Upon closeout in 2022, Onondaga Environmental Institute’s (OEI) Sustain Our Great Lakes (SOGL) grant, Phase 2 of “Restoring Native Brook Trout in Onondaga Creek”, proved to be a great success despite numerous obstacles stemming from the pandemic and other unexpected hurdles. At the completion of this project, the following accomplishments were achieved in the West Branch of Onondaga Creek: (1) removal of a 300 cubic-yard gravel bar at Red Mill Rd, (2) removal of 18 Large Woody Debris (LWD) jams, and (3) replacement of two undersized culverts with a timber bridge. Collectively, this work has rectified one barrier, improved stream habitat within a two-mile section of stream, improved aquatic connectivity a minimum of 8.5 miles between mainstem and tributary (N=4) habitat, and improved fish passage along 7 miles of the mainstream West Branch for the enhancement of native Brook Trout populations. In addition to the ecological benefits achieved because of this project, the culvert removal effort that occurred on a Central New York Land Trust property in June 2022 has already received significant positive feedback from the public and has increased recreational opportunities in the watershed. Stream monitoring has shown improvements in physical habitat within the study area, documented long-term temperature suitability for Brook Trout, and increases in fish species richness from previous surveys. Long-term monitoring beyond this grant will continue to help demonstrate the positive impacts this project will have on expanding Brook Trout populations throughout a significant area of the West Branch.
OEI, with instrumental support from partners, was able to meet and exceed performance measures. The target value of 3.6 for instream miles restored was exceeded by 4.9 for a total of 8.5 miles restored. For fish passage improvements, the target value of 6 miles was exceeded for a total of 7 miles of stream opened. The target value of rectifying 1 passage barrier was achieved as proposed for fish passage improvement.
OEI is grateful for the community’s response to this project, including The Central New York Land Trust’s Facebook post on July 3, 2022 regarding the new timber bridge, “Pleasant Valley is worth a visit for the wildlife alone. Last evening we were mesmerized by the cacophony of frog and bird songs while we watched cedar waxwing and yellow warblers dive through the air catching insects from this new vantage point. Do yourself a favor and connect with your favorite natural space, or find a new spot to stop, breathe, and experience the wonders of our wilderness.”