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Jun. 16, 2011
The Savage River Watershed Association (SRWA) hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony last Friday for the recently completed Savage River Headwater Dam Removal and Stream Restoration Project, constructed on property owned by the city of Frostburg. The ceremony was attended by local representatives, project partners, and funders.
The project restored natural stream conditions to a 600-ft. reach of the Savage River to improve habitat for brook trout, Salvelinus fontinalis, Maryland’s only native freshwater trout species. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) listed brook trout as a “Species in Greatest Need of Conservation” in 2006, leading to the development of a brook trout Fisheries Management Plan that includes a focus on the upper Savage River resource.
This area comprises over 100 miles of interconnected streams that are 25% of all brook trout stream miles in Maryland. Brook trout require cool stream temperatures that do not exceed 70°F. Headwater ponds and impoundments are known to adversely affect stream temperatures and block fish passage. When a pond is built inline with a stream, the surface water of the pond warms. As the water re-enters the stream it increases the stream temperature below the pond. When stream temperature exceeds 70°F for extended periods, brook trout cannot survive. This condition is known as a thermal impact.
In the early 1900s, an impoundment was built on the upper Savage River as part of a municipal water supply for the city of Frostburg and surrounding communities. This impoundment was abandoned in 1986 with the upgrade of the Savage groundwater collection system and replacement of Piney Dam and Reservoir. Though the upper Savage River reservoir was no longer needed, the old dam remained in place, causing increased water temperatures and acting as a barrier to fish passage.
The city of Frostburg provided support to remove the deteriorating dam in order to improve water quality and fish habitat in the Savage River watershed. During the 2008–10 summer seasons, biologists with Maryland DNR’s Inland Fisheries Management Division monitored the temperature at this site. Data recorded showed peak stream temperatures that exceeded 75°F below the impoundment, yet never exceeded 65°F above the impoundment. Savage River Watershed Association and partners identified this as a priority restoration site as the impoundment was not only causing a thermal impact, it also blocked fish passage to a headwater reach along the main stem of the Savage River.
Canaan Valley Institute engineered a natural stream design plan to create a free-flowing channel that bypassed the reservoir and converted it to a wetland. Natural stream design methods were used to create in-stream structures that add aquatic habitat and provide streambank stability.
Stream restoration allowed fish access to 2.5 stream miles upstream from the pre-existing dam, improved aquatic habitat by restoring natural stream features, decreased water temperature, and decreased the amount of sediment contributed by streambanks downstream of the pre-existing dam. The former pond area was converted to a wetland, providing wildlife habitat, water quality improvement, and flood storage. The site will serve as a demonstration for stream restoration activities and brook trout habitat improvement projects.
Restoration of this site was possible as the result of partnership efforts coordinated by SRWA staff. SRWA extends thanks to all partners and funders for their strong support to complete this project and to local representatives for their interest in and support of SRWA activities.
Project partners that provided funding were Chesapeake Bay Trust (CBT), FishAmerica Foundation (FAF), Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE), Maryland DNR, and National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF). Partners who provided professional support and in-kind services were: Canaan Valley Institute (CVI), the city of Frostburg, DNR, and SRWA.
Read more here.
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