaluation Does Not Exist

Post by brntrout »

S.T.Fanatic wrote:
Tue Jan 28, 2020 9:26 am
I just know that there are going to continue to be habitat projects on streams that hold good numbers and size currently that will never be the same post project. And to top it off you yourself said there is really no scientific way of accurately measuring improvement post project for a number of reasons. It all just seems like a license to steal to me.

Stream work is done because the majority of streams in SE MN are in a severely degraded state. BUT, you do have a point, some streams are not as degraded as others. In this case streams that are less degraded do retain reasonable stream function and provide sufficient habitat for most sizes of trout and natural reproduction needs. I'm sure many of the streams you fish fall into the latter group of streams that are less degraded. On streams that exhibit these qualities its probably best not to do habitat work at this time. Keep in mind that is my opinion not MNTU's or DNR Fisheries.

It should be understood in the near future all streams will evolve into a severely degraded state that haven't had H.I. work done on them already. Adverse changes happening in our watersheds, climate change problems and the recent changes to the Clean Water Act pretty much ensure further degradation of our trout fisheries.

Attempting to use electro-fishing as a scientific tool to evaluate stream projects does not work using the current protocols put in place which are designed to just look at trout population abundance and natural reproduction TRENDS region wide. That does not mean a combined qualitative and quantitative evaluation approach can not be devised that would work sufficiently well. The problem is not everybody will agree on how to devise such an evaluation plan!

S.T.Fanatic
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Re: MNTU Trout Project Evaluation Does Not Exist

Post by S.T.Fanatic »

I'm not sure i'd trade less fish for less erosion but maybe the powers that be will get their shiz together and figure something out that is actually worth while and doesn't completely change the entire fishing experience. (lower catch rate, smaller fish, increased fishing pressure, and an urban/non wild feeling wouldn't be my goals for a project but who am I to say what it should be)
“What more delightful avocation than to take a piece of land and by cautious experimentation to prove how it works. What more substantial service to conservation than to practice it on one's own land?” Aldo Leopold

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