Niagara Power Project FERC No. 2216

 

INVESTIGATION OF HABITAT IMPROVEMENT PROJECTS FOR THE NIAGARA POWER PROJECT

 

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Prepared for: New York Power Authority 

Prepared by: Kleinschmidt Associates and Riveredge Associates

 

August 2005

 

Copyright © 2005 New York Power Authority

 

___________________________________________________

 

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

The New York Power Authority is in the process of applying for a new federal license to operate the Niagara Power Project in New York.  As part of this process, potential habitat improvement and enhancement projects in the vicinity of the Project were identified by various stakeholders.  This report provides the results of an investigation of conceptual design and feasibility of 17 potential habitat improvement projects.

Conceptual designs and plans for all 17 habitat improvement projects were developed based on: site visits; generally available information from peer-reviewed literature, textbooks, and other references, including the Internet; site-specific data; discussions with stakeholders and others who have participated in similar habitat improvement projects; and professional judgment.  The conceptual design for each habitat improvement project included the primary and secondary target species and communities that would benefit from habitat improvement, information that would be needed to complete a final design, recommended monitoring and maintenance activities, potential constraints or obstacles to completion, and an assessment of project feasibility.  The feasibility of projects was ranked from poor to very good and was based on factors such as construction techniques needed to complete the project, whether the project was a restoration or creation project, the need and extent for long term maintenance, potential permitting issues, potential conflicts due to land ownership, existing abundance of target species, whether projects of a similar nature have been successfully completed elsewhere, and expected benefits from project completion. 

The habitat improvement projects ranged from fairly simple exercises, such as constructing nesting platforms for osprey, to much more involved island restoration and creation projects.  Shoreline stabilization, wetland restoration, bird nesting habitat improvements, invasive plant species control, and fish habitat structures were also among the projects evaluated.  These projects would collectively benefit a variety of native fish, bird, and plant species.  The potential habitat improvement projects and their feasibility ranking are: 

 

HIP Number

HIP Project Name

Feasibility

1

Strawberry Island Wetland Creation

Good

2

Frog Island Restoration

Fair/Good

3

Motor Island Shoreline Protection

Very Good

4

Beaver Island Wetland Restoration

Good

5

Spicer Creek - Tributary Enhancements

Poor

6

Gun Creek - Tributary Enhancements

Very Good

7

Fish Access to Burnt Ship Creek

Good

8

Control of Invasive Sp. - Buckhorn & Tifft Marshes

Good

9

Shallow-water Habitat Creation - Burnt Ship Creek

Fair/Good

10

Feasibility of Restoring Native Terrestrial Plants

N/A

11

Osprey Nesting

Good

12

Black Tern Nesting

Fair

13

Common Tern Nesting

Very Good

14

Enhancements to Motor Island Heron Rookery

Good

15

Installation of Fish Habitat/Attraction Structures

Very Good

16

Native Coregonid Hatchery

Poor

17

Hacking Program for American Bittern

Fair/Good

 

1.0     INTRODUCTION

The New York Power Authority (NYPA) is engaged in relicensing of the Niagara Power Project (NPP) in Lewiston, Niagara County, New York.  The present operating license for the plant expires in August 2007.  As part of its preparation for the relicensing process, NYPA is developing background information related to the ecological, engineering, recreational, cultural, and socioeconomic aspects of the NPP.  This report summarizes an evaluation of potential Habitat Improvement Projects (HIPs) in the vicinity of the NPP.

The Kleinschmidt Associates team (Team), including Riveredge Associates and W.F. Baird Associates, was hired to conduct an investigation of HIPs that were identified by NYSDEC and other stakeholders.  Some of the potential HIPs could directly or indirectly address potential effects to aquatic and terrestrial habitats related to the NPP while other HIPs are located in areas beyond the effects of Project operation.  It is anticipated that information in this report will be used by interested parties during the relicensing process for discussions related to a potential settlement agreement.  This report includes a detailed evaluation of 17 HIPs in the vicinity of the NPP, representing a variety of resource areas.  The HIPs were selected in cooperation with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) and other stakeholders.

The objectives of this evaluation were to:

·         Develop detailed conceptual level designs for each HIP, and

·         Evaluate the feasibility, potential constraints, and potential benefits, of each HIP.

The following sections of this report include, Section 2.0 Methods, Section 3.0 Description of the Habitat Improvement Projects, and Section 4.0 Summary.  References pertinent to each HIP are provided at the end of individual HIP evaluations in Section 3.0.

 

2.0     METHODS

2.1         Investigation Area

The investigation area was the Niagara River from Buffalo Harbor to its mouth at Lake Ontario, including Grand Island tributaries and wetland habitats adjacent to the river.  Tifft Marsh, a wetland nature preserve near Buffalo Harbor, was also included in several HIPs.

2.2          Identification of HIPs

An initial list of potential HIPs was provided in the Request for Proposals for this study.  The initial list was generated by NYPA and its consultants based on discussions with NYSDEC and other stakeholders.  The feasibility of HIPs on that list had not been evaluated or developed.  General HIP categories identified on the initial list included:

·         Creating, restoring, or enhancing nesting habitat for waterbirds (common tern, black tern, pied-billed grebe, American bittern, and herons), including methods to improve habitat by control of invasive plant species in Buckhorn Marsh.

·         Enhancing or creating spawning habitat for lake sturgeon at several locations, including the upper and the lower Niagara River.

·         Performing a cost-benefit analysis for construction and maintenance of pond facilities in western New York for the springtime culture of bloater chub.

·         Creating/restoring, enhancing, or maintaining the vegetation of riverine wetlands or associated habitat at several locations along and in the Niagara River, including:

·         Strawberry Island;

·         Motor Island shoreline;

·         Beaver Island State Park;

·         Spicer Creek tributary enhancements;

·         “Frog Island” (an island that formerly existed upstream of Motor Island);

·         Shallow-water flats near Burnt Ship Creek, and;

·         Assessing the feasibility of restoring native terrestrial plants and associated habitat.

As part of this study, two meetings (July 29, 2003 and October 3, 2003) were held with the NYSDEC to review identified HIPs, refine the HIP list, discuss target species and specific designs or approaches, and to receive input from the NYSDEC on related HIPs previously completed in the Buffalo/Niagara area.  NYSDEC staff that attended the meetings included individuals with experience developing and implementing shoreline, island, and wetland restoration projects, fisheries/aquatic biologists, and terrestrial biologists with experience improving habitat for birds and other wildlife.  These meetings, and in particular the October 3 meeting, resulted in adding several HIPs to the initial list and splitting a number of the general categories into more specific projects.  The resulting list included 16 HIPs:

1.       Strawberry Island Wetland Creation

2.       Frog Island Restoration

3.       Motor Island Shoreline Protection

4.       Beaver Island Wetland Restoration

5.       Spicer Creek - Tributary Enhancements

6.       Gun Creek - Tributary Enhancements

7.       Fish Access to Burnt Ship Creek

8.       Control of Invasive Species at Buckhorn and Tifft Marshes

9.       Shallow-Water Habitat Creation Near the Mouth of Burnt Ship Creek

10.   Feasibility of Restoring Native Terrestrial Plants

11.   Osprey Nesting

12.   Black Tern Nesting

13.   Common Tern Nesting

14.   Enhancements to the Motor Island Heron Rookery

15.   Installation of Fish Habitat / Attraction Structures

16.   Native Coregonid Hatchery

The HIP to enhance or create sturgeon spawning sites was dropped from the original HIP list based on discussions at the October 3 meeting that indicated there is little empirical data available on the factors limiting sturgeon populations in the Niagara River.  Participants of the meeting felt that prior to evaluating a HIP for this species, the best approach would be to thoroughly examine existing information, determine information needs, and conduct the necessary research (perhaps in conjunction with other sturgeon research efforts in the Great Lakes Region) to find out what factor(s) may be limiting the population.  This research may, in turn, suggest an approach(es) to a sturgeon HIP in the future that would benefit sturgeon through a better understanding of what is required for populations to increase, or at a minimum, to persist.

Based on additional consultation with the NYSDEC, a HIP for hacking American Bittern was added to the list of proposed HIPs, bringing the total number of HIPs to be investigated to 17.

2.3          HIP Evaluation Process

The Team gathered pertinent available information for each HIP and then utilized this information with the Team’s in-house experience and professional opinion to develop our approach to design and evaluation.  Information that was considered included specific information provided by NYSDEC, such as:

·         Primary and secondary target species;

·         Design information and experience gained from previous HIPs in the Buffalo/Niagara area, and;

·         Conceptual designs for specific locations.

Other site-specific data and general information reviewed included:

·         Historic and current water level data;

·         Historic and current aerial photographs;

·         County Department of Transportation data, and;

·         Information in the literature including:

·         Engineering handbooks;

·         Wetland and stream restoration and enhancement manuals or handbooks;

·         Journal articles;

·         Articles posted on the Internet;

·         Personal communications with individuals that have participated in similar HIP work.

Each HIP evaluation included a number of components.  We made a concerted effort to evaluate the same components for each HIP whenever possible to aid reviewers in comparing and contrasting HIPs.  These components included:

 

·         Purpose;

·         Short and long-term objectives;

·         Target habitats (protection, creation, or enhancement);

·         Primary target species, guilds, or communities;

·         Secondary target species, guilds, or communities;

·         Proposed locations;

·         Project description;

·         Design features;

·         Construction techniques;

·         Effectiveness monitoring;

·         Maintenance;

·         Project constraints;

·         Feasibility; and

·         References. 

 

Designs presented in this report are detailed conceptual level designs, not final designs.  The purpose of these designs is to provide sufficient detail for readers to envision how a particular HIP could be designed and how that design might function.  In addition, completing a detailed conceptual design also contributed important information to the HIP evaluation such as volume and quantity take-off values, considerations for integrating the HIP with existing conditions, and potential obstacles to implementation.  There are undoubtedly a number of conceptual designs or concepts possible for each of the HIPs evaluated and it should be noted that the designs presented in this report could, for the most part, be altered to accommodate additional ideas or components.  Further, it should be noted that implementation of each HIP would require development of a final design.  The final design work for some HIPs would be quite involved, requiring on-site investigations to determine existing conditions, while the final design for other HIPs is anticipated to be fairly simple.

The HIPs evaluated represent a variety of resource areas and approaches including island restoration/creation, shoreline stabilization, wetland restoration/creation, bird nesting habitat improvements, invasive plant species control, native plant species restoration, fish habitat structures, and fish culture.  Some HIPs were species specific (e.g., black tern or common tern nesting) while others serve multiple functions (such as wetland restoration/creation).  Our approach to evaluating the multiple-function HIPs was to consider designs that would benefit as many species as possible while still maintaining the overall intended function or purpose of the HIP.  Finally, some HIPs were evaluated from a generic standpoint (e.g., control of invasive plants or installation of fish habitat structures) and could likely be applied to other locations in addition to those identified in our evaluation.

 

3.0     DESCRIPTIONS OF HIP

A description of each HIP is provided in the subsequent subsections of Section 3.0.  All figures, drawings, and photographs pertaining to a particular HIP are found at the end of the text describing that HIP.  Three maps are provided to show the location of the HIPs.  Figure 3.0-1 shows HIPs located from Buffalo Harbor to Strawberry Island.  Figure 3.0-2 shows the location of HIPs in the section of the River from Strawberry Island to the downstream end of Grand Island, while Figure 3.0-3 shows HIPs between the downstream end of Grand Island and Lewiston, NY. 

 

Figure 3.0-1

Location of Habitat Improvement Projects from Buffalo Harbor to Strawberry Island

 

Figure 3.0-2

Location of Habitat Improvement Projects from Strawberry Island to the Downstream End of Grand Island

 

Figure 3.0-3

Location of Habitat Improvement Projects from the Downstream End of Grand Island to Lewiston, New York

[NIP – General Location Maps]

 

3.1         HIP #1 – Strawberry Island Wetland Creation

3.1.1        Purpose

Strawberry Island is a relatively small island located in the upper Niagara River immediately upstream of the upper tip of Grand Island.  It is owned by the State of New York and is part of Beaver Island State Park.  The island contains upland and emergent marsh habitats not typically found in the upper River.  The island was once mined for gravel, dramatically reducing its size.  In addition, island size has been further reduced due to erosion caused by severe storms (Photos 3.1-1 and 3.1-2).  In 2001, the NYSDEC implemented shoreline protection and wetland enhancement measures on the island.  The upper tip of the island and both the east and west shorelines were armored with riprap and wetland areas were created behind the riprap berms.  The wetland areas were planted with appropriate wetland plants and protected from herbivory by geese with exclusion barriers.  This HIP would create additional complex marsh and high-energy wetland habitats for fish and wildlife similar to the recent NYSDEC habitat enhancements.

3.1.2        Short-Term Objective

Design and construct shoreline protection structures downstream and contiguous with Strawberry Island to create wetlands in the footprint of the new breakwaters, and the island interior located between the new breakwaters. 

3.1.3        Long-Term Objective

Maintain or increase total wetland area of the island.  Enhance foraging, nesting/spawning, and cover habitat for fish and wildlife.

3.1.4        Target Habitat(s)

(1) Emergent wetlands with diverse structure and topography, and (2) coarse substrate areas dominated by sand/gravel, boulders, and rock, several inches to several feet below the normal water surface elevation.

3.1.5        Primary Target Species, Guilds, or Communities

Waterfowl and wading birds, the native warmwater and coolwater fish communities, and the native wetland plant community.

3.1.6        Secondary Target Species, Guilds, or Communities

Passerines; muskrat; and herpetofauna.

3.1.7        Proposed Locations

Strawberry Island (Figure 3.0-2).

3.1.8        Project Description

This project would increase the size and long-term stability of Strawberry Island using breakwaters along the newly created perimeter for shoreline protection.  Functionally valuable wetlands would be created behind the breakwaters through the placement of fill material to build elevations to optimal levels for target habitats.  The primary target function created would be enhanced fish and wildlife habitat.  However, other wetland functions, including recreational opportunity (i.e., fishing, hunting, bird watching, etc.) and water quality (i.e., sediment settling, nutrient retention, etc.) would be enhanced as well.  The new breakwater structures would be installed just downstream of similar measures recently completed by the NYSDEC.  Breakwaters would be constructed primarily of riprap.  Geotextile tubes would also be investigated as an alternative material for the more protected segments (i.e., interior portions of breakwaters).  The conceptual design described below would result in approximately 7 acres of new habitat, including the footprints of, and the area located between, the breakwaters.  This project has the potential to integrate fish habitat improvement structures (incorporated into the breakwaters), as described in HIP #15, fish habitat/attraction structures. 

3.1.9        Design Features

The detailed conceptual design presented below is based on available information such as site visits, review of design drawings and design criteria for enhancements already completed at the island, conversations with the NYSDEC, and professional judgment.  Additional information such as detailed bathymetry, water velocity data, extent of, and species composition for existing wetland vegetation, substrate composition, and a detailed review of existing enhancement structures would be needed to complete final design.  An important source of baseline information for this investigation will be a vegetation and mussel community survey conducted by the USACE in the area of Strawberry Island in 1998 (USACE 1998).  A phased approach to completing this HIP would be used as follows: (1) evaluate the existing conditions including the recent NYSDEC work, (2) complete design and feasibility studies using information gained in the evaluation, (3) implement the project, and (4) monitor the project.  Details of each phase are provided below.

3.1.9.1       Evaluate Existing Conditions

The existing shoreline protection and shallow island (wetland) creation measures recently completed by the NYSDEC would be evaluated as a "reference" for expanding the project downstream.  The primary focus of the evaluation would be to determine if existing measures are functioning optimally, or if design adjustments would improve success of future efforts.  The evaluation would include an investigation of structural components such as materials used (e.g., size, shape and location of riprap) and an evaluation of biological components such as any problems with exotic/invasive species and the success of wetland plantings and wetland colonization through the seedbank in placed soils.  The evaluation should also include a focus on identifying optimal design elevations for shoreline protection structures and island interior substrates that result in optimal wetland structure and function for target species. 

Substrate composition would be evaluated within the proposed work area to determine soil stability and suitability for placement of enhancement structures.  Dredging may be needed in some locations to construct habitat features.  As such, testing of substrates for potential contamination may or may not be required by regulators as part of the permitting completed during the final design. 

As part of the existing conditions evaluation, the extent of, and species composition for wetland vegetation and the bathymetry within the footprint of the proposed structures would be determined.  This information would be considered in developing the location and extent of the proposed structures.  Bathymetry is available as part of the NYSDEC design drawing package (Acres 2000).  However, this bathymetry, completed by the USACE in 1975, does not extend to the entire relevant area for this HIP.  In addition, these data may not reflect existing conditions accurately since the recent NYSDEC work has likely affected sediment distribution downstream of Strawberry Island in the footprint of the potential structures for this HIP.  Existing bathymetry will dictate several key design parameters including fill volumes, height/diameter of geotextile tubes (if used), and the height of riprap.  Other areas of interest that would be evaluated are how velocities, dominant wind direction and fetch as related to wave height, as well as sediment grain size effect design. 

Lastly, the evaluation of existing conditions for this HIP would include an analysis of historic information, including aerial photos.  Undated aerial photos (probably from before 1950) and dated aerials from 1954 and 1938 indicate that Strawberry Island was historically much larger.  These photos will be examined to determine the historic configuration of the Island and any information on patterns of erosion and deposition that may be interpreted.  In addition, historical photos and/or written documentation would be used as available to assist in determining the historic island cover types (e.g., forested, emergent marsh).

3.1.9.2       Design Features and Feasibility Studies

Breakwater Design

One of the final design considerations would be to ensure that the design grade, materials, and location in the River are stable and would allow the target habitats to develop in an aggrading (depositional) or static environment, rather than an erosive environment.  Stones, sediments, and engineered structures (e.g., geotextile tubes and timber) would be sized/located to withstand the given hydraulic properties and riverine conditions (velocity, flow, ice, and sediment dynamics).  A desktop analysis would be performed on the long-term viability of using geotextile tubes instead of riprap in some locations given the specific conditions of this section of the River.

The design would consist of two separate breakwaters with an "exterior" and an "interior" wall.  The eastern breakwater would be approximately 500 linear feet (lf) extending downstream (north) from the recently completed NYSDEC breakwater structures.  The western breakwater would be significantly shorter as a result of the configuration of shallow sediments and deep water downstream from the island (Figures 3.1-1 and 3.1-2).  In addition, final design efforts for this breakwater will need to carefully consider soil stability issues because preliminary information indicates that some portions of the area may contain unconsolidated sediments and may be unsuitable to support breakwater structures. 

To make the island as large as practically possible, the eastern breakwater would be aligned along the edge of deep water, as visible on recent aerial photographs (Figure 3.1-1).  This alignment results in a significant overlap between the new breakwater and the downstream portion of the existing breakwater.  To increase total area of habitat and provide access by fish and wildlife to the interior of the Island, the conceptual design includes an open channel between the new and existing breakwaters where the two overlap (Figures 3.1-1 and 3.1-2).

The outside (River) edge of the breakwaters would be constructed of standard riprap material similar to the recent construction completed on upstream portions of the Island.  Groins that are transverse to the flow would be used to reduce erosion and encourage sediment settling in the protected area behind the outer breakwater during high flow events when the outer breakwater would be overtopped (Figures 3.1-1, 3.1-2, and 3.1-3).  The inside edge of the breakwaters would be more protected and could be constructed of either geotextile tube filled with sediment, or riprap, depending on design.  At this time we assume that geotextile tubing would be used only on the inside portion of the western breakwater as shown on Figures 3.1-1, 3.1-2, and 3.1-3, while the remainder of the inside edge would be riprap barriers.

Riprap on the exterior breakwater would be sized to withstand flood flow velocities and ice.  Angular rock with irregular edges should be used instead of round rock.  Angular rock provides better interlocking qualities and tends to trap sediment in its interstices, whereas round rock tends to slip at slopes >1:2 and does not hold in place as well (Robinson 2003; Kleinschmidt project experience).  Materials used for groins would be a maximum particle size of 12 inches.  Breakwaters would be composed of two types of materials.  The core material of the breakwater (Type 1) would be a Fine Stone Filling per NYSDOT Specification (Figure 3.1-3).  The outer portion of the breakwater would be a Medium Stone Filling, again as per NYSDOT Specification (Figure 3.1-3).  The entire breakwater structure would be constructed on top of a layer of geotextile fabric to separate the breakwater from the existing substrate beneath for long term stability.  This fabric would extend to the backside of the breakwater to prevent mixing of the breakwater stone with the marsh soil sediment (described below).  Such a standard breakwater design is similar to the design implemented by the NYSDEC in 2001 on the north side of Strawberry Island (Acres 2000).  Riprap breakwater structures would need to be about 5-6 ft high based on the recent NYSDEC design and on preliminary bathymetry from the USACE Buffalo District (Acres 2000).  Stone structures to stabilize shorelines can also be designed to maximize submerged habitat/structure for fish (HIP #15) (Fischenich and Allen 2000; Caulk et al. 2000).  The fish habitat structures would be installed primarily on the deep-water (River) edge of the breakwater (Figures 3.1-1, 3.1-2, and 3.1-4).  The orientation of these structures would likely be site-specific depending on depth, velocity, and habitat objectives at the installation location.  The structures could be placed to create specific areas of sediment deposition, areas of increased current velocity, or used primarily as current velocity shelters depending on location and objectives.      

Geotextile tubing is a newer technique that is currently being used by the USACE and others to build breakwater structures in marine and freshwater environments.  Geotextile tubing shows promise as a cost-effective alternative to riprap that can be more natural looking than riprap.  However, geotextile tubes may not last as long, and should be viewed as “experimental” since they have not been proven to withstand the forces of ice and floating debris, such as trees.  A primary design consideration is that the geotextile tube(s) should not move laterally during high-energy events (Martin 1998).  There are a few approaches to keep tubes from sliding.  First, roll-resistant, flat (trapezoidal in cross-section) tubes are recommended to promote stability.  Second, several smaller tubes can be stacked like a pyramid to obtain the desired height instead of specifying a single diameter tube (Martin 1998).  Martin (1998) recommends the multiple tube stacking technique because of enhanced structural flexibility and adjustability, as well as ease of construction and less likelihood of catastrophic failure.  Tubes can be filled with sand.  It may also be possible to use local dredged material in the tubes as a “beneficial use” depending on the source of the material.  Beneficial use is defined by the USACE as the use of sediments as resource materials in productive ways, thus limiting off-site transport.  The permitting process for dredging encourages such uses as long as the sediments are not contaminated beyond specific thresholds.

Wetland Habitat

The area between the exterior and interior walls of each breakwater would be designed to create emergent marsh.  Gaps in the interior walls of each breakwater would allow exchange of water into and out of the marsh areas and permit access for fish and wildlife (Figures 3.1-1 and 3.1-2).  Soil from the stockpile at Buckhorn Marsh would be placed in-between the groin structures.  Soils from Buckhorn Marsh have been used by the NYSDEC in other wetland projects with good success and the use of these soils here is encouraged.  Alternative sources of hydric soils will be identified as necessary only if there is not enough soil available from the Buckhorn Marsh stockpile.  Hydric soils that are purchased or brought in from a location other than Buckhorn Marsh would need to meet a specification such as bulk density of less than 1.5 grams/cubic cm, pH levels between 5.0 and 7.0, and a loamy texture (no more than 28% clay and no more than 70% sand/gravel). 

Temporary erosion control fabric would be placed over the soil in the area immediately adjacent to the breakwater to provide erosion control in the event that the breakwater is overtopped prior to establishment of vegetation.  The design elevations of this soil would be variable to create habitat complexity (Figure 3.1-3).  The recent work the NYSDEC completed was designed to create both shallow marsh (0.5 ft above to 0.5 ft below the mean water level) and deep marsh (0.5 ft below to 3.0 ft below the surface) areas.  The NYSDEC has stated however, that some of the shallow marsh areas were being colonized by upland species due to lower water elevations than anticipated (NYSDEC, October 3 meeting).  Since the two years immediately following construction of the existing Strawberry Island breakwaters and wetlands were atypically dry with low water level, it will be important to monitor the existing work prior to a final design for the proposed project after several years of "typical" water levels. 

The soil from Buckhorn Marsh is assumed to have a native seed bank, but natural colonization would be supplemented with plantings to ensure that desired native species appropriate for the design elevations get a head start.  Prior to utilizing Buckhorn soils, a germination study would be conducted to determine which plant species have viable seed in the stockpile.  Planting plans and plans for exotic and invasive species control would be finalized based on this information.   

Planted species would include bulrushes (e.g., hardstem and river) and native emergents tolerant of deep marsh elevations (e.g., giant burreed, pickerelweed, and arrowhead).  Plantings would include containerized stock and plugs in marsh areas, and live-dormant willow and dogwood material (e.g., stakes, wattles, cuttings) adjacent to riprapped areas and in higher elevations.  Overhead barrier grids and exclusion barriers would be required during plant establishment (at least 1 year) to limit herbivory from geese, and to prevent areas above the water line from becoming loafing locations for geese and gulls.  An overhead barrier grid would likely be constructed of ply-electric fencing wire strung in a 2-4 ft grid pattern and anchored with metal fence posts.  On average, the grid would be about 4 ft off the ground.  A barrier for walking Canada geese should be made from fence materials at least 30 inches high with openings no larger than 3 inches by 3 inches.  Barrier fences may be constructed from woven wire, chicken wire, welded wire, plastic snow fencing, or rolled corn cribbing.  Used fence materials are an inexpensive source of barrier fencing.  Other acceptable methods include the use of reflective tape or battery-powered electric fencing.

In addition to plantings, this HIP would consider the introduction of frogs to the Island to add an important component of the marsh ecosystem that is currently missing.  Two species that should be considered are the green frog and the bullfrog.  Egg masses could be collected from areas such as Buckhorn Marsh and transferred to the Island.  Utilizing stock from local areas like Buckhorn Marsh would ensure the transfer of local genotypes to the Island, which would maximize the chance of introduction success and minimize any of risk transferring pathogens or undesirable genetic traits to frog populations adjacent to Strawberry Island.

Finally, intermediate-height perching structures would be installed in the open wetlands on the downstream end of the Island.  These structures would consist of single poles 3-4 inches in diameter driven into the River bottom to a height of 5-10 ft above the water surface.  They would provide perches for birds such as common tern, black tern, and Caspian tern.  The use of larger diameter poles or poles with cross arms is not recommended because these types of perches would likely be used by cormorants.  Poles could be installed by pushing them into the River bottom with the bucket of a backhoe or loader.  Perch design may include a PVC collar around the pole from the Riverbed to 1 ft above the high water line (HWL) to prevent ice lifting in winter.

Deep Water Areas

The area between the new breakwaters in the interior of the Island could be modified by dredging a deep-water portion connecting the River on either side of the Island and the area downstream of the Island.  This would permit fish access into the emergent marsh areas and into the new island interior.  Final design efforts for location and extent of the deep-water areas would be dependent on the information for existing bathymetry, substrates, aquatic vegetation, and the anticipated potential for sedimentation to occur after the deep water areas were created.  It should be noted that the configuration of Strawberry Island may lend itself to sediment deposition in the Island interior so periodic dredging of deep pools and channels may be necessary.  Although if properly designed to discourage sedimentation and sited in the right location, these features may last for decades as the sediment load is anticipated to be relatively low in this section of the River.   

 

Erosion and Sediment Control

The design would include an erosion and sediment control plan.  This would involve the use of a turbidity curtain to be placed around active work areas and unstable areas that could potentially erode.  Plans to immediately establish vegetation on exposed soils would also be specified.

3.1.10    Construction

Construction techniques for this HIP are fairly straightforward and require no specialized equipment.  A barge equipped with a loader would be used to place riprap material, geotextile tubes, and finer material, and to deliver plant materials.  Final shaping and contouring of sand and fine textured areas would be accomplished using a crane with a bucket during low or normal flow conditions (i.e., not during high flow events).  Track-driven dump trucks, backhoes, and loaders have been in this area or in areas adjacent to Strawberry Island in the past with good success, and it is anticipated that this type of equipment would be used in construction of this HIP.   

3.1.11    Effectiveness Monitoring

The recommended monitoring plan below is based on the current conceptual design.  A final effectiveness monitoring plan would need to be developed after the final design was established.  Vegetation at the site would need to be monitored weekly for a period of six weeks following installation until new plantings were established and exposed soils were stabilized.  Once plants were established and soils were stabilized, the site would need to be monitored each month of the growing season (roughly May through September) for the remainder of the growing season (this assumes spring or early summer construction; if construction occurs in the fall, this monthly monitoring would occur the following year).  For the next four years the site should be monitored once at the beginning of the growing season (May through early June) and once at the end of the growing season (September) for a total of five years of monitoring after construction. 

In addition to ensuring establishment of vegetation, the overall objectives of the effectiveness monitoring for this HIP would be to determine if habitats have been created as designed and to establish actions needed for follow-up or repair work.  Since the existing Strawberry Island structures and the potential additional structures would be viewed as a single project with regard to ecological functions, the monitoring and maintenance work would include the existing structures as well as the new areas created as a result of this HIP.  This could be completed in cooperation with the NYSDEC.  The recommended effectiveness monitoring is not intended as a quantitative evaluation of habitat use by wetland mammal, bird, or fish species.  The following project components would be evaluated:

·         The survival of plants in the riparian zone would be monitored during the first growing season and dead plants would be replaced to ensure an overall survival rate of 75% of the original planting density.

·         Exotic and invasive species would be monitored, and recommendations for control would be made as necessary.  Spot applications of glyphosate (e.g., Rodeo®) and careful hand pulling could be used to control individual plants or groupings of plants.  Broadcast of herbicides would be avoided.  Biological control such as the use of European weevils and beetles to control purple loosestrife would also be strongly considered (see HIP #8).  Permits from the NYSDEC to apply glyphosate products in specific areas would be obtained as necessary (all 5 years).

·         Exclusion barriers would be monitored as necessary until the plants are mature.  Any maintenance needed would be identified (all 5 years).

·         Bank stability and degree of erosion would be evaluated.  If occurring at significant levels, specific measures to address stability (e.g., use of geotextile fabric, additional riprap, additional plantings, grade adjustments, etc.) would be identified (all 5 years).

·         Integrity of the structures would be evaluated.  This would include functionality/stability of riprap and other structures such as fish habitat structures.  This would consist of observations on whether structures conform to design specifications (e.g., correct depth, functional cover characteristics, stability).  

·         Vegetated habitat structure and function would be evaluated.  This would entail an assessment of whether habitats are functioning as intended.  Specifically, a check-list of habitat objectives would be developed and would include: hydrologic observations (e.g., are water depths as intended for plant survival and habitat function), habitat structure observations (e.g., is habitat heterogeneity as intended including irregular edges, variable depths, plant density and vertical structure), presence/absence and estimated percent aerial cover of exotic/invasive plants/animals (e.g., common reed, purple loosestrife, zebra mussels), and general observations on native vegetation colonization (e.g., from seed bank and adjacent source material) as well as success of plantings (all 5 years).

·         Qualitative observations on habitat use by wildlife and fish when evaluators are in the field (all 5 years).

This monitoring would be conducted by a team of two (at a minimum) that includes an engineer and a biologist the first year.  It would not be necessary to have both present at each weekly and monthly visit, but an engineer would be required to visit at least twice.  During subsequent years, the site monitoring could be conducted by a biologist, and engineering expertise would be called-on only as specific situations warrant (e.g., failing riprap, structural instability, excessive erosion).  Photographs would be taken during each site visit to develop a photographic log for comparative purposes.  An annual monitoring report would be prepared that details the findings of the investigations.  This report would include recommendations (if any) for modifications or repairs.  It would also include justification for not recommending modifications or repairs when as-built conditions deviate from the design.  For example, if only 50% of the plantings in a specific area have survived but a robust community of native colonizers has established to fill the void, this would be noted but it might be suggested that plant replacement is unnecessary.

3.1.12    Maintenance

Maintenance for this HIP would primarily involve activities associated with replacement of dead plants, control of exotic invasive species, repairs to breakwater structures, and perhaps over the long-term (> 15 years) some dredging of areas that have filled in but were intended to be deep-water areas.  The most intensive work would be anticipated to occur within the first 5 years after construction.  Most maintenance activities would be associated with effectiveness monitoring activities described above, although periodic maintenance of breakwater structures may be required at any time in the future following particularly severe storm events. 

3.1.13    Project Constraints

·         There could be a significant effort to obtain permits for the project, including approvals from the International Joint Commission (IJC) and USACE.  Permitting considerations include addressing the potential for changes in water levels, navigation, or velocities in international waters as well as complying with the requirements of the Coastal Zone Management Program.  Permitting for the existing Strawberry Island enhancements was difficult in part because of international navigation issues and flow modification issues related to placement of fill (NYSDEC, October 3 meeting).

·         The structures would need to withstand significant forces due to ice and wind-driven waves.  Periodic severe storms have caused substantial damage from erosion to Strawberry Island in the past.

·         The USFWS (2000) reports sturgeon sightings in the Strawberry Island area.  It may be necessary to investigate whether this project would impact important habitat for this species.

·         This project would require a long-term commitment to the control of exotic and invasive plant species and a short-term commitment to controlling herbivory. 

·         During and shortly after construction there may be temporary aesthetic impacts as a result of exposed and disturbed soils, equipment, and construction traffic.

3.1.14    Feasibility

Through proper design, construction, and a commitment to periodic maintenance, creation of approximately 7 acres of diverse wetland habitat for fish, wildlife, and waterbirds is possible.  The HIP project completed by the NYSDEC on the upstream portions of Strawberry Island appears to have been successful in stabilizing shorelines and creating wetland habitat.  In addition, similar projects have been completed in the Upper Mississippi River and elsewhere in recent years (Johnson 2000).  Recently constructed island projects in the Upper Mississippi River have weathered storms and high flow conditions extremely well (Johnson 2000).  The fact that this HIP is immediately downstream of and protected by the existing NYSDEC project increases the feasibility of successful implementation.  Permitting challenges, driven by the potential for impacts associated with the placement of fill in a navigable waterway (e.g., potential effects related to changes in flow dynamics, navigation, and habitat) however decrease the overall feasibility.  There is some potential for the project to affect boating safety and navigation, and to negatively affect fishing/hunting while the project is under construction although the project is expected to ultimately improve fishing and hunting opportunities, and navigation/safety concerns should not be an issue with proper planning.  Other considerations include the fact that, although the existing Strawberry Island project appears to have been successful at this time, it has not yet been proven that the structures and plant communities are able to withstand significant River forces such as ice, shear stress from flood flows, and wind driven waves for extended periods (i.e., decades).  Riprap breakwaters, however, have been used extensively in a variety of high-energy environments for over a century and have been proven to be reliable as long as properly designed (Robinson 2003).  Based on these considerations, the overall feasibility of this HIP is good. 

3.1.15    References

R1019215686 \ Text Reference: Acres 2000 \ Acres International Corporation.  2000.  Strawberry Island Phase 3 Erosion Control and Aquatic Restoration Technical Specifications.  Prep. for New York State Department of Environmental Conservation in association with the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. 

R1019215692 \ Text Reference: Caulk et al. 2000 \ Caulk, A.D., J.E. Gannon, J.R. Shaw, and J.H. Hartig (eds.).  2000.  Best Management Practices for Soft Engineering of Shorelines.  Greater Detroit American Heritage River Initiative.

R1019215691 \ Text Reference: Fischenich and Allen 2000 \ Fischenich, J.C., and H. Allen.  2000.  Stream Management.  ERDC/EL SR-W-00-1.  U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Engineer Research and Development Center, Environmental Laboratory. 

R1019215693 \ Text Reference: Johnson 2000 \ Johnson, Barry.  2000.  Constructing Islands for Habitat Rehabilitation.  In: Best Management Practices for Soft Engineering of Shorelines.  ed. A.D. Caulk, J.E. Gannon, J.R. Shaw, and J.H. Hartig.  Greater Detroit American Heritage River Initiative. 

R1019215694 \ Text Reference: Martin 1998 \ Martin, Tom.  1998.  Stability of Geotextile Breakwater Structures in an Offshore Environment.  In: Proceedings of the Coastal Engineering Workshop, April 1998, New York, NY, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. 

R1019215697 \ Text Reference: Means 2003 \ Means, R.S.  2003.  Heavy Construction Cost Data.  16th annual edition. 

R1019215695 \ Text Reference: NYSDOT 1995 \ New York State Department of Transportation.  1995.  Standard Specifications and Construction Materials. 

R1019215696 \ Text Reference: Robinson 2003 \ Robinson, Linda.  2003.  Mats, concrete, blocks, and rocks: the lowdown on riprap.  Erosion Control Sept.-Oct.

R1019215019 \ Text Reference: USACE 1998 \ U.S. Army Engineer Experiment Station.  1998.  Survey of Vegetation and Mussel Communities at Strawberry Island, Niagara River, NY. 

R1019215698 \ Text Reference: USFWS 2000 \ U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  2000.  Great Lakes Native Fish Restoration:  Lake Sturgeon.  FY 1997 Fisheries Stewardship Proposal.  Final Progress Report.  USFWS Region 5, Hadley, MA. 

R1019215699 \ Text Reference: Zentner 2003 \ Zentner, J., J. Glaspy, and D. Schenk.  2003.  Wetland and riparian woodland restoration costs.  Ecological Restoration September 2003.

 

Photos 3.1-1 and 3.1-2.

Strawberry Island in 1938 (top) and 2002 (bottom)

 

 

 

Note:  The size and shape of the Island has been changed dramatically from gravel mining and erosion.  The triangular shaped indentation from the lower end of the Island into the center seen in the top photo is likely a result of mining.  The breakwaters and groins noticeable on the lower photo (2002) is a result of protection and enhancement work recently completed by NYSDEC.

 

Figure 3.1-1

Aerial Photo with Plan View of Existing and Proposed Habitat Improvement Structures at Strawberry Island, Design Based on 2002 True Color Orthophotography

 

Figure 3.1-2

Plan View of Existing and Proposed Habitat Improvement Structures at Strawberry Island, Design Based on 2002 True Color Orthophotography 

 

Figure 3.1-3

Section Views of Breakwater and Groin Areas for Proposed Habitat Improvement Structures at Strawberry Island

 

Figure 3.1-4

Strawberry Island Optional Large Riprap Groin Fish Attraction Structures

 

3.2          HIP #2 – Frog Island Restoration

3.2.1        Purpose

Historically, a small group of islands occurred between Motor Island and Strawberry Island (Photo 3.2-1).  Anecdotal data indicates that the islands were mined for gravel many decades ago; leaving only relatively homogeneous shallow-water habitat that lacks complexity and structure.  This HIP would restore habitat complexity and create marsh, exposed areas, and submerged coarse substrates for fish and wildlife in the area formerly occupied by the islands.

3.2.2        Short -Term Objective

Restore Frog Island to a complex of functionally valuable wetlands and areas of submerged coarse substrate.

3.2.1        Long-Term Objective

Enhance foraging, nesting/spawning, and cover habitat for fish and wildlife by maintaining the Frog Island complex.

3.2.2        Target Habitat(s)

(1) Emergent wetlands with diverse structure and topography, and (2) coarse areas dominated by boulders, cobble and gravel several inches to several feet below the normal water surface.

3.2.3        Primary Target Species, Guilds, or Communities

Warmwater and coolwater fish; waterfowl and wading birds; and, the native wetland plant community.

3.2.4        Secondary Target Species, Guilds, or Communities

Muskrat; passerines; green frog, and bullfrog.

3.2.5        Proposed Locations

Between Strawberry Island and Motor Island (Figure 3.0-2). 

3.2.6        Project Description

This Project would restore/create approximately 5.5 acres of island and associated habitat using a U-shaped perimeter of breakwater structures in the approximate vicinity of the historical island complex (Figures 3.2-1 and 3.2-2).  The project would create diverse habitat conditions within and between the breakwaters including coarse (boulders, cobbles, and gravel) and fine (muck, silt, clay, and sand) substrate at variable depths ranging from just above the normal water level to several feet below the normal water level to facilitate the development of wetland interspersed with deeper areas and shoal habitat.

3.2.7        Design Features

The detailed conceptual design presented below is based on available information such as site visits, conversations with the NYSDEC, and professional judgment.  Additional information such as detailed bathymetry, current velocity, substrate composition, and existing habitat conditions would be needed to complete final design.  An important source of baseline information for this investigation will be a vegetation and mussel community survey conducted by the USACE in the area of Strawberry Island in 1998 (USACE 1998).  A phased approach to completing this HIP would be used as follows: (1) evaluate the existing conditions; (2) complete design and feasibility studies using information gained in the evaluation; (3) implement the project; and (4) monitor the project.  Details of each phase are provided below.

3.2.7.1       Evaluate Existing Conditions

Existing conditions, such as current velocity and direction; substrate type; wind direction and fetch; extent of and species composition for wetland vegetation; and the extent of water level fluctuations would be evaluated to determine specific design criteria and location for this HIP.  As part of the existing conditions surveys, bathymetry work would need to be completed within the footprint of the proposed design.  Bathymetry would dictate several key design parameters including fill volumes, height/diameter of geotextile tubes, and height of riprap.  In addition, recent work completed at Strawberry Island would be investigated as a reference to help determine optimal design grade and elevation for Frog Island.  The design team would ensure that the design grade, materials, and location in the River were stable and would allow the marsh habitats to develop in an aggrading (depositional) or static environment, rather than an erosive environment, and would permit adequate flushing (neither aggrading nor eroding) in coarse substrate areas and deep water channels/pools.  Rock material and sediments would be sized/located to withstand the given hydraulic properties and riverine conditions (velocity, flow, and sediment dynamics) expected.

Substrate composition would be evaluated within the proposed work area to determine soil stability and suitability for placement of project structures.  Dredging of some areas would be pursued to create deep pools within the island interior.  Cut and fill would be balanced such that the dredged material would be deposited in an adjacent area to create wetlands.  As such, testing of substrates for potential contamination may or may not be required by regulators as part of the permitting completed during final design. 

Historical photos and/or written documentation would also be used as available to assist in determining the historical extent and approximate cover types of this former island.  Historical aerial photographs (including photographs from 1938 and 1954) show Frog Island as a small cluster of three treeless islands approximately 1.2 acres in size (1938).  Although this HIP would create approximately 5.5 acres of new habitat, only about one third of this would be exposed (i.e., elevations above MWL as with the former island), with remaining areas to be marsh (slightly below MWL) and deep-water channels and pockets (Figures 3.2-1 and 3.2-2).

3.2.7.2       Design Features and Feasibility Studies

Breakwater Design

A U-shaped wall of breakwaters with periodic gaps would define the perimeter of the island (Figures 3.2-1 and 3.2-2).  The exact size and specific location of the structures would be determined in final design based on the existing conditions survey to ensure that desirable habitats that may already exist in the area are not negatively impacted by construction.  The upstream breakwater section (closed end of the “U”) would be oriented roughly perpendicular to the flow to deflect high velocities around the sides of the Island.  As with Strawberry Island, additional breakwaters would define the outer island edges to form the “U”.  The island would be designed with slightly higher elevations at the upstream end so that when the island was overtopped during high flow events, the downstream portions of the Island would be flooded first to reduce hydraulic head on the upstream breakwater and minimize erosion and scour directly behind this structure (Johnson 2000).  Each breakwater section would consist of an outer line of riprap at the River/Island interface, groins perpendicular to the line of riprap in the breakwater interior, and an inside rock barrier (lower in elevation than the outer riprap)  (Figures 3.2-1 and 3.2-2).  The periodic gaps in the breakwaters would be designed to encourage flushing action and allow fish to easily access the island interior.

 

Wetlands and Coarse Substrates

Coarse substrates (sand, gravel, cobble, boulders) would be placed within the island interior (between the breakwater structures) in a complex pattern so that there would be a range of microhabitats and depths.  Finer substrate areas (e.g., sand, silt, and muck) would also be included to accommodate the growth of marsh emergent cover types at slightly higher elevations and in the more protected places (such as within the interior of the breakwater structures and on top of mounds created in the island interior) (Figures 3.2-1 and 3.2-2).  Coarse areas would be submerged sufficiently to provide contrasting habitat for fish and waterbirds, and would be located in less protected places (such as within the breaks between breakwaters, deep water pockets excavated within the island interior, deep water channels within the island interior, and a single shoal located at the northeast tip of the island).  The two habitat types should be relatively evenly dispersed in a somewhat irregular pattern (irregular edges between them) throughout the island.  The use of discontinuous breakwaters along the sides of the island requires less material than a continuous line of riprap and, importantly, provides better access to interior portions of the island for shorebirds, turtles, fish, and other fauna (Johnson 2000).  Substrate from Buckhorn Marsh would be used in protected areas where marsh emergent vegetation is desired.  Alternative sources of topsoil will be identified as necessary (i.e., if it is determined that Buckhorn soils cannot be used, or if there is not enough of it to complete all wetland-related HIPs), and, if required, would be trucked to the site.   

Design elevations/depths for target habitat types would be as follows: shallow marsh (0.5 ft above to 0.5 ft below the MWL), deep marsh (0.5 ft below to 3.0 ft below MWL), deep, coarse channels and pools (3.0-8.0 ft below MWL), and rocky shoal (3-6 ft below MWL) as shown on Figures 3.2-1, 3.2-2 and 3.2-3. 

The precise locations of habitat features shown on Figure 3.2-1 such as deep-water pools, the shoal, deep-water channels, marshes, and exposed areas may need to be modified somewhat depending on actual site conditions.  Boulders, cobbles, and gravel would need to be imported from off site.  Some amount of sandy material may be available at the island sites and would be used as available.  Cut and fill would be balanced (i.e., exposed mounds in the island interior would be made from material excavated to create the deep-water pockets).  Material for the island would include only dredged material from the Niagara River if that material is found to be non-contaminated. 

A planting plan would be prepared that would include native, containerized stock and plugs in marsh areas.  Coarse substrates <3 ft deep would be planted with native bulrushes tolerant of sandy substrates such as river bulrush and hardstem bulrush.  Areas with a higher degree of fines would include marsh species such as pickerelweed, arrowhead, and smartweeds (Polygonum spp). 

The seed bank from the Buckhorn Marsh stockpile is expected to have viable native seeds present and some amount of natural colonization would be expected.  Prior to utilizing Buckhorn soils, a germination study would be conducted to determine which plant species have viable seed in the stockpile.  Planting plans and plans for exotic and invasive species control would be finalized based on this information.  Overhead barrier grids and exclusion barriers would be required during plant establishment (at least 1 year) to limit herbivory from geese and to prevent areas above the water line from becoming loafing locations for geese and gulls.  An overhead barrier grid would likely be constructed of ply-electric fencing wire strung in a 2-4 ft grid pattern and anchored with metal fence posts.  On average, the grid would be about 4 ft off the ground.  A barrier for walking Canada geese should be made from fence materials at least 30 inches high with openings no larger than 3 inches by 3 inches.  Barrier fences may be constructed from woven wire, chicken wire, welded wire, plastic snow fencing, or rolled corn cribbing.  Used fence materials are an inexpensive source of barrier fencing.  Other acceptable methods include the use of reflective tape or battery-powered electric fencing.

The Frog Island project would be designed to accommodate significant flushing action through the deeper channels that occur in the breakwater gaps.  Sediment deposition would be expected in more protected portions of the Island interior, and the most erosive velocities are directed around the riprap that defines the Island perimeter.

Stone structures to stabilize shorelines could also be designed to maximize submerged habitat/structure for fish (e.g., the submerged portions of the breakwater structures themselves).  Such fish habitat structures would be installed along the deep-water (River) edge of breakwater structures (Figure 3.2-4).  The orientation of these structures would likely be site-specific depending on depth, velocity, and habitat objectives at the installation location.  The structures could be placed to create specific areas of sediment deposition, areas of increased current velocity, or used primarily as current velocity shelters depending on location and objectives.      

This HIP would also consider the introduction of frogs to the wetland complex.  Two species that should be considered are the green frog and the bullfrog.  Egg masses could be collected from areas such as Buckhorn Marsh and transferred to the Island.  Utilizing stock from local areas like Buckhorn Marsh would ensure the transfer of local genotypes to the Island which would maximize the chance of introduction success and minimize any of risk transferring pathogens or undesirable genetic traits to frog populations adjacent to Frog Island.

Finally, intermediate-height perching structures would be installed in the open wetlands.  These structures would consist of single poles 3-4 inches in diameter driven into the River bottom to a height of 5-10 ft above the water surface.  They would provide perches for birds such as common tern, black tern, and Caspian tern.  The use of larger diameter poles or poles with cross arms is not recommended because these types of perches would likely be used by cormorants.  Installation of the poles may be simply accomplished by pushing them into the River bottom with the bucket of a backhoe or loader.  Perch design may include a PVC collar around the pole from the River bed to 1 ft above HWL to prevent ice lifting in winter.    

Erosion and Sediment Control

The design would include an erosion and sediment control plan.  This would involve the use of a turbidity curtain to be placed around active work areas and unstable areas that could potentially erode.  Plans to immediately establish vegetation on exposed soils would also be specified.

3.2.8        Construction

Construction techniques for this HIP are fairly straightforward and require no specialized equipment.  A barge equipped with a loader would be used to place riprap material, and finer material, and to deliver plant materials.  Final shaping and contouring would be accomplished using a crane with a bucket during low or normal flow conditions (i.e., not during high flows). Track-driven dump trucks, backhoes, and loaders have been in areas adjacent to Frog Island in the past with good success and it is anticipated that this type of equipment would be used in construction of this HIP.     

3.2.9        Effectiveness Monitoring

The recommended monitoring plan below is based on the current conceptual design.  A final effectiveness monitoring plan would need to be developed after the final design was established.  Vegetation at the site would need to be monitored weekly for a period of six weeks following installation, until new plantings were established and exposed soils were stabilized.  Once plants were established and soils were stabilized, the site should be monitored each month of the growing season (May through September) for the remainder of the growing season (this assumes spring or early summer construction; if construction occurs in the fall, this monthly monitoring would occur the following year).  For the next four years the site should be monitored once at the beginning of the growing season (May through early June) and once at the end of the growing season (September) for a total of five years of monitoring after construction. 

In addition to ensuring establishment of vegetation, the overall objectives of the effectiveness monitoring for this HIP would be to determine if habitats are functioning as designed and to establish actions needed for follow-up or repair work.  The recommended effectiveness monitoring is not intended as a quantitative evaluation of habitat use by wetland animal, bird, or fish species.  The following project components would be evaluated:

·         The survival of plants in the riparian zone would be monitored during the first growing season and dead plants would be replaced to assure an overall survival rate of 75% of the original planting density.

·         Exotic and invasive species would be monitored, and recommendations for control would be made as necessary.  Spot applications of glyphosate (e.g., Rodeo®) and careful hand pulling could be used to control individual plants or groupings of plants.  Broadcast of herbicides would be avoided.  Biological control such as the use of European weevils and beetles to control purple loosestrife would also be strongly considered (see HIP #8).  Permits from the NYSDEC to apply glyphosate products in specific areas would be obtained as necessary (all 5 years).

·         Exclusion barriers would be monitored as necessary until the plants are mature.  Any maintenance needed would be identified (all 5 years).

·         Bank stability and degree of erosion would be evaluated.  If occurring at significant levels, specific measures to address stability (e.g., use of geotextile fabric, additional riprap, additional plantings, grade adjustments, etc.) would be identified (all 5 years).

·         Integrity of project structures would be evaluated.  This would include functionality/stability of riprap and other structures such as fish habitat structures.  This would consist of observations on whether structures conform to design specifications (e.g., correct depth, functional cover characteristics, stability).  

·         Vegetated habitat structure and function would be evaluated.  This would entail an assessment of whether habitats are functioning as intended.  Specifically, a check-list of habitat objectives would be developed and would include: hydrologic observations (e.g., are water depths as intended for plant survival and habitat function), habitat structure observations (e.g., is habitat heterogeneity as intended including irregular edges, variable depths, plant density and vertical structure), presence/absence and estimated percent aerial cover of exotic/invasive plants/animals (e.g., common reed, purple loosestrife, zebra mussels), and general observations on native vegetation colonization (e.g., from seed bank and adjacent source material) as well as success of plantings (all 5 years).

·         Qualitative observations on habitat use by species when evaluators are in the field (all 5 years).

This monitoring should be conducted by a team of two (at a minimum) that includes an engineer and a biologist the first year.  It would not be necessary to have both present at each weekly and monthly visit, but an engineer would be required to visit at least twice.  During subsequent years, the site monitoring could be conducted by a biologist, and engineering expertise would be called-on only as specific situations warrant (e.g., failing riprap, structural instability, excessive erosion).  Photographs would be taken during each site visit to develop a photographic log for comparative purposes.  An annual monitoring report would be prepared that details the findings of the investigations.  This report would include recommendations (if any) for modifications or repairs.  It would also include justification for not recommending modifications or repairs when as-built conditions deviate from the design.  For example, if only 50% of the plantings in a specific area have survived but a robust community of native colonizers has established to fill the void, this would be noted but it might be suggested that plant replacement is unnecessary.

3.2.10    Maintenance

Maintenance for this HIP would primarily involve activities associated with replacement of dead plants, control of exotic invasive species, repairs to breakwater structures, and perhaps over the long-term (> 15 years) some dredging of areas that have filled in but were intended to be deep-water areas.  The most intensive work would be anticipated to occur within the first 5 years after construction.  Most maintenance activities would be associated with effectiveness monitoring activities described above, although periodic maintenance of breakwater structures may be required at any time in the future following particularly severe storm events. 

3.2.11    Project Constraints

·         There could be a significant effort to obtain permits for the project, including approvals from the IJC and USACE.  Permitting considerations include addressing the potential for changes in water levels, navigation, or velocities in international waters as well as complying with the requirements of the Coastal Zone Management Program.

·         The structures would need to withstand significant forces due to ice and wind-driven waves.  Periodic severe storms have caused substantial damage from erosion to Strawberry Island in the past.

·         The USFWS (2000) reports sturgeon sightings in the area.  It may be necessary to investigate whether this HIP would impact important habitat for this species.

·         This project would require a long-term commitment to the control of exotic and invasive plant species and a short-term commitment to controlling herbivory. 

·         During and shortly after construction there may be temporary aesthetic impacts as a result of exposed and disturbed soils, equipment, and construction traffic.

3.2.12    Feasibility

Habitat restoration is generally considered to have a greater chance of success than habitat creation (Kentula 1994).  The Frog Island HIP is more analogous to a habitat creation project.  Although a small island complex historically existed at this location, the islands are no longer present.  Therefore, the project is associated with a greater risk of failure as compared with projects that involve modification of existing islands (e.g., HIP #s 1 and 3).  Technical considerations include the fact that, as compared to restoration of an existing island, there is less empirical evidence of how the new island will interact with the local fluvial geomorphology which could result in unexpected maintenance or design issues.  Other considerations include the fact that it could be harder to permit a new island, compared to projects that modify existing islands or shorelines, as a result of potential impacts associated with navigation and alterations to River flows.  There is some potential for the project to affect boating safety and navigation, and to negatively affect recreational pursuits such as fishing and hunting while the project is under construction.  However, the project would ultimately improve fishing and hunting opportunities as well as passive recreation (e.g., bird watching), and navigation/safety concerns should not be an issue with proper planning.  One factor that increases chance of success is that riprap breakwaters have been used extensively in a variety of high-energy environments for over a century and have been proven to be reliable as long as properly designed (Robinson 2003).  Through proper design, construction, and a commitment to periodic maintenance, creation of approximately 5.5 acres of diverse wetland habitat for fish, wildlife, and waterbirds is feasible.  Based on these considerations, the overall feasibility of this HIP is fair/good.

3.2.13    References

R1019215686 \ Text Reference: Acres 2000 \ Acres International Corporation.  2000.  Strawberry Island Phase 3 Erosion Control and Aquatic Restoration Technical Specifications.  Prep. for New York State Department of Environmental Conservation in association with the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. 

R1019215692 \ Text Reference: Caulk et al. 2000 \ Caulk, A.D., J.E. Gannon, J.R. Shaw, and J.H. Hartig (eds.).  2000.  Best Management Practices for Soft Engineering of Shorelines.  Greater Detroit American Heritage River Initiative.

R1019215691 \ Text Reference: Fischenich and Allen 2000 \ Fischenich, J.C., and H. Allen.  2000.  Stream Management.  ERDC/EL SR-W-00-1.  U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Engineer Research and Development Center, Environmental Laboratory. 

R1019215693 \ Text Reference: Johnson 2000 \ Johnson, Barry.  2000.  Constructing Islands for Habitat Rehabilitation.  In: Best Management Practices for Soft Engineering of Shorelines.  ed. A.D. Caulk, J.E. Gannon, J.R. Shaw, and J.H. Hartig.  Greater Detroit American Heritage River Initiative. 

R1019215707 \ Text Reference: Kentula 1994 \ Kentula, M.E.  1994.  Restoration, Creation, and Recovery of Wetlands.  In: Wetland Restoration and Creation, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Summary on Wetland Resources, U.S. Geological Survey Water Supply Paper 2425. 

R1019215697 \ Text Reference: Means 2003 \ Means, R.S.  2003.  Heavy Construction Cost Data.  16th annual edition. 

R1019215696 \ Text Reference: Robinson 2003 \ Robinson, Linda.  2003.  Mats, concrete, blocks, and rocks: the lowdown on riprap.  Erosion Control Sept.-Oct.

R1019215019 \ Text Reference: USACE 1998 \ U.S. Army Engineer Experiment Station.  1998.  Survey of Vegetation and Mussel Communities at Strawberry Island, Niagara River, NY. 

R1019215698 \ Text Reference: USFWS 2000 \ U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  2000.  Great Lakes Native Fish Restoration:  Lake Sturgeon.  FY 1997 Fisheries Stewardship Proposal.  Final Progress Report.  USFWS Region 5, Hadley, MA.

R1019215699 \ Text Reference: Zentner 2003 \ Zentner, J., J. Glaspy, and D. Schenk.  2003.  Wetland and riparian woodland restoration costs.  Ecological Restoration September 2003.

 

Photo 3.2.1

Aerial Photograph (1938) of the Strawberry Island (lower right) Frog Island (three small Islands in the middle) and Motor Island (upper left) Complex

Note: The three small islands of Frog Island were mined for gravel.  Remaining structure includes only a shallow-water habitat area.

 

 

Figure 3.2-1 

Aerial Photo with Plan View of Proposed Habitat Improvement Structures at Frog Island, Design Based on 2002 True Color Orthophotography

 

 

Figure 3.2-2

Plan View of Proposed Habitat Improvement Structures at Frog Island, Design Based on 2002 True Color Orthophotography 

 

 

Figure 3.2-3

Section Views of Breakwater and Groin Areas for Proposed habitat Improvement Structures at Frog Island.

 

 

Figure 3.2-4

Frog Island Optional Large Riprap Groin Fish Attraction Structures

3.3          

 

3.4         HIP#3 – Motor Island Shoreline Protection

3.4.1        Purpose

Motor Island is owned by the State of New York and managed by the NYSDEC for the protection and enhancement of fish and wildlife.  Shoreline erosion processes are currently occurring at the southern tip and along the western shoreline of Motor Island.  Additionally, existing shoreline protection structures along the eastern shoreline are in various stages of disrepair.  This side of the Island is often subject to impacts from boat wakes due to commercial and recreational boating traffic in the navigation channel.  Protection measures are necessary to minimize further damage to this important habitat feature of the upper Niagara River.  This HIP would provide shoreline protection measures along the western and eastern shorelines and at the southern tip of the Island and construct a boat landing for equipment access to the Island for this HIP and potentially for HIP #14.  Shoreline protection measures would incorporate bioengineering wherever possible to provide vegetation up to the waters edge and help stabilize erosion protection.  In addition, manmade structures such as the boat docking facilities along the western shoreline would be removed in an effort to restore the Island shoreline to as natural an appearance as possible and to minimize any unnecessary maintenance activities. 

3.4.2        Short-Term Objective

Provide shoreline protection at the southern tip and along the western and eastern shorelines of Motor Island. 

3.4.3        Long -Term Objective

Maintain long-term shoreline protection with devices designed to minimize impacts to existing habitat, maintain natural aesthetic values, and provide fish habitat functions.

3.4.4        Target Habitat(s)

Shoreline aquatic habitat and riparian vegetation. 

3.4.5        Primary Target Species, Guilds, or Communities

Muskellunge, northern pike, centrarchids, and catostomids. 

3.4.6        Secondary Target Species, Guilds, or Communities

Waterbirds and riparian wildlife.

3.4.7        Proposed Locations

The southern tip and western and eastern shorelines of Motor Island (Figure 3.0-2).

3.4.8        Project Description

The evaluation of this HIP was primarily directed at investigating shoreline protection measures.  The objectives of the shoreline protection techniques discussed below are to have minimal negative impact on existing habitat, provide the necessary protection, and to look as unobtrusive as possible.  The proposed conceptual designs are based on the best available information but it should be noted that the footprint of the protection structures or some design features could change based on an existing conditions survey that would be conducted prior to final design efforts. 

Historically, Motor Island has been utilized for a variety of activities including a recreational facility with boat docking provisions, tennis courts, and various housing structures.  Construction along the shoreline included boat-docking structures (marina) on steel piles on the west shore with a concrete block bulkhead, and wooden pile bulkheads along the southern tip and the eastern shoreline.  The concrete bulkhead on the western portion of the shoreline and the wooden pile bulkhead on the southern tip of the island are in disrepair and require maintenance or replacement to protect the island from further erosion.  Protection measures on the eastern shoreline appear to be in varying states of disrepair with some sections in fair condition and some in poor condition. 

In addition to shoreline protection, methods to integrate fish habitat/attraction structures into the protection scheme were also looked at.  Discussions during the planning meeting with the NYSDEC on October 3, 2003, indicated a desire to provide fish habitat structures along the western shoreline.  Specifically, the concept was to use the existing steel pilings in the area to support a structure that would provide overhead cover for large predator species such as muskellunge and northern pike.  Three designs to cut off the existing pilings below low water level and install underwater vertical platforms for overhead cover were developed and evaluated.  These included structures that were free standing and structures that were tied into the shoreline.  In order for any design to be successful, the pilings would need to be structurally sound.  The structural integrity of the pilings is not known, but based on initial on-site observations, the pilings do not appear to be suitable for supporting any type of structure.  Further, because these structures would likely be 3-5 ft below the MWL (i.e., below the surface), we had significant concerns that they would not be able to withstand damage from ice and wind-driven waves and would require significant long-term maintenance.  Most importantly however, this area already appears to be unique in that juvenile esocids have been collected here and altering this area may affect the quality of the spawning or rearing habitat for esocids. For these reasons, the addition of fish habitat structures in this area was not included in this HIP and we instead focused on methods to protect the western shoreline in as unobtrusive a manner as possible (i.e., smallest footprint). 

The eastern side of the Island is also known to contain important aquatic and shoreline habitat but is often subject to significant wave action from commercial and recreational boat traffic in the channel.  As such, the eastern shoreline was also considered for shoreline protection measures that would protect the Island yet impact the existing habitat as little as possible

The southern tip of the Island appears to be activity eroding and is likely the area is subject to the highest energy from wind-driven waves and ice.  Unlike the more vertical shorelines of the western and eastern shoreline, this area is relatively shallow with a low-gradient slope from the shoreline out to deep water.  Old timber crib shoreline protection is present in several locations with the remainder of the cribbing along the shoreline badly deteriorated.  This area would require a different approach to shoreline protection than either the west or east shore.        

Also included in this HIP is a boat landing area on the northeast portion of the island.  The boat landing would be used for landing construction equipment during the initial island improvements and later for monitoring activities that may be associated with this project or enhancements to the Motor Island Heron Rookery (HIP #14).  Wooden pilings or similar structures would be incorporated for mooring work vessels.  

3.4.9        Design Features

3.4.9.1       Western Shoreline

Addressing erosion on the western shoreline is complicated by the fact that both the existing aquatic and terrestrial habitat along the shoreline is somewhat unique and should be impacted as little as possible.  Specifically, based on recent surveys, this area currently provides spawning and/or nursery habitat for juvenile esocids and the shoreline vegetation (shrubs and bushes) is currently used by black-crowned night heron as perching and nesting habitat.  Traditional riprap protection would leave the greatest footprint on the existing shoreline (both aquatic and terrestrial) due to the amount of area that would need to be covered in order to provide the necessary protection.  Interlocking sheetpile would preserve the “vertical” nature of the existing shoreline and have less habitat impacts than riprap, but is aesthetically undesirable.  Because of these considerations, this HIP would use a combination of sheetpile and riprap to protect the western shoreline.  The combination of riprap and sheetpile would be installed along the western shoreline adjacent to the existing concrete block bulkhead and beyond this location in areas that need shoreline protection (Figures 3.3-1, 3.3-2, and 3.3-3).  The existing concrete block retaining wall would be removed.  The sheetpile would be placed below the low water line.  Riprap would protect the base of the sheetpile and extend several feet into the river, depending on the slope of the shoreline.  Large riprap (>2 ft minimum measurement for the smallest dimension, i.e., boulders) would be used, resulting in a matrix of interstitial spaces for fish and aquatic organisms.  The portion of the shoreline above the low water line would be protected by smaller riprap which would extend 6-12 ft inland from the sheetpile, depending on the slope of the shoreline behind the sheetpile.  Willow and/or dogwood stakes or shrubs would be planted in the riprap where possible to establish woody vegetation in these areas.  Once established, the willows would enhance the natural appearance of the protected area and provide cover and perching and nesting habitat for waterbirds.   

The existing gangways between the pilings are deteriorating and unsightly and would be removed as part of this HIP. 

3.4.9.2       Southern Tip of the Island

Due to the shallow slope of the shoreline and the high energy from waves and ice anticipated in this area, the southern tip of Motor Island would be protected by riprap.  The riprap would be large angular riprap (minimum dimension 2 ft with a substantial portion of the mix having boulders with a minimum dimension of 4 ft) and would provide interstitial spaces for aquatic organisms (Figure 3.3-4). The riprap would be installed to cover the existing wooden bulkhead, where appropriate, to below minimum water level and would be keyed in at the slope of the toe of the slope, if necessary.  Protection measures along the southern tip of the Island could also include placing geotextile bags of topsoil in some of the interstitial spaces between the riprap from MWL to the highest elevations that riprap is installed.  The bags could then be planted with willow or dogwood stakes or other wetland vegetation depending on proximity to the water.  An important aspect of this process would be to ensure that the geotextile bags are in contact with the underlying substrate to ensure that root stock can effectively spread once outside the soil bag.  Prior to installation of the riprap, an analysis would be conducted to confirm that the proposed larger-sized riprap would be effective at minimizing erosion from wave action and ice in this area. 

3.4.9.3       Eastern Shoreline

The eastern shoreline would be protected by installing sheetpile and riprap in a fashion similar to what would be installed along the western shoreline (Figures 3.3-1, 3.3-2, and 3.3-3).  Sheetpile would be placed below the low water line.  Large riprap (>2 ft minimum measurement for the smallest dimension, i.e., boulders) would be used to protect the base of the sheetpile and extend several feet into the river, depending on the slope of the shoreline.  The portion of the shoreline above the low water line would be protected by smaller riprap, which would extend 6-12 ft inland from the sheetpile, depending on the slope of the shoreline behind the sheetpile.  Willow and/or dogwood stakes or shrubs would be planted in the riprap where possible to establish woody vegetation in these areas. 

3.4.9.4       Northeastern Shoreline

A new boat landing would be installed on the northeastern shoreline near the lower tip of the island (Figures 3.3-1 and 3.3-4).  The landing would be approximately 20 ft wide and be sloped to accommodate a landing craft type vessel for delivery of equipment such as rubber tired loaders or aerial lifts (HIP #14). 

3.4.10    Construction

A barge equipped with a bucket excavator would be required for off-shore placement of riprap and placement of riprap at both shoreline locations. Sheetpile would be placed as close as possible to the existing vertical wall and driven to have a top elevation at low water level.  The existing vertical wall would then be removed and the shoreline from the top of the sheetpile to normal island elevation would be protected with riprap.  The gangways between the abandoned pilings would be cut off using either a saw or cutting torch.  The riprap would have willow stakes driven into the interstitial space between individual rocks.   In general, planting of the dormant willow stakes is relatively easy.  The stakes are just driven into the soil at an approximate depth of 1-2 ft during dormancy (i.e., approximately early November through early April).  However, planting these stakes through several layers of smaller riprap used above the sheetpile may require a hydraulic ram or jack hammer mounted on a backhoe or skidloader to punch a hole where the stake can be placed. The toe of the sheetpile would be protected from river current by placing two to three feet of large-sized riprap at the base of the sheetpile/riverbed interface.

3.4.11    Effectiveness Monitoring

Minimal effectiveness monitoring is required for this HIP.  Monitoring would involve regular inspection of the erosion control devices.  Riprap would be inspected every two years, after a major storm event, or after severe ice conditions.  A photographic log would be kept for comparative purposes.  This inspection would include a simple review by an engineer or technician familiar with these systems.  Plantings for bioengineering would be inspected twice a year for the first two years and then every other year up to a five year period to ensure that they become established.

3.4.12    Maintenance

Areas of damaged riprap should be replaced or restacked as soon as possible to avoid further degrading of the structure.  Since riprap is a very predictable engineered system, maintenance to these installations would be expected to be minimal.  Riprap systems adjacent to waterways typically last 30 years with minimal maintenance and relatively minor updating after that period through fifty years.  Likewise, sheetpile is a very stable structure and typically requires minimal maintenance.

The bioengineering plantings should be supplemented as needed in order to optimize habitat and increase the natural appearance of the shoreline.

3.4.13    Project Constraints

There could be a significant effort to obtain permits for the project, including approvals from the USACE as well as complying with the requirements of the Coastal Zone Management Program.  However, permitting efforts are expected to be less involved than efforts for either Strawberry or Frog Island HIPs.    

3.4.14    Feasibility

Motor Island is an important habitat feature in the Upper Niagara River, and these shoreline protection measures would help ensure that this habitat does not degrade due to erosion.  Implementing this HIP would result in only minimal impact to existing habitat and other uses of the area (e.g. fishing, bird-watching) except during construction.  The combination design using riprap and sheetpile along the western shoreline is based on two well established techniques and is expected to be durable and work well to minimize erosion.  Riprap located below water level is expected to provided habitat for aquatic life such as fish and macroinvertebrates and would likely increase usage of the area by many centrarchid and cyprinid species.  The habitat value of the riprap would be reduced if the interstitial spaces become clogged with sediment or zebra mussels.  Planting willow stakes is a proven streamside enhancement and stabilization technique.  Willows become established very easily and are very resilient.  They recover well from damage and adverse environmental conditions.  Willows also provide habitat to numerous species of wildlife.  Therefore the plantings should result in an enhancement to wildlife habitat and also improve the aesthetics of the shoreline protection measures.  Based on the available information, this HIP is feasible.  If properly implemented the potential for achieving the main objective of protecting the western shore and southern tip of Motor Island is very good.       

3.4.15    References

R1019215692 \ Text Reference: Caulk et al. 2000 \ Caulk, A.D., J.E. Gannon, J.R. Shaw, and J.H. Hartig (eds.).  2000.  Best Management Practices for Soft Engineering of Shorelines.  Greater Detroit American Heritage River Initiative.

R1019215691 \ Text Reference: Fischenich and Allen 2000 \ Fischenich, J.C., and H. Allen.  2000.  Stream Management.  ERDC/EL SR-W-00-1.  U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Engineer Research and Development Center, Environmental Laboratory. 

R1019215697 \ Text Reference: Means 2003 \ Means, R.S.  2003.  Heavy Construction Cost Data.  16th annual edition. 

 

Figure 3.3-1

Aerial Photo with Plan View of Proposed Habitat Improvement Structures at Motor Island, Design Based on 2002 True Color Orthophotography

 

Figure 3.3-2

Plan View of Proposed Habitat Improvement Structures at Motor Island, Design Based on 2002 True Color Orthophotography

 

Figure 3.3-3

Shoreline Protection for East and West Shore of Motor Island

 

Figure 3.3-4

Section Views of South Shore Erosion Control Structure and Boat Landing on the West Shore of Motor Island for Proposed Habitat Improvement Structures

 

 

3.5          HIP #4 – Beaver Island Wetland Restoration

3.5.1        Purpose

The quantity and quality of wildlife habitat on Beaver Island and in the State Park is limited by a lack of marsh emergent and shallow pond habitat.  Historical wetlands were dredged and filled in this area, and the resulting topography and hydrology do not optimize wetland structure and function.  A crescent-shaped area of open water and wetlands on the inside of Beaver Island (known as Little Beaver Marsh) historically (before 1960) included hemi-marsh (marsh interspersed with shallow open water with irregular edges and in roughly even proportions) with structural and vegetative diversity (NYSOPRHP photograph files).  Around 1960, this area was filled and the hemi-marsh was replaced with poor quality habitat such as mowed lawn.  This project would restore hemi-marsh and shallow pools to the inside (northeast) shoreline of Beaver Island through removal of fill, site grading, plantings, and invasive species control.

3.5.2        Short-Term Objective

Enhance/restore historical wetland structure and function on Beaver Island by modifying the topography to achieve optimal wetland grade, and planting with native wetland vegetation.

3.5.3        Long-Term Objective

Optimize habitat conditions and restore historical marsh habitat to benefit a diverse community of fish and wildlife species including warm and cool water fish, wading birds, waterfowl, and herptiles (i.e., amphibians and reptiles).

3.5.4        Target Habitat(s)

Marsh emergent wetlands and submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV).

3.5.5        Primary Target Species, Guilds, or Communities

Waterfowl; terns and wading birds; herptiles; native wetland plant communities.

3.5.6        Secondary Target Species, Guilds, or Communities

Passerines; muskrat; native warm and cool water fish communities.

3.5.7        Proposed Locations

Beaver Island State Park (Note locations shown in Figures 3.4-1 and 3.4-2).

3.5.8        Project Description

The approximate historical extent and structure of Beaver Island wetlands would be assessed using aerial photographs, historic records, and site plans/engineering drawings (as available).  The wetland restoration design would include a grading plan that would specify elevations and associated hydrologic regimes that would result in the development of a complex system of emergent marsh and shallow pond habitat.  The grading plan would require wetland fill removal (cut), but would not involve fill, i.e., the fill would need to be removed from the site for an off-site application.  Wetland planting plans would also be developed.  These would emphasize diverse native species with high wildlife food and cover values, and bank stabilization capacity.  Lastly, due to the existence of common reed, purple loosestrife, and other exotic/invasive species in the subject area, the control of such species would be incorporated into the design, implementation, and monitoring and maintenance phases of this HIP.

3.5.9        Design Features

The conceptual design detailed here is based on site visits, review of existing information and conversations with NYSDEC.  Additional information would be needed in order to complete a final design on the project.  A multidisciplinary team including a civil/environmental engineer, a geotechnical engineer (soil borings only), and a wetland scientist would need to evaluate the existing conditions and historical conditions, and complete the design.  A phased approach to completing this HIP would be used as follows:  (1) evaluate the historic conditions using available resources such as historical photos, historic records, and site plans; (2) evaluate the existing conditions including soil properties (e.g., depth and texture), invasive plants, and topography/bathymetry, (3) complete design and feasibility studies using information gained in the historic and existing conditions evaluations, (4) implement the project, and (5) monitor the project.  Details of each phase are provided below.

3.5.9.1       Evaluate Historic Conditions

A number of historic aerial photos of the subject area are available that show emergent marsh on the protected side of Beaver Island.  Photos from before and after 1960 (approximate date of dredge and fill work) indicate that significant areas of high quality hemi-marsh (i.e., wetland configuration where shallow open water and marsh are interspersed in a complex pattern with diverse vegetation and topography including hummocks and pools) were eliminated by a combination of cut and fill and replaced with open water and upland fill.  Figures 3.4-1, 3.4-2, and 3.4-3 show complex hemi-marsh habitat along the inside shoreline of Beaver Island around 1950 (prior to the placement of wetland fill).  Figure 3.4-1 shows the area in the existing condition (i.e., mostly mowed lawn).  These aerial photos plus other historic resources (e.g., engineering and development plans, written records, etc.) would be used as available to assess the historic extent and structure of wetlands in the subject area.  This assessment would be completed by working with representatives of the NYSDEC and the NYSOPRHP to determine acceptable areas to restore and acceptable restoration methods for the affected portion of Beaver Island.

3.5.9.2       Evaluate Existing Conditions

One of the first steps in evaluating the existing conditions would be to determine the hydrology of the area of interest.  River water levels, directly and indirectly, would be the primary hydrologic input sustaining the hemi-marsh.  The hydrologic inputs would include both direct inundation of the wetlands from surface water and the lateral extension of River water through the soil matrix (i.e., interception of shallow groundwater related to the River).  The contributing watershed from the immediately surrounding land (not the River) that is available to contribute surface and shallow subsurface runoff to the wetlands is insignificant.  The design, which incorporates topographic/bathymetric variability, will facilitate capturing high River flows and releasing them slowly back towards the River when River water levels are low (i.e., the low spots will capture and store water).  Because the wetlands will intercept the underlying water table associated with the River waters, capturing of surface runoff from the surrounding lands is not an important consideration.  As part of the existing conditions evaluation, 1 ft contour (above MWL) and bathymetry (below MWL) work would be completed within and adjacent to (within 50 ft) the footprint of the proposed restoration area.  Existing contours would dictate several key design parameters including cut volumes.  Other parameters that would be evaluated include soil properties and existing vegetation.  All existing wetlands within the footprint of proposed restoration areas would need to be delineated for permitting and design purposes.  The existing locations of exotic/invasive species would be assessed so that areas in need of control or protection from exotic/invasives can be identified.  The existing native wetland plant community, in nearby areas subject to hydrologic regimes similar to what is proposed in this HIP, would serve as the “reference” condition.  The reference condition would be used to identify the target plant community that is known to tolerate local conditions and would be used to develop the planting plans. 

The design elevations for the marsh would be based on a combination of nearby reference wetlands, test borings to determine the extent of overburden placed on the original marsh, and the evaluation of 10 years of existing river water level data.  The original marsh elevation is expected to be indicated by the boundary between fill material, which is typically low in organic matter, and marsh sediments, which would be high in organic matter.  The water level data would provide data over a relatively long period of time and would include data from a range of hydrologic conditions.  The elevation of reference wetlands will be important to determine the design elevations of the hemi-marsh because compaction and organic matter decomposition likely resulted in a difference of several inches between the historic surface elevation of the marsh and the elevation of it today beneath the fill.  Since water levels and other conditions have changed since the 1950s, the depth of fill is not as good an indicator of the optimal design elevation as the evaluation of water level data and reference wetland data.

Lastly, because the proposed restoration design involves excavation of historic fill, testing for potential soil contamination will likely be required as part of the permitting process.  The excavated fill will be stored in an on-site upland area for future use by the NYSOPRHP.

3.5.9.3       Design Features and Feasibility Studies

Feasibility Studies

The feasibility of conducting the wetland restoration would be determined prior to final design work and would include meetings with NYSOPRHP to ensure compatibility with recreational and land use objectives and with NYSDEC to ensure that all environmental issues (e.g., potential soil contamination issues, exotic/invasive species issues, state or federally listed plant or wildlife habitat issues, etc.) are considered.  Information considered in the feasibility assessment would also include data from soil borings, candidate locations for stockpiling removed overburden soils, uses for removed overburden soils, and site access for heavy equipment.

Design Specifics

Approximately 10.7 acres of wetland restoration would be pursued, as depicted on Figures 3.4-1 and 3.4-2, along the northern Beaver Island shoreline, between the two bridges on the inside of the protected portion of the island.  This location historically contained Little Beaver Marsh, which aerial photographs and conventional photographs (See Section 3.4.9.1) indicate was a hemi-marsh type wetland.  Restoration at this location would involve excavation of upland lawn to achieve hemi-marsh micro-topography (Figure 3.4-3).  An existing walk-way along the open water would be impacted.  Transect 6 in Stantec et al. (2005) shows that there are areas of deep marsh and aquatic bed adjacent to the restoration area, and these would need to be delineated and characterized per wetlands permitting requirements.

The design would specify micro-topographical heterogeneity to provide habitat complexity for a variety of species including wading birds and herptiles (Figures 3.4-3).  For example, the design would include hummocks and small islands interspersed with irregular areas of shallow open water (hemi-marsh), as well as habitat features such as basking logs, hummocks, and variable water depths.  This complexity would enhance native plant diversity as well.  Fill material (overburden) that is removed (excavated) from the restoration area will be stockpiled in an on-site upland area for future use by the NYSOPRHP. 

Wetland soil stockpiles from Buckhorn Marsh would be used to top-dress the restoration area if needed after the overburden is removed and it is determined for any reason that the preexisting marsh soils are not adequate for the restoration effort.  In the event that Buckhorn wetland soil stockpiles are not available, clean topsoil or another suitable wetland soil stockpile would be used.  This detail would be determined during the final design for this project.  Prior to utilizing Buckhorn soils, a germination study would be conducted to determine which plant species have viable seed in the stockpile.  If exotic and invasive species are found in significant numbers, alternative sources of topsoil and native seedbanks will be explored.  The determination of “significant” number will be a subjective decision that will need to be made in consultation with NYSDEC.  The decision should be based on the potential for this seed bank to substantially affect the potential success of restoring this wetland.

It is likely that the existing marsh soils contain a native seed bank, but natural colonization would be supplemented with plantings to ensure that desired native species appropriate for the design elevations get a head start (Garbisch 2002).  Species would include native emergents tolerant of shallow to deep marsh elevations (e.g., giant burreed, pickerelweed, hardstem bulrush, river bulrush, soft-stem bulrush, wild rice, and arrowhead) up to 3 ft below mean water level (MWL) as well as wet meadow and shallow marsh species at elevations between 0.5 ft below MWL to 0.5 ft above MWL (blueflag iris, Joe-pye weed, blue vervain, tussock sedge, marsh fern, and ostrich fern).  Ten years of existing water level data would be analyzed to determine MWL and should be sufficient to include data from both wet and dry years.  Plantings would include containerized stock, plugs, and seed.  Since there are no proposed steep slopes, the use of live-dormant willow and dogwood material (e.g., stakes, wattles, cuttings) would likely be limited to the interface between the restoration area and the existing upland forest area of Little Beaver Island, if needed.

Exclusion barriers and wire grids would be required in the planted areas during plant establishment (at least 1 year) to limit herbivory from geese and other species.

3.5.9.4       Erosion and Sediment Control

The design would include an erosion and sediment control plan.  This would involve the use of a turbidity curtain to be placed around active work areas adjacent to the Niagara River and unstable areas that could potentially erode.  Perimeter fencing such as properly toed-in silt fence and staked hay-bales would be used for interior areas away from the River.  Plans to immediately establish vegetation on exposed soils would also be specified.

3.5.10    Construction

Construction techniques for this project are fairly straightforward but may require specialized equipment, which will not compact the soils.  Standard equipment such as dump trucks, excavators, and bulldozers should use “wide-tracks” as necessary in order to avoid soil compaction.  Such equipment would be used to remove the historic fill, spread the wetland topsoil material, perform grading to achieve the desired microtopography, and deliver plant materials.  A “belly pan” or drag line could be used to remove the lowest soil material, which will be slightly below the normal water level of the River.  Final shaping would be accomplished using cranes and bulldozers (depending on how wet the soils are) during low or normal flow conditions (i.e., not during flood flows or abnormally high flows).

3.5.11    Effectiveness Monitoring

The restoration site would need to be monitored weekly for a period of six weeks following installation, until new plantings were established and exposed soils were stabilized.  Once plants were established and soils were stabilized, the site would need to be monitored each month of the growing season for the remainder of the growing season (this assumes spring or early summer construction; if construction occurs in the fall, this monthly monitoring would occur the following year).  For the next 4 years the site would be monitored once at the beginning of the growing season (May through early June) and once at the end of the growing season (September) for a total of five years of monitoring after construction. 

In addition to ensuring establishment of vegetation, the overall objectives of the effectiveness monitoring for this HIP would be to determine if habitats have been created as designed and to establish actions needed for follow-up or repair work.  The following project components would be evaluated:

·         The survival of plants would be monitored during the first growing season and dead plants would be replaced to assure an overall survival rate of 75% of the original planting density.

·         Exotic and invasive species would be monitored and recommendations for control would be made, as necessary.  Spot applications of glyphosate (e.g., Rodeo®) and careful hand pulling can be used to control individual plants or groupings of plants.  Broadcast of herbicides would be avoided (all 5 years).

·         Exclusion barriers and grids would be monitored as necessary until the plants are mature; any maintenance needed would be identified (all 5 years).

·         Bank stability and degree of erosion would be evaluated.  If occurring at significant levels, specific measures to address stability (e.g., use of geotextile fabric, additional riprap, additional plantings, grade adjustments) would be identified and implemented (all 5 years).

·         Vegetated habitat structure and function would be evaluated.  This would entail an assessment of whether the habitat is functioning as intended.  Specifically, a check-list of habitat objectives would be developed to include: hydrologic observations (e.g., are water depths as intended for plant survival and habitat function), habitat structure observations (e.g., is habitat heterogeneity as intended including irregular edges, variable depths, plant density and vertical structure), presence/absence and estimated percent aerial cover of exotic/invasive plants/animals (e.g., Phragmites, purple loosestrife, zebra mussels), general observations on native vegetation colonization (e.g., from seed bank and adjacent source material), and success of plantings (all 5 years).

·         Hydrology would be monitored.  Piezometers, could be installed in the post-installation period and monitored for two years to document wetland hydrology.  These would be installed in the higher elevations of the wetland that are typically exposed.  Water level monitors would be installed in the lower elevations that are typically inundated and would be monitored for two years.

This monitoring would be conducted by a team of two (at a minimum) that includes an engineer and a biologist the first year.  It would not be necessary to have both present at each weekly and monthly visit but an engineer would be required to visit at least twice.  During subsequent years, the site monitoring can be conducted by a biologist, and engineering expertise would be called-on only as specific observations (e.g., excessive erosion) warrant.  A photographic log would be kept for comparative purposes.  Annual monitoring reports will be prepared.  This report would include recommendations (if any) for modifications or repairs.  It would also include justification for not recommending modifications or repairs when as-built conditions deviate from the design.  For example, if only 50% of the plantings in a specific area have survived but a robust community of native colonizers has established to fill the void, this would be noted but it might be suggested that plant replacement is unnecessary.

3.5.12    Maintenance

Dead plants would be replaced as necessary during the first year after construction.  Exotic and invasive species would be controlled as necessary each year for the first five years following construction; spot applications of glyphosate (e.g., Rodeo®) would be used to control individual plants or groupings of plants.  Broadcast of herbicides would be avoided.  Exclusion barriers would be maintained as necessary until the plants are mature to avoid plant stress or mortality from geese or other wildlife during the first year of construction and during the first full year following construction.  Grade adjustments would be necessary only where the design hydrology is not achieved. 

3.5.13    Project Constraints

·         It will be necessary to obtain permits for the project, including potential approvals from the NYSDEC and USACE.  Wetlands permits would be necessary.

·         It may be necessary to investigate whether this project would impact important or unique habitat for specific state or federally listed wildlife or plant species.  No specific potential impacts are known at this time, although it is possible that potential mussel habitat impacts would need to be assessed.

·         This project would require a long-term commitment to the control of exotic and invasive plant species and a short-term commitment to controlling herbivory. 

·         During and shortly after construction there may be temporary aesthetic impacts as a result of exposed and disturbed soils, equipment, and construction traffic.

·         The project would likely conflict with some of the existing land uses in the park.  For example, some walking trails and the Frisbee golf course would be affected.  It should be noted however, that preliminary discussions with NYSOPRHP and NYSDEC indicate that the holes from the Frisbee golf course can be moved and the hiking trail could be replaced with one or more wildlife viewing platforms accessible from Little Beaver Island.   

3.5.14    Feasibility

The Beaver Island HIP is a marsh restoration project.  Wetlands historically existed at this location, however the landscape in this area is significantly different than it was several decades ago.  There is a high probability of achieving the desired wetland hydrology (by relying on River water levels) relative to wetland restoration/creation projects in higher elevation areas and uplands.  Failure to achieve the design hydrology is often cited as the most frequent reason for habitat restoration failures (Garbisch 2002; Biebighauser 2003).  The fact that the land is publicly owned also increases the feasibility of this HIP.  With privately owned parcels, the private landowner can control design parameters or ultimately refuse to relinquish control of the land or participate as originally envisioned.  However, habitat restoration within the Park may conflict with existing recreational uses such as several holes of the very popular Frisbee golf course and a walking trail along the edge of the existing Little Beaver Creek.  Although, this project would likely increase passive recreational opportunities such as bird watching and wildlife viewing, in the long-term it could also provide an increase in aesthetic value of the area for hiking, picnicking, and other outdoor activities.  This project would require long-term monitoring and maintenance activities to ensure that this HIP does not fail as a result of erosion, exotic/invasive species, or failure to achieve design parameters.  Based on these considerations, the overall feasibility of this HIP is good. 

3.5.15    References

R1019215704 \ Text Reference: Biebighauser 2003 \ Biebighauser, T.R.  2003.  A Guide to Creating Vernal Pools.  Moorehead, KY: USDA Forest Service, with cooperation from Ducks Unlimited, Izaak Walton League.

R1019215705 \ Text Reference: Garbisch 2002 \ Garbisch, Edgar.  2002.  The Dos and Don'ts of Wetland Construction, Creation, Restoration, and Enhancement.  St. Michaels, MD: Environmental Concern, Inc.

R1019215697 \ Text Reference: Means 2003 \ Means, R.S.  2003.  Heavy Construction Cost Data.  16th annual edition. 

R1019215119 \ Text Reference: URS et al. 2005 \ URS Corporation, Gomez and Sullivan Engineers, P.C., and E/PRO Environmental & Engineering Consulting, LLC.  2005.  Niagara River Water Level and Flow Fluctuation Study, prep. for the New York Power Authority.

 

 

Figure 3.4-1

Aerial Photo with Plan View of Proposed Habitat Improvement Structures at Beaver Island

 

 

Figure 3.4-2

Plan View of Proposed Habitat Improvement Structures at Beaver Island

 

 

Figure 3.4-3

Plan and Section View of Hemi-Marsh for Proposed Habitat Improvement Structures at Beaver Island

 

 

3.6         HIP #5 – Spicer Creek – Tributary Enhancements

3.6.1        Purpose

Spicer Creek is one of several Grand Island tributaries that are thought to provide spawning opportunities for fish such as northern pike and that may also support important numbers of rare native mussels.  This HIP examines the potential for fish passage through the East River Road culverts and assesses the relative quality of the riparian habitat upstream of these culverts. 

3.6.2        Short-Term Objective

Investigate the ability of northern pike to pass through the East River Road culverts to spawn in Spicer Creek upstream of the culverts.  

3.6.3        Long-Term Objective

Restore or protect riparian habitat along Spicer Creek to provide fish and wildlife habitat..

3.6.4        Target Habitat(s)

In-stream and riparian habitats.

3.6.5        Primary Target Species, Guilds, or Communities

Riparian wildlife, aquatic macroinvertebrates, and northern pike.

3.6.6        Secondary Target Species, Guilds, or Communities

Native riparian plants and other fish species utilizing the creek.

3.6.7        Proposed Locations

Spicer Creek from the Niagara River upstream.  Note location in Figures 3.0-2.

3.6.8        Project Description

The first part of this HIP investigation was to determine if the culverts under East River Road are a barrier to the upstream passage of adult northern pike.  The investigation included evaluating water surface elevation of the River in relation to the elevation of the bottom of the culverts to determine under what conditions they may become perched above the level of the River, thereby preventing access by fish.  If the culverts frequently prevent upstream passage of northern pike, modifying or potentially replacing the culverts to permit passage of fish may be appropriate.  The second component of this HIP examines the current condition of riparian habitat in upstream sections of Spicer Creek to assess the value and benefit to fish and wildlife utilizing the stream corridor.

3.6.8.1       Review of Need for Fish Passage

Enhancements for fish passage through a culvert are dependent largely on where the bottom of the culvert is located in relation to the downstream receiving water and current velocity in the culvert.  If the bottom of the culvert is lower than the surface of the receiving water, fish can access the culvert and successful passage then becomes a function of depth and current velocity in the culvert.  If the water is deep enough but the current is too swift, velocity breaks can often be installed in the culvert to provide resting areas for migrating fish and help ensure successful passage.  If the bottom of the culvert is below the receiving water but depth in the culvert is too shallow, stoplog structures or weirs can be installed at the end of the culvert to increase depth yet provide a path for fish to pass upstream.  In comparison, few options, other than replacing the existing culvert with a culvert set at a lower elevation, are available if the culvert was originally set too high in relation to the receiving water.  In some cases, the receiving water can be impounded with a small dam just downstream of the culvert to backwater the culvert and provide access.  However, this may only serve to trade upstream passage problems from the site of the culvert to the site of the small dam, and usually requires the installation of a small fishway to allow fish access into the impounded area.  In other cases, fish ladder type extensions can be attached to the end of the culvert that step down into the receiving water, but these structures require relatively large flows to be operable and have a tendency to clog with debris during high water events.  Usually, culverts that are set too high in relation to the receiving water need to be replaced at a lower elevation to provide access to fish.  Considering these options, we examined existing information to evaluate the suitability of the Spicer Creek culverts for passing fish, primarily northern pike.     

3.6.8.2       Evaluation of Existing Conditions

In 2003, NYPA conducted fish surveys in Spicer Creek with netting and electrofishing in locations above and below the culverts.  A total of 26 northern pike were collected between April 12 and June 13.  Fifteen were caught above the culverts.  Their length ranged from 424 to 754 mm (average 575 mm).  Based on the season, the size of the fish, and the small size of Spicer Creek it was assumed that fish caught above the culverts at this time of the year migrated from the River and, in turn, that the water level in the culverts during at least a portion of this time was deep enough for upstream fish passage. 

To determine how frequently fish may be able to migrate upstream through the culverts, water level data relative to the depth of water in the culverts were examined.  Data available for this analysis included water surface elevations from gauges located within Spicer Creek just downstream of the Spicer Creek culverts (Spicer Creek Gauge, installed in 2003), the Tonawanda Island Gauge (period of record 1991 to 2003), and elevation data of the culvert inverts.  The analysis included four important assumptions.  (1) that water level data from 1991 to 2003 are generally representative of historical conditions on the Niagara River; including wet, dry, and average years similar to longer periods of records (URS et al. 2005) (Section 4.1 Niagara River Water Level and Flow Fluctuation Study);  (2) that current velocity under normal conditions within the culverts was low because the culverts were sized to accommodate discharge during storm events and they were installed almost level (i.e., with very little gradient), eliminating velocity in the culvert due to drop;  (3) that northern pike captured in spring 2003 above the culverts are generally representative of the length frequency distribution of the migrating population;  and (4) that migrating adult northern pike would require a minimum of 4 to 6 inches of water to pass upstream through the culvert.  This assumption was based on discussions with fishery professionals familiar with northern pike habits and ichthyomechanics (personal communication with John Casselman – OMNR, Kevin Reid - Ontario Commercial Fishermen’s Association, John Farrell – State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, and Chris Katopodis – Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans), and the fact that pike prefer to spawn in flooded vegetation in very shallow water (range 2 to 24 inches, Bry 1996; Scott and Crossman 1973) and as such are capable of swimming in shallow water.

A comparison of hourly water surface elevations from the Spicer Creek Gauge and the Tonawanda Island Gauge indicates that the two gauges record the same elevation (within measurement error) or the Spicer Creek Gauge is slightly higher, 93% of the time.  Any inconsistencies between the data sets are likely due to rain events in the Spicer Creek drainage or the effects of wind on water surface elevations at the Tonawanda Island Gauge.  Since the two gauges provide the same elevation data we utilized Tonawanda Island Gauge data to estimate the depth of water in the culverts from March 15 to June 15, a time frame that conservatively encompasses upstream pike passage.  Survey data indicate that each culvert is essentially horizontal and the culvert inverts are set at approximately 565.1 ft USLSD (1935).  Based on data from the Tonawanda Island Gauge, the Niagara River level was equal to or greater than this elevation about 92% of the time from March 15 to June 15 (Figure 3.5-1).  Further, the water in the culverts was estimated to be about 4 inches or deeper 80% of the time and 6 inches or deeper 66% of the time. 

Based on this analysis, it appears that approximately 66% to 80% of the time when northern pike are expected to migrate upstream to spawn, the height of culverts in relation to water level in the Niagara River would not prevent passage.  Therefore, it may not be necessary to replace the culverts. 

Assuming that replacing the culverts is not necessary, the next step in the evaluation of this HIP was to investigate the current condition of riparian habitat and pike spawning habitat along the stream reach upstream of the Spicer Creek culverts.

Site visits were conducted to examine the existing land uses in this area.  Current land uses include a golf course and a residential development.  Habitat alterations in this area over the past 40 to 50 years have resulted in the removal of the natural vegetation along the stream margin and a reduction in habitat value to fish and wildlife.  Invasive species were found to be present in and along the creek.  It is also likely that these habitat changes have resulted in degradation to water quality in Spicer Creek due to nutrient loading and warming from sun exposure.  It should be noted that prior surveys have located freshwater mussels such as the floater and pink heal splitter in the creek (Riveredge Associates 2005).

3.6.9        Design Features

The analysis described above indicates that northern pike can pass through the Spicer Creek culverts to reach potential spawning areas upstream of the East River Road during the majority of the spawning season.  However, the riparian habitats upstream of the culverts are highly modified and severely degraded, resulting in a low overall value as fish and wildlife habitat at the present time.  There is potential to restore riparian habitat along the stream corridor in areas upstream of the culverts but historical and current land use practices may discourage an approach that proposes an increase in the width, height, or species composition of vegetation along the stream.  Further, it is not clear at this time whether the benefits of habitat restoration on such a small drainage would effectively outweigh the costs to conduct the work.  In the future, habitat restoration work on Spicer Creek might be considered within the overall context of tributary enhancements and stream management on Grand Island.  One potential benefit to improving habitat on Spicer Creek would likely be an improvement to water quality.

3.6.10    Construction

No construction activities are recommended at this time.

3.6.11    Effectiveness Monitoring

Water level data for the Niagara River should continue to be collected and analyzed to evaluate water level in Spicer Creek culverts during expected upstream migration of pike.

3.6.12    Maintenance

Periodic inspections of the culverts could be conducted to assess water flow, sedimentation, or blockages in the culverts that might prevent fish movement.  A photographic log and field notes could be kept for comparative purposes. 

3.6.13    Project Constraints

·         Private land ownership and cooperation by adjoining landowners would be the greatest constraint for enhancing or restoring the native riparian vegetation along Spicer Creek.

·         This land is designated as Significant Coastal Fish and Wildlife Habitat and improvements to habitats would need to conform to the requirements of the Coastal Zone Management Program.  

3.6.14    Feasibility

Stream channel and riparian buffer restoration projects are increasingly common.  A recent stream restoration project in Newport, Maine, replaced over 1,000 ft of straight channel with a meandering channel that includes a diversity of macro and micro-habitats and a restored riparian forested buffer, greatly benefiting fish and riparian wildlife.  Successful implementation of such projects requires the development of and adherence to a stream management plan that addresses a variety of land uses and significant cooperation of landowners if the land is privately owned.  The assessment of the potential for fish passage through the Spicer Creek culverts is complete.  Based on the information presented above,  the feasibility of successfully implementing a riparian restoration effort on Spicer Creek is poor.

3.6.15    References

R1019215701 \ Text Reference: Bry 1996 \ Bry, C.  1996.  Role of Vegetation in the Life Cycle of Pike.  In: Pike, Biology, and Expoitation, Fish and Fisheries Series 19.  ed. J.F. Craiged.  London: Chapman and Hall. 

R1019215444 \ Text Reference: Riveredge 2005 \ Riveredge Associates, LLC.  2005.  Occurrences of Rare, Threatened, and Endangered Mussel Species in the Vicinity of the Niagara Power Project, prep. for the New York Power Authority. 

R1019215112 \ Text Reference: Scott and Crossman 1973 \ Scott, W.B., and E.J. Crossman.  1973.  Freshwater Fishes of Canada, Bulletin no. 184.  Fisheries Research Board of Canada.

R1019215119 \ Text Reference: URS et al. 2005 \ URS Corporation, Gomez and Sullivan Engineers, P.C., and E/PRO Environmental & Engineering Consulting, LLC.  2005.  Niagara River Water Level and Flow Fluctuation Study, prep. for the New York Power Authority. 

 

 

Figure 3.5-1

Water Surface Elevation at the Downstream end of the Spicer Creek Culverts (as represented by the Tonawanda Island gauge) from March 15 to June 15, 1991 to 2003

 

 

 

3.7         HIP #6 – Gun Creek – Tributary Enhancements

3.7.1        Purpose

Historical agricultural practices and other land uses on Grand Island often resulted in dredging or straightening of stream channels to facilitate drainage of fields or to accommodate irrigation.  Gun Creek appears to be one of the few tributaries on Grand Island that has not undergone significant alterations to the streambed, even though land use practices in the drainage have changed dramatically over the past 40 years.  In the early 1950s the primary land use was agriculture and much of the riparian habitat along the Creek had been eliminated (Photo 3.6-1).  By 2002, some portions of the drainage had undergone residential and industrial development but agriculture had largely ceased and much of the land had reverted to old field or forested habitat (Photo 3.6-2).  Of particular interest is the re-establishment of the riparian corridor in areas that had once been cleared up to the edge of the Creek.  (Photos 3.6-3, 3.6-4, and 3.6-5). 

In 1973, the bridge that spanned Gun Creek on the East River Road was replaced by a culvert.  Since that time there is anecdotal evidence that sedimentation may have increased in areas upstream of the culvert.  Concerns have been raised that sedimentation resulting from installation of the culvert may be degrading habitat in these areas and potentially affecting northern pike spawning or nursery habitat.   

This HIP had two objectives.  The first objective was to assess the likelihood that the culvert at East River Road has altered flow in the creek and thereby degraded northern pike habitat.  The second objective would be to evaluate riparian habitat along the existing stream corridor to identify areas that could be preserved or enhanced for use by fish and wildlife.  The first objective is addressed in this report.  Completing the second objective would require field work and analysis to fully identify important riparian habitats in the Gun Creek drainage.

3.7.2         Short-Term Objective

Investigate the potential that installation of the culvert at the East River Road has increased the rate of sedimentation in this area and identify areas along the stream corridor that should be protected or enhanced to benefit fish and wildlife.

3.7.3        Long-Term Objective

Establish and implement stream management practices throughout the Gun Creek drainage consistent with preservation and/or enhancement of the riparian corridor to provide high quality fish and wildlife habitat. 

3.7.4        Target Habitat(s)

In-stream and riparian habitats.

3.7.5        Primary Target Species, Guilds, or Communities

Northern pike and riparian wildlife.

3.7.6        Secondary Target Species, Guilds, or Communities

Aquatic macroinvertebrates, native riparian plants, fish, amphibians, and native mussels.

3.7.7        Proposed Locations

The Gun Creek stream corridor from the mouth to upper portions of the drainage area.  Note location on Figure 3.0-2. 

3.7.8        Project Description

This HIP has two major components.  While both components are related to assessing habitat in Gun Creek, they are somewhat exclusive of one another.  The first component, completed as part of the evaluation of this HIP, was to investigate whether installation of the culvert on East River Road has resulted in an increased rate of sedimentation in the Creek.  The second component would be to identify areas along the stream corridor that should be preserved or enhanced to benefit fish and wildlife.  Completing the second components would require field work and analysis to fully identify important riparian habitats in the Gun Creek drainage. 

3.7.8.1       Investigate Sedimentation near the East River Road Culvert

Assessing the potential effect of the culvert involved examining aerial photographs and culvert inspection data collected by the county Department of Transportation, conducting a site visit, interviewing the Region 5 New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) hydraulics engineer, and evaluating the location of the culvert with respect to stream channel approach.

The East River Road bridge had a span of approximately 50 ft and was replaced by a culvert 15 ft 10 inches wide in 1973 (Photo 3.6-6).  The culvert was positioned approximately mid-way across the stream channel and the watercourse appears to approach the culvert directly (Photo 3.6-7).  The culvert was designed by the NYSDOT to pass the flow resulting from a 50-year flood event without impacting adjoining land (personal communication Lallman Rambali, Hydraulics Engineer, Region 5, NYSDOT).  Annual inspections by the county Department of Transportation indicate that sedimentation is not a problem in the culvert and that a water depth of approximately 5 ft has been maintained since installation of the culvert.  The inspections, however, do not include measurements of sediment in any areas other than directly in the culvert.  Examination of aerial photographs from 1958 and 2002 did not reveal any appreciable change in shoreline immediately upstream or downstream of the culvert, indicating that the shoreline has likely not encroached into the stream as a result of sediment build-up.  However, the photographs from 1958 are higher altitude and lower resolution than the 2002 data, making an exact comparison somewhat difficult.  During the site visit, there were no observations of any significant areas of sediment deposition either upstream or downstream of the culvert, nor did it appear that the shoreline in this area was in the process of encroaching on the stream channel.  Although one long-time resident of Gun Creek living adjacent to the culvert stated that the creek had become considerably more shallow over his lifetime due to sediment accumulation, another resident living adjacent to the creek immediately upstream of the culvert stated that the stream bank has not changed in the past 22 years. 

Based on the foregoing, it does not appear that installation of the culvert has resulted in substantial degradation of the habitat in the immediate area of the culvert or that the culvert contributes to the accumulation of sediment in the side channel pond approximately 0.5 miles upstream.

3.7.8.2       Identify Significant Riparian Habitats

This component of the project would determine areas of the Creek that currently have significant riparian habitat value or could be enhanced to provide important functions such as pike spawning.  Based on information from the NYSDEC and our own site visits, there are many areas that appear to hold high value as riparian or wetland habitat.  In addition, other areas may lend themselves to modifications that would enhance or create habitat for specific purposes such as pike spawning or vernal pools for amphibian breeding.  A survey of the stream corridor (main stem and the north and south branches of the Creek) would be conducted to evaluate and rank existing habitat functions.  Higher-value habitats would provide most or all of the following functions: 

·         Shading and water temperature regulation (dense, tall stands of trees cool streams in the summer and help lessen radiational cooling in winter).

·         Coarse woody debris and detritus inputs (mature forests have a positive influence on habitat complexity by providing large woody debris important for aquatic structure and cover, and enhancing complex flow dynamics that help create pools, riffles and runs; litter inputs are an important energy source for the detritus-based community of macroinvertebrates and the entire aquatic food chain).

·         Water quality protection (forested riparian buffers filter sediments and pollutants from upslope areas).

·         Streambank stabilization (densely vegetated riparian buffers with well developed root systems and thick forest duff layers help prevent streambank erosion).

·         Riparian habitat (riparian buffers provide important habitat for numerous species including mink, otter, passerines, and herptiles).

The survey would include a ranking of characteristics indicative of high quality riparian buffers that function at or near optimal levels, as well as characteristics that make a site sensitive to development impacts.  This ranking could be used to prioritize conservation actions for high quality areas and to select areas where enhancements are likely to succeed.  Characteristics that would be ranked include but are not limited to:

·         Mature, dense forest with tall trees and branches overhanging the Creek.

·         Thick, well-developed duff layer.

·         Predominance of native species and lack of exotic species.

·         High degree of vertical and horizontal habitat complexity.  This includes such things as pit-and-mound topography, dead-and-downed wood, boulders, and a high degree of vertical complexity (variety of age classes from large tall trees, to medium trees, to saplings, shrubs, and herbs).

·         Predominance of plant species that provide important food and cover value.  This includes mast crop producing trees such as oaks and beech, and berry producing trees and shrubs such as black cherry, and viburnums.  This also includes snags and cavity trees.

·         Buffers that are 100 ft or more wide.

·         Diversity of plants (e.g., dozens of tree, shrub, and herb species, not just a few) and wildlife or wildlife sign. 

·         Presence of rare, threatened or endangered plants or wildlife, or important habitat features (e.g., deer wintering yards, vernal pools, hardwood floodplain forests).

·         Any area that would be sensitive to development or clearing impacts.  These include areas of steep slopes, erodible soils, or wetlands that, if cleared of vegetation or disturbed, could pose a significant impact to the Creek.

·         Areas that could easily be modified through minimal excavation and placement of native vegetation to function as unique habitats such as pike spawning or amphibian breeding.  Ranking in this category would also include a sub-ranking for:   

·         Potential for equipment access.

·         Flat to gently rolling slopes to minimize erosion potential.

·         Deep soils (as opposed to exposed bedrock or shallow soils) to enable excavation.

·         The potential for historical uses that could have resulted in soil contamination.     

3.7.8.3       Stream Management Plan

Critical to the success of this HIP would be the development of a stream management plan that addresses the variety of land uses and balances the needs of local landowners and surrounding municipalities.  This management plan would require input and cooperation from all these groups and individuals to understand each other’s needs and the benefits provided to all by maintaining or enhancing the riparian and wetland habitats.  The plan would detail why specific areas should be preserved or enhanced, set aside in conservation easements, and clearly outline expected benefits.

3.7.9        Design Features

There are no design features for this HIP other than the survey to rank existing and potential riparian and wetland habitat detailed in Section 3.6.8 above. 

3.7.10    Construction

No construction details for this HIP evaluation have been developed at this time.  Based on the survey of existing habitats some areas might be selected for enhancements for pike spawning or amphibian breeding.  Details of construction for these enhancements would be completed at the time of final design.

3.7.11    Effectiveness Monitoring

Effectiveness monitoring was not evaluated for this HIP at this time. 

3.7.12    Maintenance

Maintenance was not evaluated for this HIP.  One specific maintenance activity that would be anticipated if pike spawning or amphibian pools were installed, as well as general maintenance would be control of exotic and invasive plant species.    

3.7.13    Project Constraints

·         Private land ownership and cooperation by adjoining landowners will likely be the greatest project constraint to preserving or enhancing existing habitat.  Public education and outreach with local landowners on the benefits of preserving or riparian habitat restoration will be an important part of this project and ultimately will determine whether this project fails or succeeds.

·         Riparian areas along Gun Creek are designated as Significant Coastal Fish and Wildlife Habitat.  Construction to build northern pike spawning pools or vernal pools would likely need to conform to the requirements of the Coastal Zone Management Program.

3.7.14    Feasibility

Preserving existing high quality habitat on Gun Creek could be done through developing conservation easements that encourage the participation of property owners in the Gun Creek drainage or through acquisitions.  Instituting stream management practices that include preservation of high quality habitat would benefit fish and wildlife by providing breeding/spawning locations, nursery and rearing areas, improvement or maintenance of existing water quality, feeding and resting areas for a variety of riparian wildlife, and other life functions typically carried out in habitats that occur in the steam corridor.  Developing pike spawning pools or vernal pools for amphibian breeding could readily be accomplished with selection of proper sites and proper design criteria and these areas would have obvious direct benefits to these species.  In addition to benefiting fish and wildlife, preserving high quality riparian habitat or enhancing riparian habitats would likely provide additional opportunities in the long-term for bird watching, hiking, fishing, and hunting.  This HIP does not include any complicated design or construction work and the studies needed to delineate habitat along the stream corridor could easily be accomplished.  However, gaining the cooperation of landowners to participate in conservation easement programs or acquisition of land parcels may be challenging and likely will require a concerted effort at pubic education on the benefits of preserving riparian habitats.  Once this cooperation is attained, protecting or enhancing riparian habitat would be a matter of implementing a well designed stream management plan and should be a readily attainable goal.  Based on the above considerations, the prospect of successful implementation of this HIP is very good. 

3.7.15    References

R1019215702 \ Text Reference: Working Group 1998 \ Federal Interagency Stream Restoration Working Group.  1998.  Stream Corridor Restoration:  Principles, Processes, and Practices. 

R1019215691 \ Text Reference: Fischenich and Allen 2000 \ Fischenich, J.C., and H. Allen.  2000.  Stream Management.  ERDC/EL SR-W-00-1.  U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Engineer Research and Development Center, Environmental Laboratory. 

R1019215705 \ Text Reference: Garbisch 2002 \ Garbisch, Edgar.  2002.  The Dos and Don'ts of Wetland Construction, Creation, Restoration, and Enhancement.  St. Michaels, MD: Environmental Concern, Inc.

R1019215706 \ Text Reference: Maine Audubon Society 1999 \ Maine Audubon Society.  1999.  Locating and Documenting Vernal Pools. 

 

Photos 3.6-1 and 3.6-2

Gun Creek Drainage in 1958 (top) and 2002 (bottom)

 

 

 

Note: Significant portions of the drainage that were in agriculture in 1958 have reverted to old field or forested habitat, or have been developed.

 

Photo 3.6-3

Forested and Wetland Riparian Habitat along Gun Creek, 2003

 

Note: photo by Kenneth Roblee

 

Photo 3.6-4

Forested Riparian Habitat along Gun Creek, 2003

 

Note: photo by Kenneth Roblee

 

Photo 3.6-5

Forested and Wetland Riparian Habitat along Gun Creek, 2003

 

Note: photo by Kenneth Roblee

 

Photo 3.6-6

Culvert at Gun Creek

 

Note: Culvert dimensions are 15 ft 10 inches wide by 10 ft 6 inches high.  Depth is usually about 5 ft depending on river level fluctuations.

 

Photo 3.6-7

Aerial View of Culvert at Gun Creek showing Position of the Culvert and Flow Approach

 

 

3.8         HIP #7 – Fish Access to Burnt Ship Creek

3.8.1        Purpose

Burnt Ship Creek is a small waterway on the west end of the Buckhorn Marsh Restoration Project that flows into the Niagara River.  In 1997 the NYSDEC implemented a program to revitalize portions of Buckhorn Marsh that had become dominated by thick stands of cattails.  Portions of the marsh were dredged to allow development of open-water and emergent marsh areas of varying depth and emergent vegetation density.  Burnt Ship Creek was dredged to increase access by fish from the Niagara River.  However, sediment has accumulated and a thick stand of cattails has formed across the creek in a number of locations, limiting access for fish from the river.  This HIP would increase fish access to Burnt Ship Creek by dredging the existing creek channel from the River into areas of the marsh that were previously opened up.

3.8.2        Short-Term Objective

Increase access for fish to enter Burnt Ship Creek from the Niagara River.

3.8.3        Long-Term Objective

Monitor and maintain the Burnt Ship Creek channel to ensure that access by fish and wildlife is not reduced.  Enhance and maintain habitat in areas of the creek to encourage pike spawning and rearing. 

3.8.4        Target Habitat(s)

Open channel and spawning and nursery habitat.    

3.8.5        Primary Target Species, Guilds, or Communities

Northern pike.

3.8.6        Secondary Target Species, Guilds, or Communities

Riparian wildlife, waterbirds, and other fish species such as largemouth bass, yellow perch, sunfishes, and various cyprinids. 

3.8.7        Proposed Locations

Burnt Ship Creek.  Note locations in Figures 3.0-2, 3.7-1 and 3.7-2.

3.8.8        Project Description

This project would allow fish to move from the Niagara River into and out of the western end of Burnt Ship Creek by dredging the existing channel from the Niagara River up to areas of the marsh that were previously opened up by the NYSDEC.  The weir located immediately east of the Interstate 190 Highway Bridge and one located about 1,720 ft to the east, control water levels in Buckhorn Marsh.  Depending on management objectives for the marsh, the elevation of the east weir could be set higher than the elevation of the west weir, creating flow from Buckhorn Marsh out to the Niagara River through Burnt Ship Creek.  Dredging the creek and operating the weirs in this manner would provide access for fish to areas that are currently blocked by vegetation and sedimentation and potentially would enhance water quality in Burnt Ship Creek by increasing exchange of water in the creek.

3.8.9        Design Features

In developing the conceptual designs for this HIP, aerial photographs, GIS coverages, and habitat delineation data were examined to determine routes for dredging and to calculate approximate volumes of material to be removed.  Also, a joint permit filing for restoration of Buckhorn Marsh prepared by NYSDEC and NYSOPRHP (NYSDEC and NYSOPRHP 1995), a follow-up report to the application (Roblee 1998) were reviewed, and NYSDEC and NYPA personnel were consulted.  Also investigated were the design criteria used to size the culverts under the bike path (east of the Interstate 190 Highway bridge) to determine their capacity to pass water into Burnt Ship Creek (NYSDEC and NYSOPRHP 1995).  The culverts were sized to pass a 100-year flood based on a 0.5-sq-mile drainage area of Buckhorn Marsh and therefore are large enough to pass water to Burnt Ship Creek under any expected conditions of weir settings.

3.8.9.1       Use of Existing Information

Significant findings useful to this project are discussed in detail in the 1995 joint permit filing.  Much of this information could be used in completing final design for this HIP and processing permits needed to perform the work.  For example, this filing identifies the presence and location of both overhead and buried utilities in the area.  The permit filing also explains why there is a low probability of contaminants in the sediments to be dredged based on past land uses in the area.  Subsequent testing by the NYSDEC was conducted during restoration work in Buckhorn Marsh, which supports these conclusions.  Use of specific information in the application, and experience from the work conducted by the NYSDEC in Buckhorn Marsh would speed the permitting process and assist in determining final design details.   

3.8.9.2       On-site Investigations

Final design for this project would require on-site investigations and additional analysis, including:

·         habitat delineations for impact assessment including a mussel survey in the areas to be dredged;

·         determination of the extent of consolidated sediments and soils for selection of dredging/excavation equipment; 

·         design and siting of a settling basin for dredge spoils based on expected volumes and content of dredge spoils, and

·         consideration of how this HIP might integrate with HIP #9 – Shallow-water Habitat Creation near the mouth of Burnt Ship Creek.

3.8.9.3       Dredge Burnt Ship Creek

Dredging of the creek would occur in several locations between the river and the marsh (Figures 3.7-1 and 3.7-2); clearing areas that have filled in and become blocked by dense stands of cattails.  Previous dredging activities in the creek in 1997 employed the use of a long reach trackhoe.  The channel was dredged 15 to 20 ft wide and approximately 3 to 3.5 ft deep.  The dredging route was carefully selected and dredge spoils were side cast and spread 6 in deep to avoid impact to sensitive wetland meadow areas. 

Dredging for this HIP would be completed with a hydraulic dredge mounted on a barge.  The dredge would be small to be able to maneuver in confined areas and to draft the minimum amount of water.  The dredge would start at the River and work into the creek, floating into new area as it is cleaned out.  The channel would be dredged to a minimum of 4 ft to minimize invasion by cattail and to reduce the frequency at which the creek would need to be re-dredged.  Dredge material would be pumped via discharge pipe to a settling basin located on upland habitat south of the creek (Figures 3.7-1 and 3.7-2).  Total distance from the furthest dredging point to the proposed location for the settling basin is about 4,800 ft.  Because the dredge and barge would be small, a booster pump might be needed to move dredge material the entire 4,800 ft.  The discharge pipe would be run on top of the ground or on top of the water (suspended on floats) and is expected to have limited negative impact to habitats.  Dredge material could be stockpiled and used at other HIPs requiring soil, particularly if dredged areas do not contain exotic invasives such as Phragmites (common reed). 

3.8.9.4       Optional New Burnt Ship Creek Channel

Fish access to Burnt Ship Creek and dredging in this area was discussed at the October 3, 2003, meeting.  One option suggested was to cut a new channel across the peninsula southwest of the existing creek (Figures 3.7-1 and 3.7-2).  This part of the marsh does not contain ecologically sensitive areas such as wet meadow habitat.  An advantage to this approach is that the confluence of the new channel would be closer to deep water in the River than the confluence of Burnt Ship Creek.  This would provide a shorter route from the River into Burnt Ship Creek for fish access.  In addition, this location may also experience lower rates of sedimentation than the existing opening of the creek (see Section 3.7.12 Maintenance).  This option would likely provide a more direct hydraulic connection to the River.  A disadvantage may be that under some circumstances the new channel may serve to drain the marsh more quickly and keep water levels lower than desired, ultimately influencing vegetation composition, abundance, and distribution.  In contrast, an advantage of this approach may be that the additional channel may create more flow into and out of Burnt Ship Creek, thereby improving water quality and perhaps reducing sedimentation at the mouth of the Creek.  Understanding the potential dynamics of this situation will require preconstruction investigations.  It should be noted however, that it may be difficult to accurately predict how the hydraulics of Burnt Ship Creek and the surrounding marsh would react to construction of the optional channel.

The optional channel would be constructed primarily by land-based bulldozer or loader type excavators.  A rock forge would be provided at the location where the existing power line access road crosses the new channel in order to provide utility truck access to the power lines (Figure 3.7-1).  Excavated material would be trucked off site for disposal because this area is experiencing an infestation of common reed, and materials would need to be disposed of in a manner that would not allow for seeds and other plant material to regenerate.

3.8.10    Construction

Construction for this HIP would involve the use of typical equipment such as the hydraulic dredge, backhoes, loaders, and trucks for hauling dredge material.  Sediment control would be carried out in a manner to minimize the escape of suspended sediment to the River.  Generally, the hydraulic dredge is very low impact in this regard, capturing suspended sediments as part of the dredging and transport process.  Development of the settling pond and its access road would also involve typical construction activities such as: grubbing and debris removal, construction of the road bed and sedimentation basin, erosion/sedimentation control, and re-establishment of vegetative cover on disturbed lands.

3.8.11    Effectiveness Monitoring

It is recommended that sedimentation be monitored at intervals along the length of Burnt Ship Creek at least twice each year for the first two years after dredging, and then once each year after that.  Monitoring would include checking the level of sedimentation along the entire run of the channel from the western weir to the river in order to establish an appropriate schedule for maintenance.  Effectiveness monitoring should also include installation of water level monitors in Buckhorn Marsh and in Burnt Ship Creek to determine what effect dredging the creek and operation of the weirs has on hydrology of the marsh.  Changes in water levels resulting from a more direct connection to the river than currently exists or from operation of the weirs to create a flow in the creek could affect plant species composition, abundance, and density in both the creek and the marsh.

3.8.12    Maintenance

Maintenance activities for this HIP are primarily related to ensuring that Burnt Ship Creek will remain open for fish access.  Sedimentation may be occurring in the area and in combination with encroaching vegetation may be result in closing of the mouth of the creek.  In order to maintain an opening at the confluence of the creek it may be necessary to: (1) periodically dredge the creek channel, (2) block or divert the transport of sediment somewhere upstream of the outlet (i.e., install a diversion structure), (3) change the position of the opening - perhaps to the south towards noticeably deeper water, or (4) somehow increase hydraulic gradient in the creek sufficiently to minimize sedimentation.  The rate of sedimentation in this area however, is not known at this time and therefore it is difficult to evaluate which option would be most effective over the long-term.  Therefore, it is recommended that final design of this HIP include a more quantitative assessment of sedimentation in order to determine the best approach to minimize infilling of the outlet.  The assessment would include: (1) a local hydrographic/topographic survey and probing of sediment conditions, (2) sediment grain size analysis, (3) sediment transport estimates based on local waves and River flow, (4) assessment of potential hydraulic gradient in the creek, (5) evaluation of infilling rate without structure, and (6) development of structural and non-structural solutions. 

For the purposes of evaluating the conceptual design of this HIP, it is recommended that dredging occur when the channel reaches less than 3 ft in depth and 10 to 12 ft wide, or when emergent vegetation begins to encroach substantially on the channel and fish access is impeded.  It is estimated, based on the sedimentation rate of Burnt Ship Creek after dredging in 1997, that the channel may need to be dredged every 4 to 5 years.  It is anticipated that much of the dredging would occur near the mouth of the creek and that areas further upstream would need to be dredged on a less frequent basis.

3.8.13    Project Constraints

·         This project would potentially involve a number of permitting issues related to dredging, siting for the settling basin, and disturbance of the shoreline of the river, including consistency with the requirements of the Coastal Zone Management Act.

·         It would be necessary to secure permission from landowners for the access road to the new settling basin.  This land is, at least in part, likely to cross land with high voltage power lines and thus have restrictions based on safe exposure and clearance requirements.

·         The rate of sedimentation at the opening of the creek is not known at this time but it is expected that infilling will occur relatively quickly and that frequent dredging (at least every 4 to 5 years) will be required to keep it open. 

·         Opening the creek channel and operating the weirs in Buckhorn Marsh to create flow in the creek may alter the hydrology of the marsh and the wetland areas surrounding Burnt Ship Creek, potentially affecting vegetation composition, distribution, and abundance.

3.8.14    Feasibility

This HIP is a relatively straightforward task of dredging Burnt Ship Creek to provide fish access from the River and increasing habitat complexity in one of the open-water areas.  From a design and construction standpoint, the HIP is not particularly complicated or challenging, and carrying out activities “on the ground” is feasible.  The HIP would not adversely affect other uses of the area such as canoeing, bird watching, hiking, and biking other than during times of dredging and those activities would largely occur in areas that are not readily accessible to the public.  There are, however, two constraints that may affect overall feasibility of this project.  One is sedimentation at the mouth of the creek.  Under current conditions, this area fills in quickly and would require either frequent dredging to keep the channel open, installation of a structure to block or divert sediment, or locating the opening of the creek in an area that experiences a lower sedimentation rate unless the additional flow from the marsh between the weirs reduces sedimentation.  Determining the feasibility of installing a diversion structure or re-locating the opening of the creek would require additional evaluation.  A second factor considered in evaluating the feasibility of implementing this HIP is the potential effect on water levels in the marsh and the wetlands surrounding the creek.  Operating the weirs to create flow through the western portion of Burnt ship Creek and opening up a more direct connection to the River will undoubtedly affect the hydrology of this area in some way.  Understanding this effect would be an important component to managing the marsh and flow in the creek.  There is the potential that providing flow in the creek could conflict with maintaining specific water levels in the marsh, particularly during dry seasons or periods of abnormally low rainfall.  Determining these conflicts will likely require several years of investigation and a clear definition of management goals for the marsh and the creek.  Based on the above considerations, the feasibility of implementing this HIP successfully are good, although it should be recognized that a commitment to long-term maintenance would likely be required to keep the creek open for fish access.

3.8.15    References:

R1019215702 \ Text Reference: Working Group 1998 \ Federal Interagency Stream Restoration Working Group.  1998.  Stream Corridor Restoration:  Principles, Processes, and Practices. 

R1019215697 \ Text Reference: Means 2003 \ Means, R.S.  2003.  Heavy Construction Cost Data.  16th annual edition. 

R1019215431 \ Text Reference: NYSDEC and NYOPRHP 1995 \ New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and N.Y. State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation.  1995.  Buckhorn Marsh Restoration:  Joint Application for Permit, Phase I and Phase II.  NYSDEC Division of Fish and Wildlife, NYOPRHP Western District.

R1019215659 \ Text Reference: Roblee 1998 \ Roblee, Kenneth.  1998.  Buckhorn Marsh Restoration Project:  Final Progress Report.  Prep. for USEPA Great Lakes National Program Office.  New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. 

 

Figure 3.7-1 

Aerial Photo with Plan View of Proposed Habitat Improvement Structures at the West End of Burnt Ship Creek, Design Based on 2002 True Color Orthophotography

 

Figure 3.7-2

 Plan View of Proposed Habitat Improvement Structures at the West End of Burnt Ship Creek, Design Based on 2002 True Color Orthophotography 

 

3.9          HIP #8 – Control of Invasive Species at Buckhorn and Tifft Marshes

3.9.1        Purpose

Several exotic and invasive plants of concern occur in and near Buckhorn Marsh (Buckhorn) and Tifft Farm Nature Preserve (Tifft).  The species of greatest concern in Buckhorn and Tifft, as well as in the Niagara River area in general, are purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) and common reed (Phragmites australis).  These two wetland species occur primarily in palustrine emergent marsh habitat with little to no canopy cover (e.g., wet meadows and marshes). 

Purple loosestrife, common reed, and other exotic invasive species degrade wetlands as they tend to form dense, mono-specific stands, and negatively affect wildlife habitat and plant diversity.  Both species are poor wildlife forage, and their seeds are rarely consumed by birds.  Further, their dense stands can severely degrade habitat for waterfowl and wading birds, inhibiting their ability to see, move, and forage, and restricting their access to open water (Bargeron et al. 2003; Thompson et al. 1987; Kantrud 1990; Blossey et al. 2002).  Purple loosestrife has been found to severely degrade habitat for black tern and is not used by muskrat (Cronk and Fennessy 2001).  Common reed has even been found to affect hydrology through high rates of transpiration and accumulating large amounts of litter that builds over the underlying substrate (Cronk and Fennessy 2001).  This project would control exotic and invasive plant species and promote the growth of a diverse community of native wetland species to enhance and preserve wetland function.

3.9.2        Short -Term Objective

Prevent the spread of exotic/invasive plant species into wetlands dominated by natives, and pursue options to control these species in areas where they already are present in large numbers.

3.9.3        Long-Term Objective

Promote the growth of functionally valuable wetlands characterized by a diverse community of native wetland vegetation.

3.9.4        Target Habitat(s)

Palustrine emergent wetlands of Buckhorn Marsh and Tifft Nature Preserve.

3.9.5        Primary Target Species, Guilds, or Communities

Native wetland plant communities; birds that use palustrine marsh wetlands including waterfowl, wading birds and passerines (e.g., black tern, pied-billed grebe, least bittern, northern harrier, and sedge wren).

3.9.6        Secondary Target Species, Guilds, or Communities

Muskrat; herptiles, and insects that use native wetland vegetation.

3.9.7        Proposed Locations

Buckhorn Marsh (west side) and Tifft Nature Preserve.  Note locations shown in Figure 3.0-1 and 3.0-2.

3.9.8        Project Description

This project would survey the existing extent of purple loosestrife, common reed, and other exotic/invasive species of concern in Buckhorn and Tifft, and would create cover type maps showing the extent of native emergent communities (with few to no invasives), and the locations of wetlands dominated or co-dominated by various species of concern.  Once the extent of the problem is fully known, an area-specific plan for minimizing further spread of these species into wetlands dominated by natives, and controlling them in existing strongholds, would be further defined.  Control techniques would include biological, chemical and mechanical approaches. 

The removal of alien invasive species would increase habitat heterogeneity and promote the growth of a diverse wetland community of native species.  This HIP would enhance and preserve wetland function and increase the value of the marsh to native fish and wildlife.

3.9.9        Design Features

A phased approach to completing this HIP would be used as follows: (1) evaluate existing conditions including mapping emergent and scrub-shrub wetlands dominated by native and invasive plant communities, (2) complete feasibility studies and develop exotic species control plans using the existing conditions surveys, (3) implement the project, and (4) monitor the project.

3.9.9.1       Evaluate Existing Conditions

The first step in this HIP would be to evaluate the current distribution of exotic species in Buckhorn and Tifft.  Data collected by the NYSDEC in Buckhorn would be updated and mapped by conducting a survey of the area.  Comparison of current data and that collected by the NYSDEC would provide valuable information on the rate at which exotic species are spreading and invading new territories.  Similar data would need to be collected for Tifft.  The open-canopy (i.e., emergent and scrub-shrub) wetland cover types in the two target areas would be mapped using cover type classes that consider invasive species.  Potential cover types would likely include several different sub-classes of palustrine emergent marsh (PEM) and palustrine scrub-shrub (PSS).  Potential sub-classes to be mapped include: PEM (mixed native emergents), PEM (mixed invasive/native), PEM (dominated by mixed invasives), PEM (common reed – dominated), PEM (purple loosestrife – dominated), PEM (cattail – dominated), PSS (herb layer dominated by mixed invasives), etc.  Each cover type would be defined by the estimated percent aerial cover of specific species.  For example, PEM (common reed-dominated) might be defined as those marshes where common reed has a >50% aerial cover.  Other cover types, such as forested wetlands and uplands, would be mapped as well but would not be split into specific soil-classes.  Exact cover type definitions would be refined after initial field work. 

3.9.9.2       Feasibility Studies and Control Plan Development

It is generally recognized that invasive species such as purple loosestrife and common reed are very successful at invading disturbed soils following earth work or other disturbances if there is a nearby seed source, and that the best control method is prevention of their establishment in the first place (Thompson et al. 1987; Cronk and Fennessy 2001).  As such, the control plan would include recommendations for minimizing spread of these species into high quality wetlands.  One such recommendation will likely involve periodic monitoring to identify new occurrences in wetlands dominated by natives, since it is far easier to remove a few individual plants than to reduce an entire infestation over a large area (Cronk and Fennessy 2001).  For each species of concern, there are various control options for those locations where the species already exist.  These options can generally be divided into: mechanical, chemical, and biological. 

Mechanical Control

Mechanical control includes approaches such as hand-pulling, cutting, mechanical harvesters, burning, and weed rollers.  These methods are often expensive and ineffective in the long term because plants persist from the accumulated seed bank and below ground plant parts that are difficult to remove.  For high density or large (>0.5 acres) stands of purple loosestrife, mechanical control is not recommended (Canadian Wildlife Service 2001; Cronk and Fennessy 2001).  Harvesting or mechanically removing a species does not completely remove it in the long term, but may reduce the biomass enough to allow desirable plants to become established (Cronk and Fennessy 2001).  Hand pulling prior to seed set can be effective for very small infestations and young plants (Bargeron et al., 2003).  Another method involves the use of water level management to control exotic species and encourage high-valve natives.

Chemical Control

Chemical control involves the spot application, or broadcast application, of herbicide to infested areas.  Although herbicides are often more effective and easy to use than mechanical methods, environmental concerns have often discouraged managers from using them.  Chemical control options improved dramatically with the arrival of glyphosate (e.g., used under the trade names of Rodeo®, Roundup®, Accord®, and others).  This herbicide is effective at low doses and has a low potential for bioaccumulation (Thompson et al., 1987).  Use of glyphosate does require several years of application as plants manage to sprout from seeds and root fragments.  Studies conducted on the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge in Central New York indicated that application of Roundup® to purple loosestrife plots can be effective, particularly when applied during late flowering (July and August) (Rawinski, 1982 as cited in: Thompson et al., 1987).  Several studies have also shown that glyphosate can be very effective in the control of dense stands of common reed (Thompson et al., 1987).  

Some disadvantages of chemical control include negative effect on non-target plants, potential toxicity to aquatic life, and the need for special training or permits to apply in or near aquatic systems.  Although glyphosate itself isn’t thought to be toxic to non-plants, the surfactant used with the herbicide can be.  Therefore, only non-toxic surfactants would be used.  Some glyphosate formulations, such as Rodeo and Accord®, are approved for use in wetlands and aquatic systems since they use non-toxic surfactants (Bargeron et al. 2003).

Biological Control

Finally, biological control involves the use of the plant’s natural enemies to limit growth.  The use of European weevils and beetles to control purple loosestrife was introduced in 1992 (Cronk and Fennessy 2001) and has since been attempted in New York and many other U.S. states and Canadian provinces (Canadian Wildlife Service 2001).  It takes as long as 7-10 years to establish large and efficient populations of these insects, and the insects will not result in the complete eradication of purple loosestrife; however, once established, the insects appear to significantly reduce the biomass of purple loosestrife (Cronk and Fennessy 2001).  It would be necessary to obtain the insects through proper channels, and to obtain any necessary permits for their release.  Biological control using non-native beetle species specifically approved by the USDA for release is the most effective method for long term control of large infestations of purple loosestrife (Bargeron et al. 2003).

Several natural insect enemies of common reed from its native range have also been found and show great promise; however, they are not currently available for release at target sites and have not been tested as extensively as the insects that control purple loosestrife (Bargeron et al. 2003; Blossey et al. 2001).  Several insect species that are known to feed on Phragmites in the wild (including several species of gall midges, gall flies, moths and wasps, as well as the broad-winged skipper, and the legless reed mealy bug) have been identified as having potential use for biological control of Phragmites (Blossey et al. 2001)

Combining Techniques

The state-of-the-art for control of purple loosestrife and Phragmites changes yearly; however, it is recommended that a combination of biological and chemical approaches be used in favor of mechanical control techniques per numerous references that suggest that mechanical control is not as effective as chemical or biological control at the landscape scale (Thompson et al. 1987; Canadian Wildlife Service 2001, Cronk and Fennessy 2001).  At Buckhorn, water level management would also be explored as an additional control technique that could be used in combination with others. 

Re-establishment of Vegetation

Native plants and seed mixes would be installed/applied following chemical control application since chemical control would control plants quickly and revegetation through the natural seed bank would need to be supplemented to ensure continuous vegetative cover for soils stabilization and habitat.  Plantings would include containerized stock and plugs in stable areas, and include live-dormant willow and dogwood  material (e.g., stakes, wattles, cuttings) over exposed shorelines or unstable areas.  Native wetland seed mixes, which are increasingly available commercially (e.g., New England Wetland Plants of Amherst, Massachusetts), would also be used to help stabilize and revegetate areas where exotics are being controlled.  Planting and seeding densities would be lower than those typically specified for restoration on cut and fill soils since there would be a large degree of natural colonization from the existing seed bank and adjacent vegetation community.  Where exotics are a component part of a larger plant community that includes diverse native species as co-dominants, spot application of chemicals is recommended, whereas with monocultures broadcast application may be called for.  In the latter case planting densities should be greater.  Planting densities for woody stock should be approximately on 8 ft centers where broadcast application is used and on 12-20 ft centers where spot application is used and a large component of natives remain.  Herbaceous stock and seed mixes would similarly vary in application rates/planting densities depending on the site and control method.  Establishment of natives using plantings and seed mixes is important in order to control the ultimate species mix and give natives a head-start over exotics in recolonizing temporarily available space (Garbisch 2002).  With biological control, mortality of target species (e.g., purple loosestrife) is more gradual and less thorough, and plantings/seed application is either not necessary or would be applied at much lower rates/densities.

3.9.10    Construction

This HIP involves little “direct construction” but implementation would involve the annual release of insects and application of herbicides (glyphosate) for a period of three to five years in target areas identified by the existing conditions mapping.  Once established, insect populations should persist.  Chemical control could continue indefinitely; however, five years is a reasonable time period to cause a significant reduction in the biomass of these species.

3.9.11    Effectiveness Monitoring

Post-construction monitoring surveys would need to be conducted following implementation of control measures.  Small-scale control (e.g., hand pulling and glyphosate spot application) would be conducted where new occurrences of target species are identified in areas dominated by native species, since use of insect release is only recommended in large (>0.5 acres) and relatively densely populated infestations.  This monitoring should be conducted annually for a period of 10 years.  Thereafter, monitoring would occur every 5 years.  A short monitoring and maintenance report would be prepared annually (first 10 years and every 5 years thereafter).  The report would summarize any additional small-scale maintenance (e.g., hand pulling, spot applications of herbicides) carried-out, and would qualitatively describe and photo-document the effectiveness of the control effort.  The density of exotic/invasive species in each control area would be monitored in terms of estimated percent aerial coverage using coverage classes; detailed quantitative data taken along transect quadrants would not be pursued (i.e., the monitoring and control efforts would be more at the landscape scale than at the small plot scale).  Native marsh emergent wetlands not subject to the original control efforts would be spot-monitored as part of the monitoring effort to detect new populations at an early stage and attempt to use hand-pulling and spot application of herbicide to treat the new infestation.  Species such as purple loosestrife and common reed will never disappear from Buckhorn or Tifft, but once relegated to sub-dominant levels, native species growth would be enhanced.

3.9.12    Maintenance

See effectiveness monitoring above for maintenance activities.

3.9.13    Project Constraints

·         The control of exotic invasive species will require constant monitoring and treatment for a period of at least 10 years followed by monitoring every 5 years.  The control of exotic/invasive species at the landscape level is never over (these species will persist) and can be expensive (Bargeron et al. 2003), so goals must be established as to what level of control constitutes success (e.g., substantial reduction in purple loosestrife and common reed populations throughout these wetland systems to the point where monotypic stands are eliminated, but the plants remain as a part of a diverse community).

·         The use of chemical and biological control methods require that proper permission and required permits be obtained.  Herbicides would be applied by a certified chemical applicator following strict application guidelines to prevent any unnecessary injury or damage to non-target plants, natural communities, fish and wildlife, and humans.

3.9.14    Feasibility

Control of exotic and invasive species can be difficult, time-consuming, labor intensive and expensive.  Realistic goals need to be set with regard to control efforts (Bargeron et al. 2003).  Typically, reducing further spread and reducing dominance in targeted areas is a reasonable goal; eradication is usually not achievable (Bargeron et al. 2003).  The advent of biological control options for purple loosestrife (and the potential for biological control for common reed in the next few years) significantly enhances long-term effectiveness of control efforts while reducing cost (Van Driesche R., et al. 2002).  Most unsuccessful efforts aimed at the control of purple loosestrife, common reed, and other species, have involved mechanical control efforts such as mowing, burning, and pulling plants over areas too large to realistically repeat the efforts long-term (Cronk and Fennessy 2001).  However, now that biological and chemical control techniques are becoming more advanced, and more successful control efforts are being reported, it is realistic to assume that implementation of this HIP, along with a strong commitment to long-term maintenance, would result in significant reduction and control of target exotic/invasive species.  Based on these considerations, the overall feasibility of this HIP is good.

3.9.15    References

R1019215708 \ Text Reference: Bargeron et al. 2003 \ Bargeron, C.T., D.J. Moorhead, G.K. Douce, R.C. Reardon, and A.E. Miller.  2003.  Invasive Plants of the Eastern U.S.:  Identification and Control, FHTET-2003-08.  Morgantown, WV: USDA Forest Service, Forest Health Technology Enterprise Team. 

R1019215709 \ Text Reference: Blossey et al. 2002 \ Blossey, B., M. Schwarzlander, P. Hafliger, R. Casagrande, and L. Tewksbury.  2002.  Common Reed.  In: Biological Control of Invasive Plants in the Eastern United States, FHTET-2002-04.  ed. R. van Driesche, et al.  USDA Forest Service. 

R1019215710 \ Text Reference: CWS & OFAH 2001 \ Canadian Wildlife Service and Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters.  2001.  Purple Loosestrife: What You Should Know and What You can Do.  Peterborough, Ont.

R1019215073 \ Text Reference: Cashell 2002 \ Cashell, D.H.  2002.  Introduction to Lake Erie Water Levels: Patterns, History, and Current Conditions.  Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Water http://www.dnr.state.oh.us/water/lake_erie/levelhistory.htm.

R1019215711 \ Text Reference: Cronk and Fennessy 2001 \ Cronk, J.K., and M.S. Fennessy.  2001.  Wetland Plants:  Biology and Ecology.  Boca Raton, FL: Lewis Publishers.

R1019215181 \ Text Reference: Evans et al. 2001 \ Evans, D. J., P. G. Novak, and T. W. Weldy.  2001.  Rare Species and Ecological Communities of Beaver Island State Park, prep. for the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.  Latham, NY: New York Natural Heritage Program.

R1019215705 \ Text Reference: Garbisch 2002 \ Garbisch, Edgar.  2002.  The Dos and Don'ts of Wetland Construction, Creation, Restoration, and Enhancement.  St. Michaels, MD: Environmental Concern, Inc.

R1019215712 \ Text Reference: Kantrud 1990 \ Kantrud, H.A.  1990.  Effects of Vegetation Manipulation on Breeding Waterfowl in Prairie Wetlands:  A Literature Review.  In: Can Livestock be Used as a Tool to Enhance Wildlife Habitat? USDA Forest Service Tech. Report RM-194, pp. 93-123

R1019215713 \ Text Reference: Mazzocchi and Muller 2000 \ Mazzocchi, I.M., and S.L. Muller.  2000.  Black Tern Investigations in Northern New York, 1998.  Watertown, NY: New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. 

R1019215715 \ Text Reference: NPWRC 2003 \ Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center.  2003.  http://www.npwrc.usgs.gov/resource/1999/loosstrf/loosstrf.htm. 

R1019215373 \ Text Reference: Riveredge 2005 \ Riveredge Associates, LLC.  2005.  Assessment of the Potential Effects of Water Level and Flow Fluctuations and Land Management Practices on Rare, Threatened, and Endangered Species and Significant Occurrences of Natural Communities at the Niagara Power Project.  Prep. for the New York Power Authority. 

R1019215381 \ Text Reference: Stantec et al. 2005 \ Stantec Consulting Services, Inc., URS Corporation, Gomez and Sullivan Engineers, P.C., and E/PRO Engineering & Environmental Consulting, LLC.  2005.  Effect of Water Level and Flow Fluctuations on Terrestrial and Aquatic Habitat, prep. for the New York Power Authority. 

R1019215714 \ Text Reference: Thompson et al. 1987 \ Thompson, Daniel Q., Ronald L. Stuckey, Edith B. Thompson.  1987.  Spread, Impact, and Control of Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) in North American Wetlands.  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 

R1019215716 \ Text Reference: Van Driesche et al. 2002 \ Van Driesche, R., et al. (eds.).  2002.  Biological Control of Invasive Plants in the Eastern United States, FHTET 2002-04.  USDA Forest Service.

 

3.10     HIP #9 – Shallow-water Habitat Creation Near the Mouth of Burnt Ship Creek

3.10.1    Purpose

This project is for development of a new island of complex habitat structure to support varied fish species and other riparian wildlife in the upper Niagara River adjacent to lower Grand Island.  The island would include diverse habitat complexity and create marsh, exposed areas, and submerged coarse substrates for fish and wildlife.  Construction of this new island would employ similar techniques proposed for use at Strawberry Island (HIP #1) and Frog Island (HIP #2).

3.10.2    Short-Term Objective

Construct a submerged island of complex habitat with functionally valuable wetlands and areas of submerged coarse substrate.

3.10.3    Long-Term Objective

Enhance foraging, nesting/spawning, and cover habitat for fish and wildlife.

3.10.4    Target Habitat(s)

Emergent wetlands with diverse structure and topography, and coarse areas dominated by boulders, cobble, and gravel several inches to several feet below the normal water surface.

3.10.5    Primary Target Species, Guilds or Communities

Warm/cool water fish (smallmouth bass, northern pike, muskellunge, redhorse sp., cyprinids); waterfowl and wading birds; and, native wetland plant communities.

3.10.6    Secondary Target Species, Guilds, or Communities

Muskrat, passerines, green frog, and bullfrog.

3.10.7    Proposed Locations

This HIP would be placed in the shallow waters west of the Burnt Ship Creek outlet (Figures 3.0-2 and 3.9-1).

3.10.8    Project Description

This project would create approximately 2.6 acres of island and associated habitat using a J-shaped perimeter of breakwater structures situated just offshore of the Burnt Ship Creek outlet (Figure 3.9-1).  The head and western face of this island would extend into the deep-water channel to the west. This arrangement would develop a localized flow across the west face of the island.  The west face would be armored with cobble while the back side (or east side) of the island would be constructed of low-lying marsh (Figures 3.9-1 and Figure 3.9-2).  Small open channels through the face of the island would be constructed to allow for flow into and through the interior of the island.  The project would create diverse habitat conditions within and between the breakwaters including coarse (boulders, cobbles, and gravel) and fine (muck, silt, clay, and sand) substrate at variable depths ranging from just above the normal water level to several feet below the normal water level to facilitate the development of wetland interspersed with deeper water areas and shoal habitat.  This HIP would create approximately 2.6 acres of new habitat.  Only about one third of this would be exposed, with remaining areas to be marsh (slightly below MWL) and deep-water channels and pockets (Figures 3.9-1 and Figure 3.9-2).

3.10.9    Design Features

The conceptual design for this project is based on site visits, review of available information and conversations with the NYSDEC.  A multidisciplinary team including an engineer, a fluvial geomorphologist, and a biologist would need to evaluate the existing conditions and complete a final design based on existing conditions and best professional judgment.  A phased approach to completing this HIP would be used as follows: 1) evaluate the existing conditions; 2) complete design and feasibility studies using information gained in the evaluation; 3) implement the project; and 4) monitor the project.  Details of each phase are provided below.

3.10.9.1   Evaluate Existing Conditions

Existing conditions, such as current velocity and direction; substrate type; wind direction and fetch; and the extent of water level fluctuations would be evaluated to determine design criteria for this HIP.  As part of the existing conditions surveys, bathymetry work would have to be completed within the footprint of the proposed design.  Existing bathymetry will dictate several key design parameters including fill volumes, location of flow though channels, depth that island extends into the deep channel, and height and size of riprap.  In addition, recent work completed at Strawberry Island would be investigated as a reference to help determine optimal design grade and elevation for the Burnt Ship Creek Island.  The design team would ensure that the design grade, materials, and location in the River are stable and would allow the marsh habitats to develop in an aggrading (depositional) or static environment, rather than an erosive environment, and would permit adequate flushing (neither aggrading nor eroding) in coarse substrate areas and deep-water channels/pools.  Rock material and sediments would be sized/located to withstand the given hydraulic properties and riverine conditions (velocity, flow, and sediment dynamics) expected. 

3.10.9.2   Design Features and Feasibility Studies

Breakwater Design

This island would be narrow and J shaped because the shallow water area at Burnt Ship Creek is narrow and the adjacent power lines limit overhead space for barge/clamshell equipment to work without reasonable exposure for contact with the overhead, high voltage lines.  The J-shaped island, however, lends itself well to the current in this region of the River since the most active current is from along side of the island compared to a head current at Strawberry and Frog Islands (HIP #1 and HIP #2, respectively).

A J-shaped string of breakwaters with periodic gaps would define the perimeter of the island (Figures 3.9-1 and Figure 3.9-2).  The exact size and specific location of the structures would be determined in final design based on the existing conditions survey to ensure that desirable habitats that may already exist in the area are not negatively impacted by construction.  The upstream breakwater section would have a rounded face and be oriented roughly perpendicular to the flow to deflect high velocities around the sides of the Island.  The island would be designed with slightly higher elevations at the upstream end and deep channel side face so that when the island is overtopped during high flow events, the downstream portions of the island would be flooded first to reduce hydraulic head on the upstream breakwater and minimize erosion and scour directly behind this structure (Johnson 2000).  Each breakwater section would consist of an outer line of riprap at the River/Island interface, groins perpendicular to the line of riprap in the breakwater interior, and a rock barrier (lower in elevation than the outer riprap) along the east edge of the breakwater (Figures 3.9-1 and 3.9-2).  The periodic gaps in the breakwaters would be designed to encourage flushing action and allow fish to easily access the island interior.

Wetland Habitat

The area between the exterior and interior walls of each breakwater would be designed to create emergent marsh.  Soil from the stockpile at Buckhorn Marsh would be placed in-between the groin structures (Figure 3.9-3).  In the event that Buckhorn Marsh soil stockpiles are not available, clean topsoil or another suitable wetland soil stockpile would be used.  This detail would be determined during the final design for this project.  Temporary erosion control fabric would be placed over the sediment in the region immediately adjacent to the breakwater to provide temporary erosion control.  The design elevations of this sediment would be variable to create habitat complexity (Figure 3.9-3) and will need to consider daily and seasonal water level fluctuations. 

The soil from Buckhorn Marsh is assumed to have a native seed bank, but natural colonization would be supplemented with plantings to ensure that desired native species appropriate for the design elevations get a head-start.  Prior to utilizing Buckhorn soils, a germination study would be conducted to determine which plant species have viable seed in the stockpile.  Species would include bulrushes (e.g., hardstem and river) and native emergents tolerant of deep marsh elevations (e.g., giant burreed, pickerelweed, arrowhead).  Plantings would include containerized stock and plugs in marsh areas, and live-dormant willow and dogwood material (e.g., stakes, wattles, cuttings) adjacent to riprapped areas and in higher elevations. 

Overhead barrier grids and exclusion barriers would be required during plant establishment (at least 1 year) to limit herbivory from geese and to prevent areas above the water line from becoming loafing locations for geese and gulls.  An overhead barrier grid would likely be constructed of ply-electric fencing wire strung in a 2-4 ft grid pattern and anchored with metal fence posts.  On average, the grid would be about 4 ft off the ground.  A barrier for walking Canada geese should be made from fence materials at least 30 inches high with openings no larger than 3 inches by 3 inches.  Barrier fences may be constructed from woven wire, chicken wire, welded wire, plastic snow fencing, or rolled corn cribbing.  Used fence materials are an inexpensive source of barrier fencing.  Other acceptable methods include the use of reflective tape or battery-powered electric fencing.

Coarse substrates (sand, gravel, cobble, boulders) would be placed on the back (east) side of the island in a complex pattern so that there would be a range of microhabitats and depths (Figures 3.9-1 and 3.9-2).  Finer substrate areas (e.g., sand, silt, and muck) would also be included to accommodate the growth of marsh emergent cover types at slightly higher elevations and in the more protected places (such as within the interior of the breakwater structures and on top of mounds created in the island interior) (Figures 3.9-1 and 3.9-2).  Coarse areas would be submerged sufficiently to provide contrasting habitat for fish and waterbirds, and would be located in less protected places (such as within the breaks between breakwaters, deep water pockets excavated within the island interior, deep water channels within the island interior, and a single shoal located at the downstream tip of the island).  The habitat types should be relatively evenly dispersed in a somewhat irregular pattern (irregular edges between them) throughout the island.  The use of discontinuous breakwaters along the sides of the island would require less material than a continuous line of riprap and, more importantly, would provide better access to interior portions of the island for shorebirds, turtles, fish, and other fauna (Johnson 2000).  Substrate from Buckhorn Marsh would be used in protected areas where marsh emergent vegetation is desired.

Design elevations/depths for target habitat types would be as follows: shallow marsh (0.5 ft above to 0.5 ft below the MWL), deep marsh (0.5 ft below to 3.0 ft below MWL), deep, coarse channels and pools (3.0-8.0 ft below MWL), and rocky shoal (3-6 ft below MWL) as shown on Figure 3.9-3.  In a few places (high points of breakwaters and interior-island mounds) elevations would actually exceed 0.5 ft.

The precise locations of habitat features shown on (Figures 3.9-1 and 3.9-2) such as deep-water pools, the shoal, deep-water channels, marshes and exposed areas may need to be modified somewhat depending on actual site conditions such as substrate composition or the presence of emergent and submerged aquatic vegetation.  Boulders, cobbles, and gravel would need to be imported from off site.  Some amount of sandy material may be available on site and would be used as available.  Cut and fill would be balanced (i.e., exposed mounds in the island interior would be made from material excavated to create the deep water pockets).  Dredged material used in construction may or may not need to be tested for contaminants as required by regulators as part of the permitting completed during the final design.

The Burnt Ship Creek Island HIP would be designed to accommodate significant flushing action through the deeper channels that occur in the breakwater gaps.  In addition, there is the potential to dredge a deep-water channel around the inside of the island structure and to connect the channel with Burnt Ship Creek (Figures 3.9-1 and 3.9-2).  These areas however, may be subject to relatively rapid sedimentation.  Information gained in the existing conditions survey will assist in determining the rate of sedimentation that may occur and help determine in final design if this structure should be included.   

As with Strawberry Island, sediment deposition is expected in more protected portions of the island interior, and the most erosive velocities would be directed around the riprap that would define the island perimeter.  Finally, stone structures to stabilize shorelines would also be designed to maximize submerged habitat/structure for fish as shown on Figure 3.9-1, 3.9-2, and 3.9-4.  The orientation of these structures would likely be site-specific depending on depth, velocity, and habitat objectives at the installation location.  The structures could be placed to create specific areas of sediment deposition, areas of increased current velocity, or used primarily as current velocity shelters depending on location and objectives.

Finally, intermediate-height perching structures would be installed in the open wetlands.  These structures would consist of single poles 3-4 inches in diameter driven into the River bottom to a height of 5-10 ft above the water surface.  They would provide perches for birds such as common tern, black tern, and Caspian tern.  The use of larger diameter poles or poles with cross arms is not recommended because these types of perches would likely be used by cormorants.  Poles could be installed by pushing them into the River bottom with the bucket of a backhoe or loader.  Perch design may include a PVC collar around the pole from the River bed to 1 ft above HWL to prevent ice lifting in winter.

Erosion and Sediment Control

The design would include an erosion and sediment control plan.  This would involve the use of a turbidity curtain to be placed around active work areas and unstable areas that could potentially erode.  Plans to immediately establish vegetation on exposed soils would also be specified.

3.10.10Construction

Unlike the construction techniques employed for Strawberry Island and Frog Island, Burnt Ship Creek Island must take into consideration the high voltage lines very close to the area of construction. A spud barge equipped with a clamshell would be used to place riprap material, and finer material, and to deliver plant materials.  To ensure that the barge would not float toward the high voltage lines, the island would need to be constructed by starting along the east side and moving west.  The spud barges’ vertical anchoring legs would keep the barge in place and eliminate easterly drift due to current or wind.  When not in use for long periods, the barge would also be anchored in a location where there would be no danger of it breaking free and drifting toward the power lines.

3.10.11Effectiveness Monitoring

The recommended monitoring plan below is based on the current conceptual design.  A final effectiveness monitoring plan would need to be developed after the final design was established.  Vegetation at the site would need to be monitored weekly for a period of six weeks following installation, until new plantings were established and exposed soils were stabilized.  Once plants were established and soils were stabilized, the site should be monitored each month of the growing season for the remainder of the growing season (this assumes spring or early summer construction; if construction occurs in the fall, this monthly monitoring would occur the following year).  For the next four years the site should be monitored once at the beginning of the growing season (May through early June) and once at the end of the growing season (September) for a total of five years of monitoring after construction. 

In addition to ensuring establishment of vegetation, the overall objectives of the effectiveness monitoring for this HIP would be to determine if habitats have been created as designed and to establish actions needed for follow-up or repair work.  The recommended effectiveness monitoring is not intended as a quantitative evaluation of habitat use by wetland animal, bird, or fish species.  The following project components will be evaluated:

·         The survival of plants in the riparian zone would be monitored during the first growing season and dead plants would be replaced to ensure an overall survival rate of 75% of the original planting density.

·         Exotic and invasive species would be monitored, and recommendations for control would be made as necessary.  Spot applications of glyphosate (e.g., Rodeo®) and careful hand pulling could be used to control individual plants or groupings of plants.  Broadcast of herbicides would be avoided.  Biological control such as the use of European weevils and beetles to control purple loosestrife would also be strongly considered (see HIP #8).  Permits from the NYSDEC to apply glyphosate products in specific areas would be obtained as necessary (all 5 years).

·         Exclusion barriers would be monitored as necessary until the plants are mature.  Any maintenance needed would be identified (all 5 years).

·         Bank stability and degree of erosion would be evaluated.  If these problems are occurring at significant levels, specific measures to address stability (e.g., use of geotextile fabric, additional riprap, additional plantings, grade adjustments, etc.) would be identified (all 5 years).

·         Integrity of the structures would be evaluated.  This would include functionality/stability of riprap and other structures such as fish habitat structures.  This would consist of observations on whether structures conform to design specifications (e.g., correct depth, functional cover characteristics, stability).  

·         Vegetated habitat structure and function would be evaluated.  This would entail an assessment of whether habitats are functioning as intended.  Specifically, a check-list of habitat objectives would be developed and would include: hydrologic observations (e.g., are water depths as intended for plant survival and habitat function), habitat structure observations (e.g., is habitat heterogeneity as intended including irregular edges, variable depths, plant density and vertical structure), presence/absence and estimated percent aerial cover of exotic/invasive plants/animals (e.g., Phragmites, purple loosestrife, zebra mussels), and general observations on native vegetation colonization (e.g., from seed bank and adjacent source material) as well as success of plantings (all 5 years).

·         Qualitative observations on habitat use by species when evaluators are in the field (all 5 years).

This monitoring should be conducted by a team of two (at a minimum) that includes an engineer and a biologist the first year.  It would not be necessary to have both present at each weekly and monthly visit, but an engineer would be required to visit at least twice.  During subsequent years, the site monitoring could be conducted by a biologist, and engineering expertise would be called-on only as specific observations (e.g., failing riprap, structural instability, excessive erosion) warrant.  Photographs would be taken with each visit to develop a photographic log for comparative purposes.  An annual monitoring report would be prepared that detailed the findings of the investigations.  This report would include recommendations (if any) for modifications or repairs.  It would also include justification for not recommending modifications or repairs when as-built conditions deviate from the design.  For example, if only 50% of the plantings in a specific area have survived but a robust community of native colonizers has established to fill the void, this would be noted but it might be suggested that plant replacement is unnecessary.

3.10.12Maintenance

Dead plants would be replaced as necessary during the first year after construction.  Exotic and invasive species would be controlled as necessary each year for the first five years following construction; spot applications of glyphosate (e.g., Rodeo®) can be used to control individual plants or groupings of plants.  Broadcast of herbicides would be avoided.  Exclusion barriers would be maintained as necessary until the plants are mature to avoid plant stress or mortality from geese or other wildlife during the year of construction and during the first full year following construction.  Periodic maintenance of breakwater structures may be required following particularly severe storm events, but routine (e.g., annual) maintenance to the breakwater would not be required. 

3.10.13Project Constraints

·         There could be a significant effort to obtain permits for the project, including approvals from the IJC and USACE.  Permitting considerations include addressing the potential for changes in water levels, navigation, or velocities in international waters as well as complying with the requirements of the Coastal Zone Management Program.

·         The structures would need to withstand significant forces due to ice and wind-driven waves.  Periodic severe storms have caused substantial damage from erosion to other areas such as Strawberry Island.

·         This project would require a long-term commitment to the control of exotic and invasive plant species and a short-term commitment to controlling herbivory.

·         During and shortly after construction there may be temporary aesthetic impacts as a result of exposed and disturbed soils, equipment, and construction traffic.

·         Working in close proximity to the adjacent power line will require measures to ensure safety of workers.

3.10.14Feasibility

Habitat restoration is generally considered to have a greater chance of success than habitat creation (Kentula 1994).  The Shallow Water Habitat Creation Near Burnt Ship Creek HIP is a habitat creation project.  Therefore, this project has a greater risk of failure than projects that involve modification of existing islands or shorelines (e.g., HIP #s 1 and 3).  Technical considerations include the fact that there is little empirical evidence of how the new island will interact with the local fluvial geomorphology (compared to restoration of an existing island), which could result in unexpected maintenance or design issues.  Preliminary data from our investigation indicates that the area is depositional (i.e., aggrading) rather than actively eroding (see HIP # 7).  This may actually cause the proposed shallow-water island to aggrade over time, potentially increasing the size of the shallow water island, but potentially also converting some of the interior wetlands to drier habitats or even upland habitats over time.  While an increase in the size of the shallow habitat over time may actually be desirable from a habitat perspective for this HIP, it could be in conflict with other HIPs (i.e., HIP # 7).  Other considerations include the fact that it could be harder to permit a new island, compared to the modification of an existing island, as a result of potential impacts associated with navigation and potential alterations to River flows.  There is some potential for the project to affect boating safety and navigation (short term and long term), and to negatively affect recreational pursuits such as fishing and hunting during construction.  However, the project would ultimately improve fishing and hunting opportunities as well as passive recreation (e.g., bird watching), and navigation/safety concerns should not be an issue with proper planning.  One factor that increases chance of success is that riprap breakwaters have been used extensively in a variety of high-energy environments for over a century and have been proven to be reliable as long as they are properly designed (Robinson 2003).  We anticipate that through proper design, construction, and a commitment to periodic maintenance, creation of approximately 2.6 acres of diverse wetland habitat for fish, wildlife, and waterbirds is possible.  Based on these considerations, the overall feasibility of this HIP is fair/good.

3.10.15References

R1019215686 \ Text Reference: Acres 2000 \ Acres International Corporation.  2000.  Strawberry Island Phase 3 Erosion Control and Aquatic Restoration Technical Specifications.  Prep. for New York State Department of Environmental Conservation in association with the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. 

R1019215692 \ Text Reference: Caulk et al. 2000 \ Caulk, A.D., J.E. Gannon, J.R. Shaw, and J.H. Hartig (eds.).  2000.  Best Management Practices for Soft Engineering of Shorelines.  Greater Detroit American Heritage River Initiative.

R1019215691 \ Text Reference: Fischenich and Allen 2000 \ Fischenich, J.C., and H. Allen.  2000.  Stream Management.  ERDC/EL SR-W-00-1.  U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Engineer Research and Development Center, Environmental Laboratory. 

R1019215693 \ Text Reference: Johnson 2000 \ Johnson, Barry.  2000.  Constructing Islands for Habitat Rehabilitation.  In: Best Management Practices for Soft Engineering of Shorelines.  ed. A.D. Caulk, J.E. Gannon, J.R. Shaw, and J.H. Hartig.  Greater Detroit American Heritage River Initiative. 

R1019215707 \ Text Reference: Kentula 1994 \ Kentula, M.E.  1994.  Restoration, Creation, and Recovery of Wetlands.  In: Wetland Restoration and Creation, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Summary on Wetland Resources, U.S. Geological Survey Water Supply Paper 2425. 

R1019215697 \ Text Reference: Means 2003 \ Means, R.S.  2003.  Heavy Construction Cost Data.  16th annual edition. 

R1019215696 \ Text Reference: Robinson 2003 \ Robinson, Linda.  2003.  Mats, concrete, blocks, and rocks: the lowdown on riprap.  Erosion Control Sept.-Oct.

R1019215698 \ Text Reference: USFWS 2000 \ U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  2000.  Great Lakes Native Fish Restoration:  Lake Sturgeon.  FY 1997 Fisheries Stewardship Proposal.  Final Progress Report.  USFWS Region 5, Hadley, MA. 

R1019215699 \ Text Reference: Zentner 2003 \ Zentner, J., J. Glaspy, and D. Schenk.  2003.  Wetland and riparian woodland restoration costs.  Ecological Restoration.  September 2003.

 

Figure 3.9-1

Aerial Photo with Plan View of Proposed Habitat Improvement Structures at Burnt Ship Creek, Design Based on 2002 True Color Orthophotography

 

Figure 3.9-2

Plan View of Proposed Habitat Improvement Structures at Burnt Ship Creek, Design Based on 2002 True Color Orthophotography

 

Figure 3.9-3

Section Views of Breakwater and Groin Areas for Proposed Habitat Improvement Structures at Burnt Ship Creek

 

Figure 3.9-4

Groin Detail for Proposed Habitat Improvement Structures at Burnt Ship Creek

 

3.11     HIP #10 – Feasibility of Restoring Native Terrestrial Plants

3.11.1    Purpose

The forests along the Niagara River have lost many of their native plant species.  The native forest that once covered the area has been modified and alien invasive species are widespread (Eckel 2002).  Some alien invasive species can have devastating effects on the natural communities where they become established (Evans et al. 2001).  In addition, the integrity of the calcareous cliff and calcareous talus slope woodland communities of the gorge have been altered by recreation ( Evans et al. 2001), and the amount of water on the face of the gorge near Devil’s Hole State Park has been reduced through the remediation of the creek known as Bloody Run (NYWEA 2000).

This HIP would involve working with resource and management agencies such as NYSOPRHP, NYSDEC, and New York Natural Heritage Program (NYNHP) to identify areas along the Niagara gorge where alien invasive species could be selectively removed or controlled and native species could be promoted or restored.  Once identified, field surveys of selected sites would be conducted to identify the number and species of alien plants and native plants that could be removed or restored.  This project would also investigate the feasibility of increasing the amount of water that flows down the face of the gorge at Devil’s Hole State Park to create environmental conditions that encourage native plant communites.  A report produced from these investigations would detail the feasibility and costs of a long-term management program for invasive species control and native species restoration in the Parks of the Niagara River region.

3.11.2    Short-Term Objective

Determine the feasibility of controlling alien invasive species and promoting or restoring terrestrial native plants to selected sites in the Niagara River corridor.

3.11.3    Long-Term Objective

Increase the diversity of existing natural communities by controlling alien invasive species, creating conditions suitable for native species, and limiting human disturbance to sensitive habitats based on the results of the feasibility study.

3.11.4    Target Habitat(s)

Woodland areas in or near the Niagara gorge, or on islands in the Niagara River.

3.11.5    Primary Target Species, Guilds, or Communities

Alien invasive species include Norway maple (Acer platanoides), buckthorn (Rhamnus catharticus), honeysuckle (Lonicera tartarica and L. japonica), purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria), and garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) (Evans et al. 2001, Eckel 2002).  A number of native species could be considered in this HIP, including rare species such as sky-blue aster (Aster oolentangiensis), lesser fringed gentian (Gentianopsis procera), and white camas (Zigadenus elegans ssp glaucus).  The species of alien invasive plants that can be effectively removed and species of native plants that could be restored would be identified in this feasibility study.

3.11.6    Secondary Target Species, Guilds, or Communities

To be identified as a result of the feasibility study proposed in this HIP.

3.11.7    Proposed Locations

Possible locations include:  Strawberry Island, Niagara Reservation State Park (specifically the Three Sisters Island Area), Devil's Hole State Park, and Earl W. Brydges Artpark.  Note locations shown in Figures 3.0-2 and 3.0-3.

3.11.8    Project Description

This HIP would determine the feasibility of modifying existing woodland areas at selected sites so they more closely resemble the natural communities that once existed in the Niagara Falls area.  The first step in the feasibility analysis would be to conduct meetings with resource agencies such as NYSDEC and NYSOPRHP to formulate the goals of such a program and to identify areas where it could be accomplished.  After a clear set of goals and objectives was formulated, a thorough evaluation of existing literature and similar restoration projects would be conducted to synthesize existing information on abundance and distribution of native and invasive plants in the area, and to help identify successful reintroduction, maintenance, and  removal techniques.  Following this desktop analysis, preliminary field surveys would identify potential sites where non-native species could be effectively controlled and native species could be planted or promoted to help restore the natural communities of the area to a state more similar to their pre-development structure and species composition.

At this time (i.e., without the results of the feasibility study), we believe that four general areas may be targeted for survey investigation: Strawberry Island, Goat Island at Niagara Reservation State Park, Devil's Hole State Park and Earl W. Brydges State Park.  Niagara Reservation State Park was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and opened in 1885.  Olmsted recognized that Goat Island was important for both public access to the falls and for protecting the vegetation of the area.  Areas of particular interest within Goat Island are likely to be forested areas or some portions of the Three Sisters Islands.

Surveys would be conducted to identify woodlands with the greatest proportion of native species and the least impact from development and recreation.  Surveys would also be conducted to identify the location, size and general suitability of surface water runoff, streams, or other water sources that could be diverted or piped to the face of the Niagara Gorge at Devil’s Hole State Park where moisture dependent rare plants might be established.  If the proper conditions could be established by changing the existing microclimate, it might be possible to increase the number of individuals or the number of species of native plants that grow on the cliff face of the Niagara Gorge in this area.

In each of these general areas, field surveys would identify specific target habitats and areas where alien species could be removed and conditions made favorable for native species.  In each identified area, the number of non-native species would be determined along with the best method to remove these species.  In addition, areas where native species could be restored would be identified and a suggested list of species and methods developed.  Costs for these activities would be estimated and a full report on the feasibility of the proposed activities would be prepared.

3.11.9    Design Features

The design features of a non-native species removal and native species restoration program would ultimately be determined through the feasibility study.  In general, the important design elements of this feasibility study would include (1) determining species composition and abundance of native and alien plants and communities in selected sites, (2) identifying the best invasive plant removal techniques, and the best native plant re-introduction techniques, (3) determining the best maintenance techniques, and the expected frequency and magnitude of maintenance efforts, (4) determining the site-specific likelihood of success, and (5) estimating the cost of each component of this effort.  Areas where these surveys are being conducted would be closed to the public.

3.11.10Construction

No specific construction activities would be conducted during this feasibility study, although recommendations for construction methods and designs that could be employed to remove alien species, promote native species, and facilitate water dispersal on the face of the gorge would be included in the feasibility study.

3.11.11Effectiveness Monitoring

There are no effectiveness monitoring activities associates with the feasibility study.  If, however, alien plant species are eventually removed, and native species are planted, significant annual maintenance activities would be required.  These maintenance activities, continually removing invasive species and maintaining native plants, will essentially constitute a combined effectiveness monitoring and maintenance program.  Plants would be assessed several times each year and repeated planting, soil conditioning or the addition of water would likely be required.

3.11.12Maintenance

See effectiveness monitoring above for maintenance activities.

3.11.13Project Constraints

The restoration of native vegetation and the removal of alien invasive species will be very difficult.  Although specific constraints would be identified in the feasibility study, some should be noted here.  Virtually all of the target habitats are owned and managed by NYSOPRHP and this project would require their full cooperation.  Only Earl W. Brydges Artpark is on land actually owned by NYPA, although like all other parks, it is managed by NYSOPRHP.

Non-native invasive species in the areas parks are well established (Evans et al 2001).  The constant influx of non-native diaspores (e.g seeds) will require a long term and constant commitment to the removal and control of alien invasive species.  It is unlikely that an effort in the United States will have long term success unless similar efforts are undertaken in adjacent Canadian areas since some seeds may be dispersed across the gorge by wind.  This commitment must be made by several local, state and provincial agencies in New York and Ontario.  In some areas, the removal of non-native species could cause more damage than good.  For example, removing the forest canopy in areas where it is dominated by alien species such as Norway maple, could prevent, rather than promote, the establishment of native species.  Obtaining new plant stock for native species’ plantings may require using genetic variants other than those that occur or formerly occured in the Niagara region.  Off-trail recreation, picking, and trampling may limit or prevent the establishment of new plantings in some areas.  Finally, efforts to restore water flow to the face of the gorge by channeling surface water could introduce petroleum products and other chemicals to the gorge (Evans et al. 2001) and might inadvertently harm the native plants and natural communities of the area.

3.11.14Feasibility

The feasibility study would determine if restoring native species to selected forest areas might be accomplished.  In some areas of the Great Lakes, native plant restoration projects and landscaping efforts with native plants have been successful (USEPA 2004).  In the Niagara River region, however, establishing or restoring native plants could be difficult due to the extensive use of the area for tourism and recreation and the number of alien invasive species already present.  The areas proposed for native terrestrial plant restoration are owned and managed by NYSOPRHP and their full cooperation will be necessary.  Selecting forest patches or other locations in these parks that experience limited recreation may help, but some areas of these parks will need to be closed to public access.  In addition, long-term monitoring and management will be required.  These considerations and the chances of reestablsihing terrestrial native plants in the area will be determined through the feasibilty study.

3.11.15References

R1019215289 \ Text Reference: Eckel 1990 \ Eckel, P.M.  1990.  Botanical Evaluation of the Goat Island Complex, Niagara Falls, New York.  Draft.  Parts I and II.  prep. for New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.  http://ridgwaydb.mobot.org/resbot/flor/Bot_Goat/. 

R1019215181 \ Text Reference: Evans et al. 2001 \ Evans, D. J., P. G. Novak, and T. W. Weldy.  2001.  Rare Species and Ecological Communities of Beaver Island State Park,  prep. for the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.  Latham, NY: New York Natural Heritage Program.

R1019215378 \ Text Reference: NYWEA 2000 \ New York Water Environment Association.  2000.  Niagara River Toxics 2000.  Clearwaters Magazine, http://www.nywea.org/clearwaters/303090.html 30(3), Fall 2000.

R1019215373 \ Text Reference: Riveredge 2005 \Riveredge Associates, LLC.  2005.  Assessment of the Potential Effects of Water Level and Flow Fluctuations and Land Management Practices on Rare, Threatened, and Endangered Species and Significant Occurrences of Natural Communities at the Niagara Power Project.  Prep. for the New York Power Authority. 

R1019215717 \ Text Reference: USEPA 2004 \ U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.  2004.  Green Landscaping with Native Plants, http://www.epa.gov/glnpo/greenacres/index.html. 

 

3.12     HIP #11 – Osprey Nesting

3.12.1    Purpose

Birds that nest in or near wetlands may be limited by the availability of suitable nesting sites.  Wetland nesting sites may be limited by human disturbance, alien invasive species (Evans et al. 2001), or by lack of suitable nesting sites.  Osprey nest along rivers and in wetlands in New York.  Osprey are present on the Niagara River during migration (NYSDEC and NYSOPRHP 1995), but a local breeding population is not currently established.  This HIP would increase nest site availability for osprey by installing pole-mounted nesting platforms.

3.12.2    Short Term Objective

Provide nesting structures for osprey that currently may be seeking suitable sites on the upper Niagara River.

3.12.3    Long Term Objective

Increase the number and diversity of wetland birds breeding in the wetlands and marshes of the Niagara River area.

3.12.4    Target Habitat(s)

Riverine wetlands and marshes along eastern Lake Erie and the Niagara River.

3.12.5    Primary Target Species, Guilds, or Communities

Osprey

3.12.6    Secondary Target Species, Guilds, or Communities

Bald Eagle

3.12.7    Proposed Locations

Strawberry Island, Tifft Farm Nature Preserve, Bird Island Pier, on or near Buckhorn Weir, and possibly also Beaver Island State Park (East River Marsh).  General locations are shown in Figures 3.0-1, 3.0-2, and 3.0-3.  Exact sites will be determined during final design.

3.12.8    Project Description

This project would create new nesting opportunities for osprey through the installation of pole-mounted nesting platforms.  These structures would be placed in existing wetlands and in wetlands created, enhanced, or restored through other HIPs.  Osprey platforms could be installed at or near Buckhorn Weir, Beaver Island State Park (East River marsh), Strawberry Island, Bird Island Pier and Tifft Farm Nature Preserve.  Two platforms would be installed at Tifft Farm, and one platform at each of the other locations.

3.12.9    Design Features

A number of different osprey platform designs have been used in the northeast (Ewins 1994).  For this HIP, two designs have been selected for consideration.  The first design is a pole-mounted nesting platform (Figure 3.11-1; figure provided by NYSDEC).  This basic design was used by NYSDEC at Buckhorn Marsh.  The telephone pole is 30 ft in length and is set 8 ft in the ground.  NYSDEC made two modifications to this design for use at Buckhorn Marsh.  First, the nesting platform was lowered approximately 12 inches from the top of the pole and attached to the side of the pole instead of directly on top.  This permits a NYSDEC climber to attach a safety harness to the top of the pole during nest checks or maintenance.  Second, pressure treated lumber was used instead of cedar.

Another osprey pole design that could be used on the Niagara River uses several smaller diameter poles in a tripod or quadripod design instead of a single telephone pole (Figure 3.11-2).  This design can be installed in winter through the ice and does not require the use of heavy equipment.  In addition, this design can be installed on rock breakwaters or groins where boring into the ground for a telephone pole is impractical or impossible.  The legs of the tripod or quadripod could be made of either cedar, pressure treated lumber or metal.  Cedar poles are more natural and lighter to work with; metal or pressure treated poles are potentially more durable.  If installed on breakwaters or groins, each leg would be fastened down with rock anchors or concrete fasteners.

Pole mounted osprey platforms would be installed at several new locations.  All platforms would be designed and built so they are located in relatively sheltered areas near open water, taller than surrounding trees and structurally stable.  Each platform would have a perch for adult birds.  Although potential sites have been identified, final locations and specific design features would be determined during pre-construction surveys and consultations with the NYSDEC.

3.12.10Construction

Osprey platforms would be constructed of wooden frames approximately three feet on each side mounted on wooden poles following the designs of NYSDEC (Figure 3.11-1).  The poles could be telephone poles, cedar poles, or metal poles depending on site conditions.  Wire mesh would be attached to the wooden frame to provide a base for the nest (Figure 3.11-1).  In marshes, platforms would likely be installed during winter when solid ice conditions permit access by construction equipment.  Snowmobiles and/or four-wheel all-terrain vehicles would aid in transporting materials and people to each site.  Holes would be drilled through the ice and the pole-mounted platform raised into place by hand or with the aid of construction equipment.  On the Niagara River, poles and platforms would be installed by boat or barge, possibly at the same time that other habitat improvement projects are under construction and heavy equipment is already on-site.  Tripod or quadripod designs can be installed without the use of heavy equipment.

3.12.11Effectiveness Monitoring

Each new platform would be monitored annually for five years to determine use by osprey or other species.  Existing platforms in Buckhorn Marsh would also be monitored.  The monitoring proposed here consists of checking the nest platform five times per year to determine if ospreys have occupied the platform.

3.12.12Maintenance

Each osprey platform would be visually inspected each spring.  Repair or replacement of the nesting platform or pole would be made as necessary prior to the nesting season.  Wooden telephone poles can be climbed using climbing spikes; tripod or quadripod platforms can be reached using an extension ladder.

3.12.13Project Constraints

·         Ospreys generally avoid nesting in areas near large trees or woodlands because these areas may contain great horned owls.  Great horned owls prey on osprey young and occasionally on adults and may limit their use of certain habitats. 

·         Persistent organic pollutants may affect osprey breeding success.  However, these pollutants are decreasing in the area.  Levels of contaminants in herring gulls nesting near Horseshoe Falls have declined over the last 20 years (Weseloh 2002).  NYSDEC has already installed two osprey nesting platforms in Buckhorn marsh.

3.12.14Feasibility

Osprey poles have been successful on Lake Erie, Lake Ontario, and the St. Lawrence River (Ewins et al. 1995).  In general, poles placed in open areas away from trees and adjacent to water are most often successful.  Osprey poles installed at Buckhorn marsh by NYSDEC had not been used by osprey for nesting up to 2003.  Because there are few ospreys nesting nearby, the colonization of these platforms may take several years.  At the Tonawanda WMA wetland complex, nesting platforms remained unoccupied until young ospreys were hacked at the site.  Ospreys are successfully nesting there now, and ospreys are known to frequent the Niagara River during migration and occasionally also during the breeding season.  Hacking young ospreys on the Niagara River would likely establish a local breeding population sooner, although a hacking program has not been included in this HIP at this time.  Based on these considerations, the overall feasibility of this HIP is good, although the platforms may not be occupied for several years after installation, and the probability of successful occupation will increase as the regional osprey population increases.

3.12.15References

R1019215181 \ Text Reference: Evans et al. 2001 \ Evans, D. J., P. G. Novak, and T. W. Weldy.  2001.  Rare Species and Ecological Communities of Beaver Island State Park,  prep. for the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.  Latham, NY: New York Natural Heritage Program.

R1019215718 \ Text Reference: Ewins 1994 \ Ewins, P.J.  1994.  Artificial Nest Structures for Ospreys:  A Construction Manual.  Environment Canada, Canadian Wildlife Service, Ontario Region. 

R1019215719 \ Text Reference: Ewins et al. 1995 \ Ewins, P.J., J. Mackenzie, and B. Andress.  1995.  Restoring Breeding Ospreys in the Upper St. Lawrence River:  A Case Study.  In: Methods of Modifying Habitat to Benefit the Great Lakes Ecosystem, Canadian Inst. Sci. Tech. Inf., Occasional Paper No. 1.  ed. J.R.M. Kelso and J.H. Harting.  99-105.

R1019215431 \ Text Reference: NYSDEC and NYOPRHP 1995 \ New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and N.Y. State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation.  1995.  Buckhorn Marsh Restoration:  Joint Application for Permit, Phase I and Phase II.  NYSDEC Division of Fish and Wildlife, NYOPRHP Western District.

R1019215720 \ Text Reference: Weseloh 2002 \ Weseloh, C.  2002.  Contaminants in Great Lakes Herring Gulls, 1974-2001.  Environment Canada, Canadian Wildlife Service, Ontario Region. 

 

Figure 3.11-1

NYSDEC-Designed Osprey Pole and Platform Used at Buckhorn Marsh with Modifications Described in Text (Figure Provided by NYSDEC).

 

Figure 3.11-2

Alternate Osprey Platform Design that can be Installed in Areas of Hard Substrates (such as Breakwaters) without the Use of Heavy Equipment (from Ewins 1994)

 

3.13     HIP #12 – Black Tern Nesting

3.13.1    Purpose

Wetland nesting birds such as black tern may be limited by the availability of suitable nesting habitat or nesting sites.  Habitat loss is the single greatest factor in the decline of black terns throughout their range (Dunn and Agro 1995).  In New York, black tern nesting habitat is declining, and as the quantity and quality of nesting habitat declines, the negative impact of other factors such as predation, human disturbance, and adverse weather may increase pressure on populations (Mazzocchi and Muller 1995).

Black terns prefer habitats with roughly equal proportions of well-interspersed emergent vegetation and open water (Zimmerman et al. 2002).  They often nest on abandoned muskrat lodges or on muskrat feeding platforms.  In wetlands where muskrats are uncommon, nest sites may be a limiting factor.  This HIP focuses on increasing potential nesting sites for black terns by providing floating nest platforms in selected wetland areas.

3.13.2    Short-Term Objective

Provide new nesting structures for black terns.

3.13.3    Long-Term Objective

Increase the number and diversity of wetland birds breeding in the wetlands and marshes of the upper Niagara River.

3.13.4    Target Habitat(s)

Interspersed emergent vegetation and open water areas.

3.13.5    Primary Target Species, Guilds, or Communities

Black tern (NYSDEC endangered).

3.13.6    Secondary Target Species, Guilds, or Communities

Pied-billed grebe (NYSDEC threatened).

3.13.7    Proposed Locations

Buckhorn Marsh, Grass (Sunken) Island, and Tifft Farm Nature Preserve.  Note locations in Figures 3.0-1 and 3.0-2.

3.13.8    Project Description

This project would create wetland nesting habitat for black tern through the installation of floating nesting platforms.  Other birds that build floating nests, such as pied-billed grebes, may also benefit from these platforms.

3.13.9    Design Features

This HIP would provide black tern nesting platforms and perches in Buckhorn Marsh, at Grass (Sunken) Island, and at Tifft Farm Nature Preserve.  Black tern nesting platforms would follow the NYSDEC design of Mazzocchi and Muller (1995) (Figure 3.12-1).  These platforms provide a floating base for black tern nests much as a floating muskrat lodge or feeding platform might.  Platforms would be placed near open water areas in the cattail marshes where the interspersion of open water and emergent vegetation is as close to a 50:50 ratio as possible.  Because perches may also be important to attract black terns, perches would be installed on the margins of the open water channels and ponds at each nesting site.

At Buckhorn Island State Park, public access and use would be monitored along Woods Creek and at Grass Island to determine if this access might limit use of the area by black terns or other wetland breeding birds.  In addition, "No Wake" signs would be installed around the perimeter of Grass Island, and additional posted signs would be installed on the upstream end of the island.

3.13.10Construction

Floating nesting platforms for black tern would be constructed of 1 inch x 3 inch pine or cedar furring strips and wire mesh and follow the design used by Mazzocchi and Muller (1995) in northern New York.  Construction drawings are shown in Figure 3.12-1 and a photograph of a completed platform is included as Photo 3.12-1.  This design is very functional and simple to construct.  Strips of foam insulation on the bottom of the platform provide flotation.  Wire mesh on top of the platform provides a surface for nest building and helps to anchor mud and vegetation (Photo 3.12-2).  Platforms would be anchored with nylon rope or steel cable attached to steel angle iron anchors or anchors made of other suitable materials.  Two anchors per platform would limit the amount of movement of each platform.  Floating logs and fixed perches would be constructed of cedar poles or stakes and placed along open water areas of the wetlands in both vertical (Photo 3.12-3) and horizontal orientations (Photo 3.12-4).  Final locations would be determined through field investigations and pre-construction consultations with the NYSDEC. 

3.13.11Effectiveness Monitoring

Surveys for breeding black terns would be conducted before and after the implementation of this habitat improvement project.  Pre-construction surveys would be conducted for 2 years to determine if black terns occur in the area during the breeding season.  Post-construction monitoring would be conducted once each week for ten weeks during the breeding season following construction for a period of 5 years.  This level of monitoring would provide data on black tern occurrence and nesting but may not be frequent enough to quantitatively measure productivity.  In addition, human disturbance at wetland breeding sites would be monitored.

3.13.12Maintenance

Platforms would be installed each April (shortly after ice out) and removed after the breeding season.  Platforms would likely last at least 5 years with minor repairs.  Perches would remain in place year-round.  Annual maintenance activity would include the repair or replacement of nesting platforms and perches, as necessary.

3.13.13Project Constraints

·         The restoration of black terns to Tifft Farm Nature Preserve and Buckhorn marsh will be difficult.  Although black terns are known to frequent these areas in spring, the closest existing colonies are at or near Tonawanda Wildlife Management Area.  The wetlands of Tifft Farm and Buckhorn marsh appear to have a lower interspersion of open water and emergent vegetation than typical black tern nesting sites. 

·         The large numbers of common carp at Grass Island could impact black tern nesting by disturbing nesting platforms.  Human disturbance by recreational boaters or anglers could negatively affect bird breeding success.  The head of Grass Island is heavily used by recreational boaters during the summer breeding season.  Boat wakes are a known cause of nest failure in black terns (Dunn and Agro 1995). 

·         Limiting human disturbance in and around Tifft Farm Nature Preserve, Buckhorn Marsh, or Grass Island would require monitoring and enforcement action by local law enforcement agencies and NYSDEC’s Marine and Off-Road Enforcement (MORE) Team.  Portions of the canoe trail through Buckhorn Marsh may need to be closed during the wetland bird breeding season.

3.13.14Feasibility

Artificial nesting platforms for black terns have been successful in certain areas of New York but not in others (Mazzocchi 1996).  In general, black tern nesting platforms are successful in areas where an existing nesting population is present.  Some areas where platforms have been used have been abandoned by black terns, possibly due to an overall decrease in the population of this species in New York, limiting the numbers of nesting pairs.  Black terns have declined by 50% in New York in the last ten years (Mazzocchi et al. 2002).  The overall urban landscape surrounding these wetland sites on the River may make colonization of the platforms less likely than in rural landscapes or in larger wetland complexes.  Although black terns are known to frequent the Niagara River in April during migration, the lack of an existing breeding population in the immediate area suggests that the chances of these nesting platforms being occupied by nesting black terns are only fair.

3.13.15References

R1019215721 \ Text Reference: Dunn and Agro 1995 \ Dunn, E.H., and D.J. Agro.  1995.  Black Tern (Chlidonias niger).  In: Birds of North America, no. 147.  ed. A. Poole and F. Gill.  The Academy of Natural Sciences and The American Ornithologists Union. 

R1019215722 \ Text Reference: Mazzocchi 1996 \ Mazzocchi, I.M.  1996.  Black Tern Investigations in Northern New York, 1995.  Watertown, NY: New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Division of Fish and Wildlife. 

R1019215738 \ Text Reference: Mazzocchi and Muller 1995 \ Mazzocchi, I.M. and S.L. Muller.  1995.  Black Tern (Chlidonias niger) Investigations in New York, 1994, unpublished report.  New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Division of Fish and Wildlife, Nongame and Habitat Unit.  Albany, NY. 

R1019215713 \ Text Reference: Mazzocchi and Muller 2000 \ Mazzocchi, I.M., and S.L. Muller.  2000.  Black Tern Investigations in Northern New York, 1998.  Watertown, NY: New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. 

R1019215723 \ Text Reference: Mazzocchi et al. 2002 \ Mazzocchi, I.M., D. Adams, and B. Swift.  2002.  Status of Black Tern in New York State:  A State-Listed Endangered Species.  In: The Waterbird Society 2002 Annual Meeting, LaCrosse, WI. 

R1019215724 \ Text Reference: Zimmerman et al. 2002 \ Zimmerman, A.J., J.A. Dechant, D.H. Johnson, C.M. Goldade, B.E. Jamison, and B.R. Euliss.  2002.  Effects of Management Practices on Wetland Birds:  Black Tern.  In: Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center http://www.npwrc.usgs.gov/resource/literatr/wetbird/blte/blte.htm. 

 

Photo 3.12-1

Black Tern Nesting Platform

 

Note:  to be constructed of 1x3 furring strips and ¼” wire mesh following the design used in northern New York by Mazzocchi and Muller (1995).  Photograph courtesy of Irene Mazzocchi, Region 6 NYSDEC, Watertown)

Photo 3.12-2

Black Tern Nest on Artificial Platform

 

Photograph courtesy of Irene Mazzocchi, Region 6 NYSDEC, Watertown

 

Photo 3.12-3

Black Tern Perched on Sign at Grass Island, May 17, 2002

 

Photograph by Lee Harper, Riveredge Associates

 

Photo 3.12-4

Black Tern Perched on Floating Log, Grass Island, May 17, 2002

 

Photograph by Lee Harper, Riveredge Associates

 

Figure 3.12-1

Dimensions and Specifications for Black Tern Nesting Platforms following the NYSDEC Design (Mazzocchi and Muller 1995).

 

3.14     HIP #13 – Common Tern Nesting

3.14.1    Purpose

Common terns are limited by the availability of high-quality nesting habitat.  Most tern nesting sites in the area experience competition with ring-billed gulls and double-crested cormorants, and/or have unsuitable nesting substrate of coarse rock or cement.  Although some Buffalo/Niagara colonies are among the largest in the U.S. Great Lakes, productivity is very low, ranging from 0.1 to 0.3 chicks fledged per nest in 2003 (NYSDEC 2003).  In contrast, Harper and Wait (2003) report productivity values up to 1.8 chicks per nest in colonies of common terns on the St. Lawrence River.

In Buffalo Harbor, approximately 800 tern nests were reported during the 1960s and 1970s (Bull 1974), but only 654 nests were reported in 2003 (NYSDEC 2003).  On the Niagara River, the number of terns dropped from 518 nesting pairs in 1977 to 126 nesting pairs in 1998 (Cuthbert et al. 2003) and only 92 nests in 2003 (NYSDEC 2003).  This HIP would provide high quality nesting habitat for common terns and increase the local population of terns by creating or enhancing nesting sites and increasing tern breeding productivity.

3.14.2    Short-Term Objective

Provide high-quality nesting habitat for common tern.

3.14.3    Long-Term Objective

Increase the number of breeding pairs of common terns in the Niagara River region by creating or enhancing common tern nesting sites and increasing common tern breeding productivity.

3.14.4    Target Habitat(s)

Existing tern nesting sites in Buffalo Harbor and on the Niagara River, including breakwaters, potable water intakes, and transmission tower cribs.  Additional habitat areas would be investigated for creating new tern nesting opportunities through the installation of floating tern nesting rafts or a nesting barge.

3.14.5    Primary Target Species, Guilds, or Communities

Common tern (NYSDEC Threatened).

3.14.6    Secondary Target Species, Guilds, or Communities

Migrating shorebirds

3.14.7    Proposed Locations

Buffalo Harbor breakwaters; Niagara Mohawk transmission tower cribs; Niagara River potable water intakes.  Note locations in Figures 3.0-1 and 3.0-2. 

3.14.8    Project Description

Nesting habitat for common tern would be restored and enhanced by adding appropriate gravel nesting substrate, removing vegetation, installing gull or cormorant exclusion devices, installing perimeter fencing and chick shelters, and the use of tern nesting rafts or barges.  These methods would provide high quality nesting habitat for terns and increase tern productivity by increasing hatching success and fledging success. 

3.14.9    Design Features

3.14.9.1   Nest Site Characteristics

Design features for this HIP include the creation of new high quality nesting habitat through the installation of pea gravel (Photos 3.13-1 and 3.13-2), perimeter fencing, chick shelters (Photo 3.13-3), and driftwood to existing nesting sites.  Additional perching areas may also be installed.  Nesting sites would be identified in consultation with NYSDEC staff and a review of data on current and historical tern nesting sites.  Field investigations of each nesting site would be conducted to determine the site-specific nesting habitat design features that would increase tern breeding success by increasing nesting habitat, hatching rates, and chick survival.

Vegetation would be thinned or removed from some nesting sites, such as selected potable water intakes (Photo 3.13-4) and power transmission cribs to create additional nesting habitat.  Terns prefer to nest adjacent to items such as driftwood, and its addition to some nesting sites could increase nest density.  Pea gravel nesting substrate can increase hatching success by reducing egg breakage on coarse substrate (Photo 3.13-5) or cement surfaces (Photo 3.13-6).  Chick shelters increase survivorship by providing chicks with protection from exposure and predators (Photo 3.13-3).  Perimeter fencing helps hold nesting substrate and prevents chicks from jumping or falling into the river when the colony is disturbed or during periods of high winds.

3.14.9.2   Exclusion or Removal of Gulls and Cormorants

At some sites, the exclusion or removal of ring-billed gull or herring gull nests may be necessary to increase common tern nesting habitat and breeding productivity.  Gulls nest on the north breakwaters of Buffalo Harbor.  These nests would be removed under state and federal depredation permits.  Double crested cormorants perch over terns nesting on the Niagara Mohawk power transmission cribs near the North Grand Island Bridge, and this perching lowers tern breeding success at these sites.  Cormorant exclusion wire would be installed on the towers to prevent cormorants from perching over the terns. 

3.14.9.3   Nesting Rafts

In addition to restoring or enhancing known nesting sites of common tern, entirely new nesting sites could be created through the installation of floating tern nesting rafts or barges.  Rafts provide new nesting habitat for terns and have been very successful in Toronto (Dunlop et al. 1991).  Tern rafts, constructed of wood or aluminum and commercial dock floats, could be installed at Buckhorn marsh, Grass (Sunken) Island, Buffalo Harbor, and Tifft Farm Nature Preserve.  In addition, a nesting barge could be moored adjacent to the Buffalo Harbor breakwaters to provide additional nesting habitat for terns.  Three tern nesting rafts, each 250 to 300 sq ft area, have been proposed for this HIP.

3.14.9.4   Buffalo Harbor Breakwaters

Over 400 pairs of terns nest on the Buffalo Harbor breakwaters.  Modifying these breakwaters to hold gravel nesting substrate represents a unique design challenge.  The dynamic nature of the environment, created by severe winter storms and occasional strong storms during the breeding season, makes the design and construction of perimeter fencing and the addition and maintenance of pea gravel nesting substrate difficult.  Fencing and gravel can be added on an annual basis, or the breakwaters can be rebuilt and permanently modified in an effort to maintain gravel substrate and perimeter fencing on the site year-round.  The annual installation of perimeter fencing and pea gravel is labor intensive.  The permanent rebuilding and modifying of the Buffalo Harbor breakwaters to promote tern nesting with minimum maintenance is challenging.  The dynamic environment makes it impossible to design appropriate modifications to the Harbor breakwater nesting sites without detailed field investigations and consultation with NYSDEC and the USACE.  A detailed engineering feasibility study would be required to determine what the appropriate designs are for these breakwaters.  After the completion of field investigations, detailed engineering drawings would be prepared, reviewed, and revised until a design was reached that could withstand powerful Lake Erie storm events and would be acceptable to the agencies involved.  The goal of the feasibility study would be to design a permanent, low-maintenance concrete or sheet steel perimeter fence on the top of the breakwaters that will hold pea gravel nesting substrate in place through the winter and prevent tern chicks from being lost over the sides of the breakwater during the breeding season.

3.14.10Construction

Field investigations would identify the final design elements of each tern colony enhancement.  Design drawings would be completed for those tern nesting sites that require detailed engineering (such as the Buffalo Harbor breakwaters).  These drawings would detail the modifications at each site and the amount and size of fencing and nesting substrate to be added.  Materials would be barged to the site and installed as necessary.  At smaller sites, gravel would be added by hand.  At larger sites, a commercial barge and front-end loader or crane would be used to place pea gravel on the site.

The results of the feasibility study would determine the methods used to install perimeter fencing, gravel substrate, and additional perches on the Buffalo Harbor breakwaters.  Fencing and gravel could be installed on a temporary basis each year, or the breakwaters could be rebuilt with a permanent concrete or steel lip in an effort to hold pea gravel over the winter.  Temporary fencing could be installed by drilling into the cement substrate and installing concrete anchor bolts.  These anchor bolts would be used to secure 2x6 lumber or steel angle iron.  The wood or metal perimeter fencing would hold the pea gravel in place during the nesting season.  Plastic fencing, approximately 18” high, would be attached to the perimeter fence.  The plastic fencing would prevent tern chicks from falling off the breakwater and also would facilitate productivity estimates by keeping chicks in an enclosed area.  This fencing is used on the St. Lawrence River (Harper and Wait 2003) (Photo 3.13-2).  The plastic fencing would be installed in the spring and removed in the fall each year.  The steel angle could remain in place during winter, or be removed and reinstalled in the spring.  Gravel would likely need to be added each spring to replace any lost from winter storms.

Cormorant exclusion devices, commercially available bird wire such as nixalite (www.nixalite.com), chicken wire or both, would be installed on the cross-members of the transmission towers to prevent cormorant perching over nesting terns.  This wire has prevented cormorant perching on the navigation structures of the St. Lawrence River (Harper and Wait 2003, Photo 3.13-7).  The exact deployment and attachment methods would be determined in consultation with Niagara Mohawk and NYSDEC.  Chick shelters would be made of plywood or pine lumber, and would be placed in the colony in spring and removed after the breeding season.  Some chick shelters may need to be replaced periodically if high winds blow them away during the breeding season.  Alternately, chick shelters could be designed that are bolted to the cement surface.

The design of tern rafts would be site specific.  Tern rafts used in Toronto were constructed of pressure treated lumber and plywood decking over plastic dock floats similar to a floating dock.  A modification of this design on the St. Lawrence River used steel tube floats (Photo 3.13-8).  Both of these designs were approximately 16 ft by 16 ft.  A larger barge could also be used to provide tern nesting habitat.  A barge could be moored in the Harbor adjacent to the breakwaters to provide a large continuous area of nesting habitat.  Tern rafts or barges would be towed into place with a boat each spring and removed for storage after the breeding season.

3.14.11Effectiveness Monitoring

Tern nesting and productivity, as well as the number of gulls and cormorants attempting to nest in or near tern colonies, would be monitored for 3 years prior to enhancement, restoration or creation of new nesting habitat.  After the completion of the HIP, tern nest numbers and productivity would be monitored annually for 7 years.  These monitoring surveys would follow established NYSDEC survey methods.  A sample of tern nests in each colony would be individually numbered and monitored once per week during the 10 week (mid-May to mid-July) breeding season.  During each survey, the contents of each nest would be recorded.  Chicks would be banded to determine productivity and survivorship.  These data would be summarized and tabulated annually to track changes in the regional population.  In consultation with NYSDEC, a target number of nests could be established and colony management continued until the target was reached.

3.14.12Maintenance

All sites would be inspected each April to determine if additional material needed to be added or if repairs needed to be made.  In particular, the Buffalo harbor breakwaters would likely require annual maintenance and substrate addition.  If tern rafts are used in Buckhorn marsh, they would be allowed to freeze in during the winter months and would be inspected each spring.  If rafts or barges are used in Buffalo Harbor, they would need to be installed in April and removed in August or September.  Rafts would require maintenance only every few years and replacement every 10 to 30 years depending on design. 

3.14.13Project Constraints

·         Tern nesting sites on the Niagara River and in the Buffalo Harbor are owned by public and private agencies such as the USACE, Niagara Mohawk, and several municipalities.  Landowners would need to be identified and contacted for permission to manage and modify these sites for common terns as part of this HIP.

·         The Buffalo Harbor breakwaters represent unique challenges and the feasibilty of permanent installation of material would be determined through a detailed engineering study in consultation with NYSDEC and USACE, the agency responsible for the maintenance of the breakwaters.  Nonetheless, occasional Lake Erie storms will lower tern productivity by decreasing hatching and fledging success and by causing nest failures.  The effects of these storms can be minimized by providing pea gravel nesting substrate, good drainage and chick shelters, but some storms in some years may reduce tern productivity on the breakwaters to near zero, as is the current situation at these sites.  In general, tern nests on the higher and drier or more sheltered portions of the breakwaters will have higher productivity. Management efforts could initially focus on the circular steel structures at the ends of some breakwaters which could provide the best nesting habitat.

·         Management of gulls and cormorants may be required on an annual basis to maintain nesting habitat availability for terns, and to keep productivity at a rate that increases the tern population.

·         If tern rafts are installed in Buckhorn marsh, the area near the rafts may need to be posted to limit human disturbance by canoeists and kayakers using the canoe trail through the marsh. 

·         The use of nesting rafts and barges, and any alterations to the Buffalo Harbor breakwaters, will require permits from a number of state and federal agencies.  Obtaining these permits will require significant time and effort.

3.14.14Feasibility

Increasing tern nesting habitat and productivity at Niagara River sites through vegetation removal, pea gravel additions, fencing and cormorant exclusion is feasible.  The methods to be used for common tern habitat enhancement and restoration are well documented and known to be effective (Toronto and Region Conservation Authority 2003; Harper and Wait 2003).  The use of anchor bolts in concrete and rock for tern fencing has proven effective on the St. Lawrence River (Harper and Wait 2003).  Nesting rafts have been highly successful in most areas where terns are habitat limited, but raft locations need to be chosen carefully (Harper and Wait 2003).  Based on these considerations, the chances of this HIP providing new nesting habitat for common terns and for increasing their breeding success at selected sites are very good.

Rebuilding the Buffalo Harbor breakwaters for permanent modification of nesting sites represents a significant engineering challenge and expense.  The detailed feasibility study, conducted in cooperation with NYSDEC and USACE, would determine the long-term feasibility of permanent breakwater modifications.  If the feasibility study suggests that the severity of Lake Erie storms is too great to maintain gravel nesting substrate on the breakwaters year-round, alternate methods of providing suitable tern nesting habitat in the Buffalo Harbor would be explored.  Potential options include the annual installation of temporary fencing and gravel, or the spring installation and fall removal of a large tern nesting raft or barge.

3.14.15References

R1019215725 \ Text Reference: Bull 1974 \ Bull, J.  1974.  Birds of New York.  Garden City, NY: Doubleday/Natural History Press.

R1019215726 \ Text Reference: Cuthbert et al. 2003 \ Cuthbert, F.J., L.R. Wires, and K. Timmerman.  2003.  Status Assessment and Conservation Recommendations for the Common Tern (Sterna hirundo) in the Great Lakes Region.  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Ft. Snelling, MN. 

R1019215034 \ Text Reference: Dunlop et al. 1991 \ Dunlop, Caroline L., Hans Blokpoel, and Scott Jarvie.  1991.  Nesting rafts as a management tool for a declining common tern (Sterna hirundo) colony.  Colonial Waterbirds 14(2):116-20.

R1019215727 \ Text Reference: Harper and Wait \ Harper, L.H., and M.A. Wait.  2003.  St. Lawrence River Common Tern Conservation and Management Project:  2003 Nesting Season Final Report.  Prep. for the Nongame and Habitat Unit, Bureau of Wildlife, Division of Fish, Wildlife, and Marine Resources, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. 

R30194 \ Text Reference: NYSDEC 2001 \ New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.  2001.  List of Endangered, Threatened and Special Concern Fish and Wildlife Species of New York State.

R1019215728 \ Text Reference: NYSDEC 2003 \ New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.  2003.  Buffalo Harbor and Niagara River Common Tern Nesting Colonies, unpublished data. 

 

Photos 3.13-1 and 3.13-2

Two Tern Nesting Sites on St. Lawrence River

 

 

 

 

Note:  These sites received over five tons of pea gravel each, and plastic fencing to keep chicks from falling off the nesting sites (Harper and Wait 2003).  Decoys were used to attract terns to the nesting site on the left.  The nesting site on the right was concrete prior to the gravel addition.  Holes were drilled into the concrete and threaded anchors used to secure threaded steel rods.  The rods secured plastic fencing.

 

Photo 3.13-3

Plywood Chick Shelters Provide Tern Chicks with Protection from Rain and Predators

 

 

Photo 3.13-4

Potential Tern Nesting Habitat, a Potable Water Intake

 

Note:  Habitat could be increased by trimming vegetation.

 

Photo 3.13-5

Coarse Nesting Substrate, which may Reduce Hatching Success by Breaking Eggs

 

 

Photo 3.13-6

Cement Surface, which may Reduce Hatching Success by Contributing to Egg Breakage

 

 

Photo 3.13-7

Bird Exclusion Wire on Navigation Marker in St. Lawrence River

 

Notes:  The product, which prevents cormorant perching, is from Nixalite (www.nixalite.com)

 

Photo 3.13-8

Tern Nesting Raft on St. Lawrence River near Massena, New York.

 

3.15     HIP #14 – Enhancements to the Motor Island Heron Rookery

3.15.1    Purpose

Motor Island is the only large wooded island occupied by herons in eastern Lake Erie or the Niagara River.  The number of nesting pairs of birds and the number of species of birds on Motor Island is limited by the availability of live, healthy nesting trees and shrubs.  Nesting trees and shrubs may be killed by the droppings of herons and cormorants.  In addition, cormorants are actively excluding herons from nests and nesting trees on the island.  While cormorants nest in dead trees or on the ground, most herons and egrets prefer to nest in live trees or shrubs.  Black-crowned night herons are particularly sensitive to habitat degradation and nest only in live trees or shrubs surrounded by thick cover.  This HIP would seek to maintain sufficient live nesting trees and shrubs on Motor Island to support an active and diverse colonial waterbird rookery by preserving existing nesting habitat, creating new nesting habitat, and reducing the impacts of double-crested cormorants on the island.

3.15.2    Short -Term Objective

Maintain healthy trees and shrubs in the heron and egret rookery on Motor Island.

3.15.3    Long-Term Objective

Maintain a diverse colonial waterbird colony on Motor Island that includes black-crowned night heron, great blue heron and great egret.

3.15.4    Target Habitat(s)

The trees and shrubs of the Motor Island rookery.

3.15.5    Primary Target Species, Guilds, or Communities

Black-crowned night heron, great egret, and great blue heron.

3.15.6    Secondary Target Species, Guilds, or Communities

Other waterbirds on Motor Island such as green heron or spotted sandpiper.

3.15.7    Proposed Locations

Motor Island, Figure 3.0-2.

3.15.8    Project Description

This HIP project is designed to monitor, maintain and enhance natural nesting sites for a diverse colonial waterbird colony at Motor Island by monitoring existing nesting trees, planting new nesting trees, and reducing the impacts of double-crested cormorants on nesting herons and egrets and on the vegetation of the island.

To monitor the health of nesting trees and shrubs, each tree or shrub would be identified to species, tagged, mapped, and annually monitored to qualitatively assess its health and condition.  Based on the tree monitoring program being used in the colonial waterbird colony at Tommy Thompson Park in Toronto (Jarvie et al 2002), the health and condition of each tree or shrub would be scored each year on a five point system (Chipperfield 2003).  The overall health of the Island’s vegetation can be assessed based on the changes in the scores recorded each year.  This monitoring program permits an adaptive management approach where the goals and objectives for the number of nesting birds can be modified depending on the vegetation scores that are recorded each year.  One goal of the monitoring program is to prevent the death of large areas of trees and the nitrification of the soil that retards the regrowth of native trees and shrubs as happened at Tommy Thompson Park in Toronto when large numbers of cormorants started nesting on a peninsula occupied by black-crowned night herons.  The cormorants displaced the night herons and killed the nesting trees (Chipperfield 2003) (Photo 3.14-1).

To maintain live healthy nesting trees and shrubs and a diverse colony of colonial waterbirds at Motor Island, the number of nesting cormorants in the colony must be reduced.  In colonies where cormorants have increased rapidly, other species have been displaced and nesting trees have been killed by their droppings (Wilson and Cheskey 2001) (Photo 3.14-1).  Failure to reduce the number of cormorants in the Motor Island heron colony will result in the displacement of great blue herons and black-crowned night herons (and possibly also great egrets), and will result in the death of the nesting trees and shrubs on the island.

Cormorants and cormorant nests would be removed from the colony in accordance with State and Federal wildlife procedures and policies.  Nests would be removed using long forestry poles or shotguns shooting steel shot.  Because some trees are stressed and may be weak, tree climbing is not recommended.  To reach nests in the tallest trees, scaffolding or other climbable structures would be erected near the trees.  If necessary, a four wheel drive rubber tired man lift capable of operating on rough terrain could be barged to the island, although this would require the clearing of dead or downed trees from the ground and understory.  Poles, water pumps or other means may be used to dislodge cormorant nests from the tallest trees.  Efforts would be made to remove cormorant nests early in the spring, with as little disturbance to herons and egrets as possible, although some nest removal activities would likely need to continue through the breeding season.  In addition to cormorant nest removal, two elevated blinds would be established on the downstream half of the island where the trees are tallest and where cormorant nests are concentrated.  These blinds would be used for behavioral observations and selective removal activities as warranted.  A remotely operated camera would be attached to one of the blinds or to a nearby tree to provide nest monitoring capabilities from a remote location, such as the offices of NYSDEC in Buffalo.

To make additional area available for the growth of new nesting trees, the old concrete tennis courts in the center of the island would be removed to open new areas for tree growth.  Dead or dying trees would be replaced, either through natural succession or through the planting of appropriate native species.  Tree planting would provide new nesting sites, and native trees that are planted would be large enough (approximately 2-3 inch diameter trunks at planting) to grow rapidly and provide new nesting trees in the shortest time possible.

3.15.9    Design Features

Pre-construction surveys would start early in the breeding season to record the number and locations of nests by species.  Marking and mapping nests and nesting trees would facilitate the detection of any displacement of herons or egrets by cormorants.  In addition to monitoring nesting, these surveys would record the health of the existing vegetation.  To provide an overall accurate picture of what is happening on eastern Lake Erie and the Niagara River, annual nest counts of all cormorant colonies in the area would be performed at least once each year.  Colonies and areas to be surveyed include Motor Island, Strawberry Island, Buffalo Harbor breakwaters and sandspit, Reef Lighthouse, and Goat Island.

At Motor Island, additional nesting trees such as willows, poplars and other native species would be planted.  No non-native trees or shrubs would be used, and those that are identified may be removed.  A nursery may be established in the area of the tennis courts.  These trees will provide additional nesting habitat for herons and egrets and replace those trees that are being lost.  Some soil will need to be barged to the island.

In addition, nine telephone poles with nesting branches will be installed in the rookery to provide additional nesting sites and to provide structures that can be climbed by biologists.  Climbing these poles will provide access to the tree canopy and to heron or cormorant nests for monitoring or selective removal activities.  Similar structures have been built and installed in heron rookeries after the last nesting trees died, such as at Baker’s Lake in Barrington, Illinois (Photo 3.14-2).  If the tree and shrub monitoring program indicates that nesting trees are dying faster than they can be regenerated either naturally or by planting, additional pole-mounted nesting structures could be installed on the island.

The two observation blinds would be commercially available blinds such as those made by Plastic Vacuum Forming of San Antonio, Texas (www.blynd.com). 

3.15.10Construction

A small landing area will be constructed to facilitate the loading and unloading of materials and equipment and to remove the debris generated by removing the tennis courts or to bring in soil for the tree nursery.  This landing may be constructed in connection with HIP #3.  Trees would be planted by hand.  Blinds would be purchased as kits and assembled on site.  Some equipment like a small backhoe or loader, and chainsaws, would be necessary to remove dead trees and to remove the tennis courts.  Material from removal of the tennis courts will be hauled from the Island for disposal.

3.15.11Effectiveness Monitoring

Annual nest counts would be conducted every other week during the breeding season to monitor changes in the number of birds nesting in the colony.  Effectiveness monitoring would continue for 5 years following the initiation of the activities described here.  Trees and shrubs would be monitored annually to assess their health and condition.

3.15.12Maintenance

Ongoing maintenance would be needed to ensure tree survival and cormorant exclusion.  This would be a long-term commitment as noted below.

3.15.13Project Constraints

·         Removing cormorants and cormorant nests is an essential component of this HIP.  Cormorant removal would be a labor-intensive and time-consuming process that would require a long-term commitment to the management of the island.  Removing these nests could be difficult since most of the nests are high off the ground.  The failure to remove cormorants and cormorant nests from the colony could result in the loss of the entire rookery through the displacement of other species and the killing of nesting trees.  Maintaining a rookery after the loss of nesting trees could only be accomplished through the installation of artificial nesting poles and platforms similar to those depicted in Photo 3.14-2.

·         Removing cormorants and cormorant nests from Motor Island could cause some cormorants to attempt to nest at Strawberry Island or to expand the colony on the sand bar adjacent to the Buffalo Harbor breakwater known as Donnelly's Pier, a nesting site for common terns.  Cormorant exclusion activities would likely be required at these and possibly other sites as well.  Other cormorant colonies in the area, such as in the Niagara Gorge and on Reef Lighthouse, would not be disturbed under this HIP. 

·         Cormorant removal methods may cause other herons, particularly great blue herons,  to leave the island.  The disturbance of nesting great blue herons would be minimized by the use of blinds and by limiting the daily and seasonal duration of activities in the colony during the breeding season.

3.15.14Feasibility

This HIP is feasible through implementation of routine maintenance practices and diligent observations of the condition of the existing rookery and the extent of the cormorant population using the Island.  The NYSDEC has been removing cormorants and cormorant nests at Motor Island and Strawberry Island for several years.  Cormorant removal is possible and feasible, although it can be time consuming and labor intensive.  Reducing the number of cormorants nesting at Motor Island would require a long term commitment to managing the colonial waterbird colony at Motor Island.  The use of an all terrain man-lift and elevated blinds as proposed in this HIP would likely make cormorant removal more successful.  For this HIP to remain feasible, the number of nesting birds at Motor Island must be balanced with the health of the trees as indicated by the tree monitoring program.  If trees die at a rate faster than they can be replaced, the future of the nesting colony could depend on the installation of artificial nesting structures or a further reduction in the number of nesting waterbirds in the colony.  Because Motor Island is already restricted during the breeding season, this HIP will have no impact on public recreation.  Based on the considerations outlined above, the chances of this HIP being feasible are good.  

3.15.15References

R1019215729 \ Text Reference: Chipperfield 2003 \ Chipperfield, T.  2003.  Status of Colonial Waterbirds Nesting at Tommy Thompson Park, Leslie Street Spit, Toronto.  In: Presentation to the Great Lakes Area Working Group on colonial Waterbirds, Kingston, Ontario, Ontario 7, 2003. 

R1019215730 \ Text Reference: Jarvie et al. 2002 \ Jarvie, S., H. Blokpoel, and T. Chipperfield.  2002.  A Geographic Information System to Monitor Nest Distributions of Double-Crested Cormorants and Black-Crowned Night Herons at Shared Colony Sites near Toronto, Canada.  In: Symposium on Double-Crested Cormorants:  Population Status and Management Issues in the Midwest, December 9, 1997, Milwaukee, WI. 

R1019215731 \ Text Reference: Wilson and Cheskey 2001 \ Wilson, W.G., and E.D. Cheskey.  2001.  Leslie Street Spit:  Tommy Thompson Park Important Bird Area Conservation Plan.  Canadian Nature Federation, Bird Studies Canada, Federation of Ontario Naturalists. 

 

Photo 3.14-1

Trees in Tommy Thompson Park, Toronto, Formerly Used for Nesting by Black-Crowned Night Herons, Killed by Nesting of Double-Crested Cormorants

 

Note:  Double-crested cormorants displaced the black-crowned night herons.  Photo courtesy of T. Chipperfield, Toronto and Region Conservation Authority

 

Photo 3.14-2

Artificial Nest Structure Erected at Baker’s Lake, Barrington, Illinois

 

Note:  Artificial structure installed after last remaining nesting trees died.  Colony includes nesting great blue herons, great egrets, black-crowned night herons and double-crested cormorants, the same species that nested at Motor Island in 2003.  Additional photographs and information available at http://www.cbbel.com/nonflash/projects/BakersLake.htm.

 

 

3.16     HIP #15 – Installation of Fish Habitat / Attraction Structures

3.16.1    Purpose

Observations from diving surveys in the upper Niagara River indicate that the amount of large-object cover where fish can seek shelter from water velocity is limited.  However, the cover that is available appears to be highly utilized, especially by large predator species such as muskellunge and smallmouth bass.  This habitat is important because adult and juvenile fish of numerous species can seek shelter from the current and use these areas to prey on and hide from other fish.  This HIP would provide large-object cover which would function as fish attraction structures in deep-water areas (i.e., >10 ft) where fish can seek shelter, forage, and otherwise maintain activities as expected in a lotic environment.

3.16.2    Short-Term Objective

Provide large-object cover in deep water areas where fish can feed, rest, and seek shelter.

3.16.3    Long-Term Objective

Establish areas with adequate habitat where numerous sizes and species of fish can conduct basic functions such as resting, feeding, and hiding.  Provide increased recreational angling opportunities by concentrating target species.

3.16.4    Target Habitat(s)

Deep-water areas with limited large-object cover.

3.16.5    Primary Target Species, Guilds, or Communities

Muskellunge, northern pike, walleye, largemouth, and smallmouth bass.

3.16.6    Secondary Target Species, Guilds, or Communities

Macroinvertebrates and forage fish species.

3.16.7    Proposed Locations

Deep-water areas that would provide a minimum of 8-10 ft of clearance between the fish attraction structure and water surface during low water levels.  Such locations include, just downstream of the Peace Bridge, upstream of Strawberry Island, near the South Grand Island Bridge, and downstream of Tonawanda Creek.  In addition, structures could also be placed in conjunction with other HIPs such as HIP #1, #2, #4, and #9.  Note locations in Figures 3.0-1. and 3.0-2.  It should be noted that the orientation of these structures would likely be site-specific depending on depth, velocity, and habitat objectives at the installation location.  The structures could be placed to create specific areas of sediment deposition, areas of increased current velocity, or used primarily as current velocity shelters depending on location and objectives.

3.16.8    Project Description

A large portion of the Upper Niagara River contains a relatively featureless bottom, devoid of large-object cover that could be used as velocity shelter for aquatic life.  It is likely that this lack of cover is largely due to dredging operations that have historically occurred to aid commercial navigation.  Recent observations by scuba divers indicate that large-object cover is utilized by popular sport fish such as muskellunge and smallmouth bass. 

The intent of this HIP would be to provide additional large-object cover that could be used by fish for feeding, resting, and hiding. 

3.16.9    Design Features

3.16.9.1   Background for Design

Large-object cover in lotic environments is typically provided by rocks or woody debris.  When providing this habitat, several factors should be considered.  They include: the environmental conditions present; durability or longevity of the structures; maintenance; potential impacts to boating and/or public safety; and likelihood of success. 

The severe environment of the upper Niagara River (i.e., high water velocity, wave action, and ice scour) however, limits the type of materials able to maintain their integrity from year to year and reliably provide fish attraction functions.  While woody debris provides important habitat functions, in addition to being considered large-object cover, it is not considered very durable relative to the environmental conditions present in the River.  Woody debris is likely to require continued maintenance and replacement on a frequent basis.  In addition, it may also pose a safety hazard to boaters if portions of the debris structure broke free. 

Ideally, the fish attraction structures should be long-lasting and require minimal maintenance.  For this reason, the primary material considered for these structures is large boulders or stone rubble (> 2 ft minimum measurement for the smallest dimension).  A likely design criterion for the size of boulders in a fish attraction structure would be 25% > 2 ft, 25% > 3 ft, and 50% > 4 ft minimum dimension.  Material of this size is extremely durable and would not likely be affected by even the worst environmental conditions present in the upper River.  In support of this is the fact that the current riprap areas near Strawberry Island appear to be stable structures and are comprised of much smaller (<12 in.) material.

Using large boulders as the construction material for fish attraction structures is also consistent with the criteria provided by the Great Lakes Fishery Commission (GLFC) in its’ “International position statement and evaluation guidelines for artificial reefs in the Great Lakes” (Gannon 1990).  The five criteria for evaluating material suitability provided by the GLFC are:

·         Naturally occurring materials are preferable.

·         Materials should not pose an aquatic or human health threat.

·         Material should maintain long-term physical integrity.

·         Configuration should not create a hazard for scuba divers.

·         Minimal potential for dislodgement and/or transport by currents or ice.

While the proposed fish attraction structures are not termed “reefs” in this study they meet the definition provided by the GLFC which defines artificial reef as:

a structure – floating, suspended or submerged which is constructed and placed in the Great Lakes for the expressed purpose of attracting fishes and enhancing fisheries resources and habitat.

3.16.9.2   Conceptual Designs

We evaluated three basic conceptual designs of fish attraction structures.  They include boulder piles, boulder fields, and underwater groins.  These designs are consistent with the GLFC criteria (Gannon 1990).  

Boulder Piles

Boulder piles are just that, underwater piles of boulders.  For purposes of this evaluation, an individual boulder pile was considered to be approximately 20 ft wide x 20 ft long and up to 8 ft high (Figure 3.15-1).  Structurally, the 400 sq ft base was assumed to provide adequate support for a structure up to 8 ft high.  A boulder pile would provide several habitat functions.  First, it would represent a sizeable piece of large-object cover that would provide shelter from water velocity.  The large size of the boulders used in the pile would also provide a network of interstitial spaces that could be utilized by smaller fish to escape predators and would also provide substrate for macroinvertebrates.  The intent is that the interstitial spaces would be large enough to minimize clogging by zebra mussels or zebra mussel shells, though this may still occur.  If so, the habitat value, especially for small fish, may be reduced.  The height (up to 8 ft) also offers the potential for vertical stratification of species using the structure.  Some species may prefer the portion of the structure near the river bottom while others may be attracted to the top of the structure.  It is intended that boulder piles would be constructed in groups in order to allow the piles to work together to provide habitat and offer a more concentrated enhancement area (Figure 3.15-1).  Random distribution in a water body the size of the Niagara River would fragment the habitat and likely reduce its overall value (i.e., three piles placed near each other may offer more value than three piles placed individually).  A typical group setting may consist of three boulder piles arranged like the points of a triangle oriented into the current.  The pile furthest upstream would likely alter the water currents that affect the other two piles.  The overall effect of this grouping would be to create a larger fish attraction area.  A simple modeling exercise could be conducted to determine the best spacing arrangement of the piles to provide the largest area of reduced water velocities.     

Underwater Groin

An underwater groin is a similar concept to the boulder pile.  It would be approximately 20 ft wide and up to 8 ft high (Figure 3.15-2).  However, the length and orientation (U-shaped, oblique to the current, perpendicular to an underwater ledge, etc.) can be variable.  For example, a groin 100 ft in length (the equivalent of 5 boulder piles) may be oriented oblique to the current (i.e., a forty-five degree angle).  The size alone would provide a larger, more concentrated habitat area.  The oblique setting would provide more diversity in terms of the water velocities present around the structure and may offer subtle differences preferred by different species.  The underwater groin would also offer the other habitat components of the boulder piles (i.e., interstitial spaces and the potential for vertical stratification of species).

Boulder Field

Boulder fields are a third design alternative (Figure 3.15-3).  These fields would also consist of large boulders or stone rubble (> 2ft minimum measurement for the smallest dimension).  As with the boulder piles and the underwater groin, the size of the material used would represent a durable, permanent structure that is not expected to be adversely affected by environmental conditions.  The minimum dimension of 2 ft would also provide velocity shelters even for large predator species.  For purposes of this study, it was considered that 50 tons of boulders (the equivalent of one boulder pile) would be randomly distributed over a 10,000 sq ft area (100 ft x 100 ft).  This design has the advantage of providing habitat over a much larger surface area relative to the other two designs using the same amount of material.  Additionally it can be implemented in water that is not deep enough to adequately cover a boulder pile or underwater groin.  Since boulder placement is not as critical as when constructing a boulder pile or underwater groin, it is also easier to construct, especially in high velocity areas which may limit the feasibility of installing the other structures.  A disadvantage of this design is the lack of interstitial spaces and the vertical distribution of habitat in the water column.  

It is important to note that the potential design and configuration of fish attraction structures could take many forms.  While other designs may work just as well, the three designs presented above would provide structures that are durable, provide several habitat functions, are adaptable to different conditions, are feasible to implement, and are low maintenance.  One approach to this HIP might be to conduct a phased approach over a number of years whereby one or more of the designs are tested in several areas to determine which design provides the desired results.  Monitoring fish abundance with divers or underwater camera and qualitatively assessing the stability of the structures and the rate of sedimentation of the interstitial spaces would be of primary importance during the testing phase.  Information from that effort would then be used in a broader approach to selecting specific designs and locations.    

3.16.9.3   Proposed Locations

There were several primary criteria for considering possible locations to provide the fish attraction structures.  Only areas within U.S. waters and outside the commercial shipping channel were considered.  Also, in order to avoid a navigation hazard to recreational boating, water depth sufficient to maintain at least 8-10 ft of clearance between the top of the enhancement structure and the water surface during low water levels was required.  Preliminary depth estimates were obtained from “The Nautical Seaway Trail: Chartbook and Waterfront Guide to New York State’s Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River” (Blue Heron 1991).  There was also a desire to avoid areas where marinas are concentrated and areas where recreational boating traffic is assumed to be highest.  However, because recreational boating is so popular in the area, this may not be a realistic criterion.  Based on these criteria, four possible locations are suggested.  These areas are presented below in order from upstream to downstream. 

The area furthest upstream proposed is just downstream of the Peace Bridge (Figure 3.0-1).  Based on qualitative observations, water velocities are very high in this area.  Based on the difficulties associated with constructing a boulder pile or underwater groin in high velocity areas along with the water depth (6-13 ft), a boulder field was considered an appropriate structure for this area.  The intent would be to provide velocity shelter where fish can rest while taking advantage of any food sources entering the River from Lake Erie.  Additionally, the area just downstream of this proposed enhancement is much deeper (up to 44 ft) and is known as the “Black Rock Hole”.  Fish may be able to use the reasonably close proximity of these two habitats to their advantage.  For example, on a diurnal or seasonal basis, fish may reside in the deep waters of the hole and then move into the shallow, faster water to feed.

Progressing downstream, the next proposed location is upstream of the Grand Island/Strawberry Island complex (Figure 3.0-1).  At this location the River begins to widen and as such the water velocity is expected to decrease.  There is a fairly large area with water depths of approximately 22 ft.  Based on these characteristics and the close proximity to other habitat types (i.e., the faster water upstream, Strawberry Island downstream, and shallower water habitats on the Canadian side of the River), three boulder piles could be placed at this location.  In addition to residing in the deep water around these structures, fish could easily access the adjoining habitats on either a diurnal or seasonal basis.

The third proposed area is just downstream of the South Grand Island Bridge (Figure 3.0-2).  This area is located between the shipping channel and the eastern shore of the mainland.  Water depths are approximately 22 ft.  The shoreline does not appear to drop-off as dramatically as in other areas and there appears to be an underwater projection of land that extends into the River.  An underwater groin extend this submerged piece of land further into the River could be constructed.  The groin could be set obliquely to the current.  This would increase the area sheltered from the water velocity by the current.  It would provide a resting area where fish could move toward the shallower shoreline or main River channel to feed.

The fourth proposed enhancement site is located downstream of Tonawanda Island between the shipping channel and the eastern shore of Grand Island.  It is across from the Town of North Tonawanda (Figure 3.0-2).  The River becomes wider at this location and water velocities are expected to decrease.  Water depths are approximately 15 ft.  The boulder piles could be placed at this location.  Due to water depth, these piles may need to be less than the 8 ft design height.  Providing fish attraction structures in this area would not only provide habitat for fish to reside but would also allow access to nearby shallow water (depths to 5 ft) and shoreline habitats.

3.16.10Construction

Siting of this HIP would require an investigation of the characteristics of each proposed site.  This would consist of confirmation of water depth and velocity, evaluation of existing substrate and bathymetric features, and review of potential safety concerns (i.e., boating hazards).  It is assumed that this task would require the use of dive inspections.  This investigation would assess the feasibility of installing the structure (i.e. can the necessary equipment access the area) and if the structures would impact existing habitat (e.g., SAV beds, or object cover is already present).  The proposed enhancement sites would be geo-referenced which would aid the permitting process and allow for inclusion on future navigational charts.

A barge equipped with a bucket excavator would be required for off-shore placement of boulders at all locations.  Boulder placement would depend on which of the three structure designs was used.  Placement is least critical when creating the boulder field.  The boulders would be placed in a random manner and may require frequent re-positioning of the barge.  Creating underwater rock piles or the underwater groin design requires more precision during placement to ensure the desired design is achieved.  Dive inspections should be conducted during the construction process to ensure that the deployment meets the design criteria.  Underwater cameras may assist in this respect during actual deployment.

Special consideration would be needed depending on the enhancement location.  For example, the location near the Peace Bridge has high water velocities.  Securing a barge in this area to deploy the boulders may be challenging and require use of a spud barge or a reduction in loading capacity (i.e., the barge may need to transport several loads of boulders to the site instead of transporting all materials at once).

3.16.11Effectiveness Monitoring

Minimal effectiveness monitoring would be required for this HIP.  Fish are expected to utilize the structures soon after implementation.  However, quantifying the extent of usage would involve significant effort and may provide inconclusive results due to typical trends in year class strength often seen in fish populations.  Some valuable information on usage by fish may more appropriately be collected by simple opportunistic observation.  Several hours of observation using SCUBA in late summer or early fall would likely be helpful in confirming the extent that various species and life stages of fish that utilize the structures.  An alternative to SCUBA surveys may be to use an underwater camera.  Essentially, the intent of these observations would be to document fish usage (i.e., presence or absence) and assess how the habitat changes over time (e.g., are zebra mussels clogging the interstitial spaces between the boulders?).

3.16.12Maintenance

Maintenance is expected to be minimal.  The structures would be constructed of durable material that will last indefinitely.  It is possible that, over time, some of the boulders used in the underwater groins or boulder piles would shift, which may cause some portion of these structures to collapse.  Even so, these structures would continue to provide fish attraction functions.  It is unlikely that any reconstruction or additional boulder placement would be required unless there were indications that the structures were not effective.  For example, a structure may not be considered effective if it does not appear to attract as many fish as other structures.  If so, a change in design options (i.e., boulder field to rockpile) or a change in location may be considered.

The observations conducted during the effectiveness monitoring would provide the qualitative information on the integrity of the structures and fish usage to make these decisions.  These inspections should be made at least four times during the first 10 years (i.e., years 1, 4, 7, and 10).  At that time the schedule for future monitoring, if any, could be reevaluated.     

3.16.13Project Constraints

·         The structures need to be located in areas with adequate depth in order to provide for sufficient clearance for recreational boat traffic.  For purposes of this study, a minimum of 8-10 ft of water over the top of the fish attraction structure was considered adequate clearance during low water levels.  This limits the areas where the structures can be located and may not represent the locations where the structures may be most beneficial.

·         In order to benefit the most species and lifestages, a diversity of habitat types is needed.  By limiting this HIP to enhancements consisting of rocky components only (as opposed to woody debris), the potential benefit to some species and/or lifestages may be greater than for others.  The effects of only providing potential benefits to a portion of the fish community are not known.

·         The fish attraction structures will not only attract fish but they will also attract fishermen.  This may result in increased exploitation of the target species.  The effect of this increased exploitation on the fishery is not known but may be of particular concern for long-lived species such as muskellunge.

·         Zebra mussels or zebra mussel shells may build-up over time and reduce or eliminate many of the interstitial spaces between the boulders of the underwater groins or boulder piles. 

·         There could be a significant effort to obtain permits from the IJC and USACE to place large rock structures in the upper Niagara River.

3.16.14Feasibility

The likelihood of these structures successfully attracting fish is high.  Naturally occurring object cover in lotic environments such as rock piles or boulder fields provide basic habitat and are utilized by a variety of fish species.  While these structures are expected to be utilized, the extent of utilization is unknown.  Utilization will be influenced by the amount of  large object cover already present and the fish population in the area.  Based on observations in the upper Niagara River, the limited amount of large object cover available is highly utilized.  Therefore, it is likely that the addition of more large-object cover would also be successful at attracting a variety of fish species. 

The structures would be very durable and able to withstand the harsh environmental conditions.  For comparison, these structures would be similar in design to submerged portions of riprapped shoreline and jetty walls, both of which are designs proven to hold in extreme environmental conditions.  In addition, their location in relatively deep areas provides protection from the elements. 

Permitting for these structures could be complicated, due to the fact that they would represent a hazard to navigation in an area that is heavily used for commercial shipping and recreational boating.  Therefore, there is a possibility that installing these structures may not be allowed or the potential locations for placement may be reduced.  However proper siting of the structure in locations with suitable depth and away from the high use boating areas should minimize these issues. 

Proper siting would also ensure that installing these structures would not adversely impact existing important habitat such as spawning areas or SAV beds.  As such, they would represent a benefit to the fishery.  In turn they could also benefit the quality of recreational angling opportunities by providing locations where fish may congregate and be targeted by anglers.  Additional benefits to anglers may occur if installation of these structures results in population level benefits to the fish community. 

Based on the fact that that large object cover is basic fish habitat in lotic environments and that this type of habitat appears to be limited in the upper Niagara River, the feasibility of this proposed project is very good. 

3.16.15References

R1019215732 \ Text Reference: Gannon 1990 \ Gannon, J.E. (ed.).  1990.  International Position Statement and Evaluation Guidelines for Artificial Reefs in the Great Lakes.  Great Lakes Fishery Commission Special Publication 90-2. 

R1019215733 \ Text Reference: Blue Heron 1991 \ Blue Heron Enterprises.  1991.  The Nautical Seaway Trail:  Chartbook and Waterfront Guide to New York State's Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Region. 

 

Figure 3.15-1

Fish Attraction Structure - Large Boulder Piles

 

Figure 3.15-2

Fish Attraction Structure - Large Riprap Groins

 

Figure 3.15-3

Fish Attraction Structure - Boulder Field

 

3.17     HIP #16 – Native Coregonid Restoration  

3.17.1    Purpose

The purpose of this HIP is to investigate the feasibility of restoring native coregonids (primarily bloater) to Lake Ontario, and, if appropriate, to construct a hatchery to support the reintroduction.  The genus Coregonus consists of the whitefishes and ciscoes.  Coregonids native to Lake Ontario consisted of the lake whitefish (C. clupeaformis), lake herring (C. artedli), and four deep water ciscoes (i.e., bloater (C. hoyi), kiyi (C. kiyi), blackfin ciscoe (C. nigripinnis), and shortnose cisco (C. reighardi)).  Historically, native coregonids comprised the greatest fish biomass in Lake Ontario (Baldwin1999).  A hatchery-based reintroduction program is considered more feasible than reintroduction based on adult transfer.  Reintroduction of bloater is consistent with the bi-national fisheries management plan, which states that “The protection and rehabilitation of native and naturalized species and genetic stocks is an important element in securing biodiversity”.

3.17.2    Short-Term Objective

Investigate the feasibility of restoring native coregonids (primarily bloater) to Lake Ontario and, if appropriate, establish a hatchery-based re-introduction program for the bloater in Lake Ontario.

3.17.3    Long-Term Objective

Establish a self-sustaining bloater population that can provide adequate forage for lake trout and potentially other large predator species.    

3.17.4    Target Habitat(s)

The deep waters of Lake Ontario.

3.17.5    Primary Target Species, Guilds, or Communities

Bloater chub or bloater (Coregonus hoyi).

3.17.6    Secondary Target Species, Guilds, or Communities

Other native coregonids if reintroduction of bloater is not feasible.

3.17.7    Proposed Locations

Logistically the hatchery should be in the vicinity of Lake Ontario.

3.17.8    Project Description

This HIP would investigate the feasibility of restoring bloater to Lake Ontario, and, if feasible, establishing hatchery facilities to support the reintroduction of bloater.  However, the facility may be suitable for raising other coregonids such as kiyi or lake whitefish.  Historically, native coregonids (i.e., the ciscoes and whitefish) comprised the greatest fish biomass in Lake Ontario (Baldwin 1999).  In addition to supporting a commercial fishery on their own, they likely provided an important forage base for lake trout (Scott and Crossman 1973).  This project only considers the bloater chub, or bloater (Coregonus hoyi) for reintroduction.  Despite their once abundant populations in Lake Ontario, little is known about their reproduction and rearing requirements.  There has been recent interest in reintroducing bloater into Lake Ontario.  After the extirpation of the bloater in the 1960s, the non-native alewife and rainbow smelt became the predominant pelagic forage species (Baldwin 1999).  Both the native predator species such as lake trout and non-native predator species such as Chinook salmon currently rely primarily on alewife and to a lesser extent rainbow smelt as their forage base.  However, dramatic population fluctuations of these species are well documented and therefore they do not represent a stable forage base.  Additionally, a diet comprised largely of alewife provides high levels of thiaminase to salmonids which in turn creates fish health problems including lack of reproductive success and early mortality syndrome.  Reducing thiaminase levels by providing an alternative food source may result in increased levels of natural reproduction for lake trout.  Also, increasing the diversity of the forage fish community may also increase the stability of the lake trout population (Baldwin 1999).  Therefore, in addition to reestablishing a native species to Lake Ontario, the bloater could help reestablish the deepwater food web and provide benefits to the lake trout population.

Although much of the information presented here may be applicable to other coregonids, the bloater has received the greatest interest in terms of reintroduction.  The bloater is the smallest of the four deepwater ciscoes that used to be present in Lake Ontario.  The bloater has a total length of approximately 8-10 inches and is native to all of the Great Lakes except Lake Erie (Scott and Crossman 1973).  A hatchery based reintroduction program is considered more feasible than reintroduction based on adult transfer because the adults generally reside in deep water and the collection process usually kills all bloaters due to decompression trauma.  Therefore, collection and transfer of adults is not considered practical (Baldwin 1999). 

3.17.9    Design Features

3.17.9.1   Determine Program Goals

Establishing a native coregonid reintroduction program and a hatchery facility to support a stocking program would first require a determination of the ecological, technical, and social issues of such a program.  There are two documents available that provide discussion on these considerations with respect to reintroducing bloaters.  These were primary sources for this HIP description and they include: “Native Prey Re-Introduction into Lake Ontario: Bloater (Coregonus hoyi)” (Baldwin 1999), which was prepared for the Lake Ontario Committee of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, and “Reintroduction of Native Fishes to the Great Lakes Proper: A Research Theme Area” (Eshenroder and Krueger 2002), prepared for the Great Lakes Fisheries Commission Board of Technical Experts.  While there does not appear to be an official plan to reintroduce bloater, there appears to be sufficient interest by fisheries managers in the Lake Ontario region to help with establishing a consensus plan. 

Several important questions need to be addressed.  They include but are not limited to:

·         Concerns about genetic strains and/or phenotypes.

·         Disease concerns from egg sources.

·         Potential egg sources.

·         Hatching and rearing techniques.

·         Stocking goals (i.e., numbers and size).  

·         Monitoring program success.

Some of the concerns regarding each of these questions are described below.  For a more detailed discussion the reader is referred to Baldwin 1999.  While these issues would need to be addressed prior to launching a full-scale reintroduction program, it is important to note that some of this work is already occurring.  The approach to this HIP would be to first investigate the issues outlined below and then, if appropriate, establish a hatchery to assist in a re-introduction program.  The feasibility part of this HIP would likely take 4 to 5 years.  If it is determined that a re-introduction program should be attempted, then the appropriate level of stocking would be continued for a period of 10 to 12 years.  After this time, the success of the program would be evaluated and a decision reached on whether to continue the program.

3.17.9.2   Genetic Strain

Issues regarding genetic strains and phenotypes need to be addressed by the fisheries managers working on Lake Ontario.  Because the bloater has been extirpated from Lake Ontario, the genetic strain of bloater endemic to the Lake has been lost.  If reintroduction is going to occur, there is no choice except to use another genetic strain.  However, the phenotypes exhibited by ciscoes can vary tremendously from lake to lake.  As provided in Baldwin (1999), Svardson found that most characteristics including growth rate, spawning habits, body proportions, and meristic characters vary based on environmental conditions.  This is also supported by Todd et al. (1981), which reported that four types of ciscoes raised in a hatchery differed more from the parental stock than they did from each other.  Therefore, not only will the reintroduced genetic strains be different than the original Lake Ontario strain, but hatchery reared progeny may be different than their wild parents.  Currently, potential egg sources for consideration include bloater populations in Lakes Superior, Michigan, and Huron.  If concerns of genetic or phenotypic strains are a priority, then the potential egg sources may be further limited.  It is worth noting that even within a lake, numerous phenotypes may exist.  As reported in Eshenroder and Krueger (2002), “Lake Superior, in particular, contains a bewildering array of cisco phenotypes both within and among species” (Todd et al. 1980).  Therefore, limiting the reintroduction to a specific phenotype may substantially limit the potential egg sources and place limitations on the likelihood of program success.      

3.17.9.3   Disease Risk

Another question which must be addressed before reintroducing bloater into Lake Ontario is the risk of introducing disease.  The disease protocols established by the Great Lakes Fishery Commission (see GLFC undated) would need to be followed but still, the risk of disease exists anytime fish from one water body are planted into another.  The primary disease concern at this time appears to be Bacterial Kidney Disease (BKD), which is present in Lake Huron but not a concern with Lake Michigan or Lake Superior stocks (Baldwin 1999).  However, the risk already exists and the additional risk may be relatively small due to the natural opportunity for diseases to reach Lake Ontario from Lake Huron.  If fisheries managers believe that disease concerns are a priority, it may reduce the potential egg sources or warrant disease protocols specific to a bloater reintroduction program. 

3.17.9.4   Egg Collection

Once populations have been identified as potential egg sources, they need to be evaluated to determine spawning time, spawning location, and feasibility of egg collection, and for their ability to reliably provide the number of eggs needed.  One of the bigger technical problems associated with rearing bloaters could be the logistics of collecting enough ripe adults for eggs (Baldwin 1999).  The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (OMNR) produces 150,000 whitefish fingerlings annually at its’ White Lake Hatchery.  In order to achieve this rate of production, the hatchery starts with 400,000 viable eggs collected from the catch of fishermen in Lake Simcoe.  These 400,000 eggs are the product of approximately 30,000 harvested whitefish, illustrating the amount of effort that may be required during egg collection (Glenn Hooper, Manager of the White Lake Hatchery, Personal Communication).  It is important to note that of the 30,000 whitefish harvested, only a portion represent ripe females that provide viable eggs.  The number of bloaters needed to provide a similar number of eggs is unknown and would be influenced by a number of factors including the ability to target ripe fish.

The logistics of collecting ripe adults also requires more information.  The OMNR has unsuccessfully attempted to collect ripe adult bloaters from Lake Superior during the past two winters.  Based on literature, bloaters are expected to spawn during February.  However, efforts during that time only produced very green (unripe) females and a few ripe males (Glenn Hooper, Personal Communication).  Therefore, spawning at least in this location was probably not likely to occur until sometime in March.  The intent of the OMNR’s egg collection efforts was to collect enough eggs to determine if the rearing techniques used for whitefish are applicable to bloater.  However, since egg collection was not successful the answer to this question is not yet known.

Egg collection efforts in Lake Simcoe are aided by the fact that fishermen are actively pursuing whitefish during the spawning season (i.e., November).  However, this may not be the case when trying to collect eggs from bloater.  If bloater spawn during the February and March timeframe, special efforts may be required to target spawning fish if commercial fishermen are not actively fishing at that time, which would add substantially to egg collection costs.

3.17.9.5   Hatching and Rearing Techniques

Culture of bloater on a large scale has not been conducted and may be very different than for other species.  Culture techniques for whitefish are generally considered to be the most applicable to bloater but it is essential that this be verified prior to implementing a full-scale hatchery program.  This would require conducting an initial prototype study on the collection, rearing and stocking of bloater.  The objective would be to determine the logistics and protocols for a full-scale rearing facility.  This may be best accomplished through a small-scale prototype rearing facility.  Rather than constructing a new facility for this purpose, it would be more cost-effective to use some space at an existing facility if possible.  However, hatchery space is generally highly utilized and may not be available.  If so, adding on to an existing facility would still be more effective than establishing a new facility.   

Whitefish have been successfully cultured for over 100 years.  As stated above, the OMNR currently produces approximately 150,000 fingerlings annually for stocking in Lake Simcoe.  This program has been very successful and it provides the basis for maintaining the commercial fishery.  Based on this program’s success, it is logical that the initial attempts at rearing bloater would use similar techniques which over time could then be adapted specifically for the bloater.  A general summary of the techniques used at the White Lake Hatchery follows.

During November eggs are obtained from ripe adults collected by fishermen in Lake Simcoe.  Hatchery personnel work with nine fishing families to obtain approximately 400,000 viable eggs.  These eggs are then maintained at the hatchery in 6.5 liter egg incubation jars.  Approximately 60,000 eggs (2 liters) are incubated in each jar.  Dead eggs are removed on a regular basis to reduce the potential for fungus, and as a result the eggs do not require treatment with a fungicide.  Water temperature is maintained at approximately 1º C.  This is colder than the ambient temperature which is approximately 3º C.  The egg incubation water is intentionally cooled to slow egg development and delay hatching due to hatchery logistics and the cost of heating water to maintain appropriate water temperatures for newly hatched fry.  Water flow through the egg jars is very low (i.e., just enough to keep the eggs rolling) and therefore the total amount of water that needs to be chilled is small compared to the amount of heated water needed for tanks of newly hatched fry.  (Based on the spawning times of bloater, there may not be a need to consider this procedure.)

The eggs hatch in April.  For hatching, eggs are placed in hatching baskets in 500 liter tanks at a density of 8,000 per tank.  Upon hatching, fry are provided a high quality, larval fish food.  Initially, the food size is 250/300 microns.  Fry grow rapidly and as they do the size of the larval fish food is continually increased.  The whitefish fry are provided dry feed only. Other food sources such as brine shrimp are not needed.  While whitefish fry do well on the initial dry diet of larval fish food, the particle size used for whitefish may be too large for bloater fry.  Based on egg size, bloater fry are expected to be much smaller than whitefish fry.  If so, a well balanced food small enough for use by newly hatched bloater fry may not be available.  Providing a supplemental food source such as brine shrimp may be required.  While this may only be required for a short period of time (i.e., 1 – 2 weeks) it presents its own challenges.  Rearing brine shrimp can be labor intensive and requires its own hatchery space apart from the rest of the rearing facility.  There may also be some challenges when converting the fry from the live brine shrimp to dry feed.

As the fry grow, food size is continually increased.  As soon as possible the fish are started on a standard trout diet.  This represents a substantial cost savings compared to the larval fish food and whitefish appear to do very well on trout diet.  The diet used at the White Lake Hatchery is a low phosphorous diet which is sufficient for the fish, and reduces nutrient output from the hatchery.  When the fry reach approximately 1g they are transferred to 15m3 raceways with a goal of achieving a final fingerling density of approximately 60g/l (approximately 40,000 fish per raceway).  The raceways are 1m deep by 1.5m wide and 10 m long.  They are located indoors and are set-up in tandem (i.e., end to end) so that water from one raceway flows into a second raceway.  The water in the upper and lower raceways is exchanged 1 and 1.5 times per hour respectively.  Water temperature does not exceed 14ºC.  Maintaining cool water temperatures throughout the summer is possible due to a deepwater intake for the hatchery water supply. 

The fingerlings are removed from the raceway and stocked in the fall, generally October.  At this time they are approximately 15-20g in weight and the 400,000 eggs generally result in about 150,000 fingerlings.  Standard stocking techniques for salmonids are followed for whitefish with two notable exceptions.  First, the fingerlings are transported at a slightly lower density to reduce stress.  Second, they are stocked at night.  The reasons why night stocking appears to work better are not well understood but are likely associated with reduced predation and better dispersal due to diurnal distribution of the food source. 

At the White Lake Hatchery, it costs approximately $0.23 USD to raise a fingerling whitefish.  This is a very efficient and cost-effective program.  Assuming that this efficiency can be duplicated at a facility for raising bloater may not be valid.  The White Lake Hatchery is a large, multi-species rearing facility.  This alone represents an economy of scale due to hatchery staff and costs associated with operation and maintenance of the infrastructure.  The whitefish rearing program is also well developed and has had the opportunity to become more efficient as experience was gained, helping to keep costs down.  

Based on this information, a conceptual hatchery design is provided in Figure 3.16-1.  This design considers a facility required to raise 300,000 fingerlings per year.  As stated above, the number of fish that need to be stocked to make a reintroduction program successful are not known.  The selection of 300,000 fish was a somewhat arbitrary choice.  The current goals for whitefish stocking in Lake Simcoe are 150,000 fish and doubling this goal was assumed to be a reasonable target for Lake Ontario.  The design for this HIP assumes that the hatchery is a “stand alone” facility.  If this hatchery could be added to an existing facility there is potential for a substantial reduction in efforts to implement this HIP or if a facility could be located in the required geographic area that was not being used, there is the possibility that it could be renovated for bloater.  However, both of these situations require a proper water source and location within a reasonable distance to the stocking location.

3.17.9.6   Stocking Goals and Monitoring Considerations

One of the primary questions of a stocking program relates to the size of the stocked fish and whether the fish should be stocked as fry or fingerlings.  Not enough information is known at this time to definitively answer this question for the reintroduction of bloater into Lake Ontario but there are potential advantages and disadvantages to each scenario.  These include: costs, hatchery time, and survivorship to adulthood.  On a per fish basis it costs much less to rear a fish for 30 days than for 180 days so for the same cost more fry can be raised than fingerlings.  Likewise, it may be logistically feasible to raise fry at a hatchery being utilized for other species if hatchery space is only needed for a brief period.  However, size at stocking is expected to effect survivorship.  Fry would be expected to have a much higher mortality rate than fingerlings.  The question that ultimately needs to be answered is how many adults are produced per unit cost.  In terms of the Lake Simcoe whitefish program, the return rate from the stocking of fingerlings is very high.  The Lake maintains a productive whitefish fishery and a substantial portion of it is based on hatchery fish.  Hatchery fish are identified by fin clips. 

The American shad restoration program on the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania and Maryland faced a similar question on whether it was more beneficial to stock fry or fingerlings.  The program ultimately stocked both but all fish were identified by tetracycline marking of their otoliths.  The marking pattern provides information such as the age when stocked, stocking location, and the egg source.  As part of the monitoring efforts, samples were collected and the otoliths were examined.  Based on this information it was determined that stocking fry less than 21 days old produced a greater return than stocking fingerlings.  The number of fish needed in order for the program to be successful is unknown.  Estimates from fisheries scientists interviewed by Baldwin (1999) ranged from hundreds of thousands to the millions.  Several factors would likely influence this number including the size of fish stocked, and the number of years over which stocking would occur.  It is important to note however, that regardless of any estimated stocking rates, production would probably be limited by the egg supply and suitable hatchery space.  However, due to potential egg supply limitations, initial stockings would probably consist of fingerlings.  Any program based on stocking fry would require large numbers of eggs.  Stocking fingerling may represent the best use of the resources available.

3.17.10Construction

Standard construction techniques would be required to construct a hatchery.  Hatchery construction relies upon basic construction and plumbing concepts and there are many successful examples available upon which to build a design.  Though adult bloaters reside in very deep water, juvenile bloaters are generally found in the epilimnion during their first 2 years (Baldwin 1999) so a coregonid hatchery would not represent anything atypical with respect to other hatchery designs.  Since a specific hatchery location has not been defined, there is potential for site-specific engineering or construction requirements. 

Essential to hatchery location is the water supply.  The hatchery requires a reliable water supply of sufficient volume and temperature to meet production goals.  The water quality (i.e., nutrient levels, toxins, dissolved oxygen, etc.) also need to be evaluated to determine if it is acceptable for fish culture.  Of these factors water temperature may be the limiting factor for possible locations.  As stated above, water temperature for rearing whitefish at the white lake hatchery does not exceed 14º C.  If such temperatures are required for bloater, then a coldwater source such as a deepwater intake or a spring would be needed.  However, culture of bloater at warmer temperatures may be appropriate since naturally occurring juvenile bloater spend a substantial amount of time in the epilimnion of lakes where they are present.  A review of water temperatures where juvenile bloater are currently present would provide information to determine hatchery needs.

3.17.11Effectiveness Monitoring

Monitoring the success of the reintroduction program would be very important.  Since there are no bloaters in Lake Ontario, any consistent collection of bloaters in a sampling program would indicate some level of success.  For purposes of evaluating this HIP, it was assumed that bloater would require their own monitoring program in addition to the routine fisheries sampling that is conducted in the Lake.  As such it was assumed that five days of deepwater trawling per year would be sufficient sampling effort to monitor bloater reintroduction.  However, existing fish community indexing programs with modifications to adequately sample deepwater habitats may be suitable by themselves (Baldwin 1999). 

Bloater chubs appear to live approximately 10 years and become sexually mature at age 3 or older (Scott and Crossman 1973).  Based on the number of fish that would be required to establish a population in Lake Ontario that could be detected by sampling, monitoring would probably not be productive for several years even if the stocking program is successful.  Therefore, for purposes of this study, we suggest that annual monitoring begin on the fifth year after stocking is initiated. At this time the number of bloaters in the Lake would be the product of four years of stocking (assuming that only fingerlings are stocked) and potentially one years worth of natural production.  We propose that the annual effectiveness monitoring occur for 10 years (i.e., the life expectancy of one year class).  At this point, fishery managers could determine if the program is successful or if additional monitoring is required.  At this time monitoring methods could be altered, for example including evaluation of commercial catches targeted at other species or reduced frequency (i.e., once every 3-5 years).

A more informative monitoring program would be to mark fish based on certain components (i.e., stocking location, egg source, size at time of stocking, etc.); similar to the monitoring program being conducted for American shad which relies on tetracycline marking of otoliths.  Another option would be to use temperature induced marks on the otoliths (Baldwin 1999).  These options increase rearing costs and also monitoring costs due to otolith evaluation but they offer the ability to mark both fry and fingerlings.  A third option is to use fin clips.  This method is limited in the number of potential variations and can only be used on fingerlings.  The White Lake Hatchery currently marks its fingerlings with fin clips to determine the year fish were stocked (Glenn Hooper, Personal Communication).   

3.17.12Maintenance

The annual maintenance and/or operation for this HIP would be associated with egg collection, hatchery operation, stocking, and monitoring for juveniles and adults in Lake Ontario.   

3.17.13Project Constraints

·         Consensus by Lake Ontario fisheries managers on how to proceed with a project of this nature.  This would include assessing the following types of information during the feasibility study:

·         The stocking rate required to establish a successful reintroduction.

·         Whether there was an adequate food supply for bloaters in Lake Ontario.

·         The timing of the reintroduction with regard to other changes that are occurring in Lake Ontario due exotic species such as zebra and quagga mussels.

·         Direct competition for food sources from alewife and rainbow smelt.

·         Predation on stocked fish.

·         Identifying a reliable egg source that addresses concerns regarding genetic strain, phenotype, disease, and abundance of eggs.

·         Verifying the fish culture techniques required for rearing bloater. 

·         Availability of a hatchery facility for large-scale rearing.

·         Unknown rate of return on fry compared to fingerlings.

3.17.14Feasibility

Obtaining a reliable egg source is the primary issue that needs to be resolved in order for rearing of bloater to be successful.  The general opinion provided by scientists in Baldwin (1999) and resource agency personnel participating in the October 3rd meeting with the DEC is that this is feasible.  However, while this may be feasible it has not been proven and several concerns regarding a reliable egg source sufficient to meet the needs of a large-scale reintroduction program need to be addressed. These include: potential introduction of disease, genetic strains, location of suitable spawning stocks, and timing of collections.   It is likely that a substantial amount of effort will be needed to address these issues.  

Assuming that suitable eggs are available it is likely that bloater can be raised successfully in a hatchery to either fry or fingerling size. Experience with other coregonids (e.g., whitefish) indicates that this component of a reintroduction program is feasible.  Because bloater are not currently being reared on a large scale, fish culture techniques used to rear other coregonids would form the basis for this program.  However, it is not possible to predict the amount of effort required to modify these techniques specifically for bloater.

Successfully stocking bloater into Lake Ontario does not ensure a successful reintroduction program.  There are many factors that could potentially preclude program success.  These include: adequate food supply, competition with other species, predation, and the ability to stock enough individuals to establish a population in a water body the size of Lake Ontario.  Additional complications are due to the continued changes in the Lake Ontario ecosystem due to the spread of exotic species.   This system is in a state of flux and dramatic changes within this system have occurred even within the last several years (e.g. significant reduction in the Mysis population).  Therefore, it is impossible to predict the state of the factors influencing a successful reintroduction program and their potential impact on the program itself. While bloater are native to the Lake Ontario ecosystem, there have been many changes to the ecosystem since it supported a bloater population.  These changes may not be conducive to reestablishing or supporting bloater.

Due to the number of uncertainties regarding the reintroduction of bloater into Lake Ontario, the feasibility of reestablishing bloater at this time is poor.  Information provided by the feasibility studies recommended as part of this HIP would provide the additional information needed to help determine if re-introduction of bloater into Lake Ontario could be successful.

3.17.15References

R1019215734 \ Text Reference: Baldwin 1999 \ Baldwin, B.  1999.  Native Prey Fish Re-Introduction into Lake Ontario:  Bloater (Coregonus hoyi),  Discussion Paper for the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, Lake Ontario Committee, Lake Ontario Technical Committee. 

R1019215735 \ Text Reference: Eshenroder and Krueger 2002 \ Eshenroder, R.L., and C.C. Krueger.  2002.  Reintroduction of Native Fishes to the Great Lakes Proper:  A Research Theme Area.  Prep. for the Great Lakes Fishery Commission Board of Technical Experts. 

R1019215736 \ Text Reference: GLFC undated \ Great Lakes Fishery Commission.  Undated.  Great Lakes Fish Disease Control Policy and Model Program.  GLFC Spec. Pub. 93-1. 

R1019215112 \ Text Reference: Scott and Crossman 1973 \ Scott, W.B., and E.J. Crossman.  1973.  Freshwater Fishes of Canada, Bulletin no. 184.  Fisheries Research Board of Canada.

R1019215737 \ Text Reference: Todd et al. 1981 \ Todd, T.N., G.R. Smith, and L.E. Cable.  1981.  Environmental and genetic contributions to morphological differentiation in ciscoes (Coregoninae) of the Great Lakes.  Can. J. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 38:59-67.

 

Figure 3.16-1

Conceptual Design - Native Coregonid Hatchery

 

3.18     HIP # 17 – American Bittern Hacking Program

3.18.1    Purpose

Results of wetland bird surveys conducted along the Niagara River by NYSDEC and others suggest that one species notably missing from the breeding bird community of Niagara River marshes is the American bittern (Botaurus lentiginosus).  Bitterns are members of a family that also includes herons and egrets.  Although herons and egrets are relatively common in the area, bitterns are rare.  Bitterns typically nest in marshes with tall emergent vegetation (Gibbs et al. 1992).  This HIP would help restore American bittern to Buckhorn Marsh through the development of a hacking program.

3.18.2    Short-Term Objective

Raise and release American bittern chicks in Buckhorn Marsh in an attempt to restore a breeding population of this species to the marsh.

3.18.3    Long-Term Objective

Establish a self-sustaining breeding population of American bittern in Buckhorn Marsh.

3.18.4    Target Habitat(s)

Wetland areas of Buckhorn Marsh in the short-term and potentially other wetland areas in the long-term. 

3.18.5    Primary Target Species, Guilds, or Communities

American bittern (Botaurus lentiginosus).

3.18.6    Secondary Target Species, Guilds, or Communities

None.

3.18.7    Proposed Locations

Buckhorn Marsh.

3.18.8    Project Description

The goal of this HIP would be to raise and release American bitterns in Buckhorn Marsh through a hacking program.  Hacking involves raising young birds in an enclosure until they are old enough to fly.  Because hacked birds often return to the area of their release to breed as adults, these programs can be used to reestablish populations of birds where they formerly occurred.  Hacking programs are commonly used for eagles and falcons, and have also been used for some species of herons.

All hacking programs require a source of young birds that can be relocated and raised until release.  Field surveys would be necessary to locate and monitor bittern nests in western New York wetlands.  Young bitterns would be removed from these nests, transported, and introduced into a hacking facility constructed at Buckhorn Marsh.  The hacking facility would consist of rearing pens built on the edge of the marsh.  Young bitterns would be raised in this facility until they are old enough to fly out of the pens on their own at an age of approximately 50 to 55 days (Gibbs et al. 1992).  The released birds would be banded and radio-tagged to determine their movement patterns and assess their survivorship after leaving the rearing pens.  The bittern hacking program would be modeled on a similar hacking program that successfully established egrets in Alabama in the late 1980s (Pullin 1987).

3.18.9    Design Features

Field surveys would be conducted during May to locate bittern nests in the marshes and wetlands of state-owned Wildlife Management Areas in western New York.  Bittern nests would be mapped with GPS and periodically monitored during the chick hatching and rearing period.  Bittern chicks stay in or near the nest until two to four weeks old (Gibbs et al. 1992).  Young chicks would be removed from the nest at approximately two weeks of age and transported to the hacking facility for rearing.  Each chick would be banded with a numbered leg band to facilitate individual recognition in the pens and after release.

The hacking facility would consist of rearing pens located on the edge of the marsh and modeled after the pens used by Pullin (1987) for hacking great egrets.  An office trailer located near the pens would contain support equipment, video monitoring equipment, and freezers and tanks to hold food for the young bitterns.

The rearing pens would contain nest platforms and perches and be large enough so that young bitterns could exercise in preparation for free flight and release.  Live traps would be deployed around the hacking facility to trap and remove predators that might attempt to break into the pens and kill the young bitterns in the facility.

Chicks would be monitored with remote cameras to assess their health, growth, and ability to feed themselves.  Video monitors and recording equipment would be housed in the office trailer.  Chicks unable to feed themselves would be hand-fed until strong enough or old enough to do so.

The birds would be ready for release and able to feed themselves and survive independently at approximately 50 to 55 days of age (Gibbs et al. 1992).  One week before release the birds would be fitted with radio transmitters so their movements can be monitored and their survival assessed after release.  To release the birds, part of the roof would be opened to allow the birds to fly out of the rearing pens on their own when they are ready.  It is likely that the birds would return to the pens to roost at night and occasionally to feed in the first week or two after they leave.  To assess survivorship, the released bitterns would be manually tracked using radio tracking equipment each day during the first week after release and once each week thereafter for the following eight weeks or until the birds leave the marsh.

3.18.10Construction

A suitable location for pen construction would be selected in cooperation with NYSDEC and NYSOPRHP.  The site would have to have sufficient space to construct the pen and install the office trailer.  Access to electricity for the office trailer would be useful, but power could be supplied by a generator instead, especially if frozen food were stored at a different location.

Two pens would be built, each approximately 12 feet wide and 30 feet long.  The rearing pens would be built of simple wood frame construction and wire mesh netting similar to those used by Pullin (1987) for egrets.  Each pen could hold up to eight young bitterns and would be large enough for young bitterns to exercise in preparation for release and free flight.  The sides and top of the pens would be enclosed with wire mesh netting, with hinged plywood doors at one end of the roof.  The front of the pens would face the marsh.  The back of the pens and part of the sides would be covered with burlap so that the young bitterns could not see any evidence of people or vehicles.  Across the back of the pen, a nest platform would be constructed of wood slats.  These platforms would be covered with nesting material.  Posts of varying heights would be installed adjacent to each nest platform to provide roost sites and so that young birds could return to the nest if they accidentally fell out. 

The pens would be located on the edge of the wetland and enclose an area of shallow water where food may occur naturally.  A portion of the wire sides and the front of the pen would be in the water.  A PVC tube through the back wall would be used to introduce food into the nest and into the pen.  Chicks would be fed a combination of commercially available food used in zoos as well as previously frozen fish, live fish, frogs, crickets, crayfish or other items several times each day.  Food items would be purchased from commercial dealers or collected in the field.  Food would be stored in tanks and freezers in the office trailer nearby or at a remote location and brought over each day.  One portion of the pen would include a floating net cage purchased from a commercial fisheries supplier that would be used to hold stocked free-swimming minnows, crayfish or frogs to encourage young bitterns to feed on their own. 

3.18.11Effectiveness Monitoring

During rearing, bittern chicks in the hacking facility would be monitored with remotely operated cameras.  After release, bittern chicks would be monitored by manually tracking the birds with radio telemetry equipment to determine their movements and survivorship until the birds leave the marsh.  The rearing process would take approximately six weeks.  Post-fledging monitoring would continue into late summer or early fall.

The overall success of the restoration project would be evaluated each year by performing censuses of bitterns in the marsh.  These censuses would be visual and acoustical in nature and would be used to identify potential nesting sites of bitterns in the marsh.  Potential nesting sites would be inspected for evidence of active breeding.  The initial goal of the project would be to release ten bitterns each year for five years.  Although the exact age of first breeding for American bittern is unknown, released bitterns might breed in their first year following release (Gibbs et al. 1992).  Once active breeding by American bittern is documented in the marsh, the goals of this HIP would have been achieved and the project could be ended.  Few data are available to determine the number of birds that would need to be hacked to establish a breeding population.  Establishing naturally breeding American bitterns in Buckhorn Marsh should be possible through the hacking of 50 birds over five years (Lyles 2000).

3.18.12Maintenance

Annual maintenance would involve the installation and removal of the office trailer and the inspection and repair of the rearing pens.

3.18.13Project Constraints

·        American bitterns have never been used in a hacking program before and a great deal of their breeding biology is unknown (Gibbs et al. 1992).  Pullin (1987) successfully hacked great egrets, and although much of this project is based on that work, this does not guarantee success.

·        American bitterns are known predators of small marsh-birds like sora (Austin and Slivinski 2000) and could be predators of least bittern.  The least bittern is a threatened species in New York that nests in Buckhorn marsh.  Establishing American bitterns in Buckhorn marsh could lower least bittern numbers or productivity.

·        Locating bittern nests that could serve as a source for chicks could be difficult. 

·        The net pen and office trailer site would need to be located where electricity is available or have power supplied by a generator.  In addition, the rearing facility would need to be built in an area of Buckhorn Marsh relatively free from human activity or disturbance. 

·        Constructing the hacking facility would require the temporary alteration of some of the existing wetland habitat.

·        Finally, this project would require a significant commitment of staff and resources to be successful.

3.18.14Feasibility

Restoring American bittern to Buckhorn Marsh is a goal consistent with the overall restoration of this marsh and other marshes in the Niagara River corridor as envisioned by NYSDEC and NYSOPRHP.  The American bittern is a member of the heron family, and several heron reintroduction projects have been successful (Lyles 2000).  Hacking programs have been successful for yellow-crowned night herons in Bermuda (Wingate 1982) and for great egrets in the Tennessee valley (Pullin 1987).  The habitat available in Buckhorn Marsh appears to be suitable for American bittern.  The marsh is large enough to be used by bitterns (Gibbs and Melvin 1992; Gibbs et al. 1992) and it likely meets the criteria of the American Bittern Habitat Model (Banner and Schaller 2001).  The active control of alien invasive plant species in the marsh would maintain high habitat quality.  A review of all these considerations and potential constraints suggests that the overall feasibility of this HIP project is fair to good.

3.18.15References

R1019216368 \ Text Reference: Austin and Slivinski 2000 \ Austin, Jane E., and Michael V. Slivinski.  2000.  American bittern depredates sora.  Prairie Naturalist 32(1):59-60.

R1019216369 \ Text Reference: Banner and Schaller 2001 \ Banner, Arnold, and Sue Schaller.  2001.  American bittern habitat model.  Gulf of Maine Watershed Habitat Analysis, Gulf of Maine Program.  http://r5gomp.fws.gov/gom/habitatstudy/Gulf_of_Maine_Watershed_Habitat_Analysis.htm.  Falmouth, ME: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 

R1019215662 \ Text Reference: Gibbs and Melvin 1992 \ Gibbs, J.P., and S.M. Melvin.  1992.  American bittern (Botaurus lentiginosus).  In: Migratory Nongame Birds of Management Concern in the Northeast.  ed. K.J. Schneider and D.M. Pence.  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  pp. 51-69.

R1019216370 \ Text Reference: Gibbs et al. 1992 \ Gibbs, J.P., F.A. Reid, and S.M. Melvin.  1992.  American bittern (Botaurus lentiginosus).  In: The Birds of North America, no. 18.  ed. A. Poole and F. Gill.  The Academy of Natural Sciences (Philadelphia) and The American Ornithologists Union (Washington, DC). 

R1019216371 \ Text Reference: Kushlan and Heinz 2000 \ Kushlan, J.A., and H. Heinz (eds.).  2000.  Heron Conservation.  New York: Academic Press.

R1019216372 \ Text Reference: Lyles 2000 \ Lyles, A.M.  2000.  Captive Populations.  In: Heron Conservation.  ed. J.A. Kushlan and H. Heinz.  New York: Academic Press.  pp. 293-310.

R1019216373 \ Text Reference: Pullin 1987 \ Pullin, P.  1987.  Restoring Great Egrets to the Tennessee Valley.  In: Proceedings of the Third Southeastern Nongame and Endangered Species Symposium, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Atlanta. 

R1019216374 \ Text Reference: Wingate 1982 \ Wingate, D.B.  1982.  Successful reintroduction of the yellow-crowned night heron as a nesting resident of Bermuda.  Colonial Waterbirds 5:104-15.

 

4.0  SUMMARY

The objective of this study was to provide conceptual designs and information on the benefits, constraints, and feasibility to implement each of the 17 proposed HIPs.  The geographic scope of the HIPs was primarily in the Niagara River from Buffalo Harbor to its mouth at Lake Ontario, including Grand Island tributaries and nearby wetland habitats.  However, the location of the Native Coregonid Hatchery (HIP #16) is unknown but if it is pursued it will likely fall outside of this area since the intent of this project would be benefit the ecology of Lake Ontario.  In addition, Tifft Marsh, a wetland nature preserve near Buffalo Harbor was included in several HIPs. 

The focus of 11 of the 17 projects would be to enhance habitats associated with wetlands or shoreline protection.  When possible, these projects were designed to benefit groups of species or communities rather than a single species.  For example, Frog Island Restoration (HIP #2) is expected to enhance habitat for waterfowl, wading birds, warm and cool water fish species, and native wetland plants.  Additionally, engineering components were also designed to provide habitat functions wherever possible.  As an example, the shoreline protection components of the Motor Island Shoreline Protection (HIP #3) and Strawberry Island Wetland Creation (HIP #1) require the use of riprap.  In both cases the construction material was chosen in order to provide large interstitial spaces for fish habitat in addition to protecting the shoreline.

Of the remaining six projects, five were geared toward habitat for specific bird species.  Four of these; Osprey Nesting (HIP #11), Black Tern Nesting (HIP #12), Common Tern Nesting (HIP #13), and American Bittern Hacking (HIP#17) would benefit rare, threatened, or endangered species.  The remaining HIP, Native Coregonid Hatchery (HIP #16) targets the reintroduction of bloater to Lake Ontario.  This once abundant species was extirpated from the Lake in the 1960s.

A summary of the 17 HIPs is provided in Table 4.0-1.  For each HIP, the summary provides the primary (P) and secondary (s) species that would benefit and a feasibility rating.

 

Table 4.0-1

Summary of Habitat Improvement Projects – Niagara Power Project

HIP Number

HIP Project Name

Feasibility1

1

Strawberry Island Wetland Creation

Good

2

Frog Island Restoration

Fair/Good

3

Motor Island Shoreline Protection

Very Good

4

Beaver Island Wetland Restoration

Good 

5

Spicer Creek - Tributary Enhancements

Poor

6

Gun Creek - Tributary Enhancements

Very Good

7

Fish Access to Burnt Ship Creek

Good

8

Control of Invasive Sp. - Buckhorn and Tifft Marshes

Good

9

Shallow-water Habitat Creation - Burnt Ship Creek

Fair/good

10

Feasibility of Restoring Native Terrestrial Plants

N/A

11

Osprey Nesting

Good

12

Black Tern Nesting

Fair

13

Common Tern Nesting

Very Good

14

Enhancements to Motor Island Heron Rookery

Good

15

Installation of Fish Habitat/Attraction Structures

Very Good

16

Native Coregonid Hatchery

Poor

17

Hacking Program for American Bittern

Fair/Good

1 Refer to feasibility sections under each HIP write-up for a discussion on determination of feasibility.