By Howard Meyerson
While picking through the natural debris on the bottom of Grasshopper Creek, a tiny stream feeding the upper Boardman River, two scientists with the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians began to get excited.
Brett Fessell and Frank Dituri both noted things that made them hopeful. Fessell is the tribe’s fish and wildlife coordinator. Dituri is their wetland ecologist. He is also chairman of the multi-jurisdiction implementation team guiding the Boardman River restoration. The multi-million dollar project involves removing three dams and modifying a fourth over the next several years. Brown Bridge Dam, most upstream, was the first to go in 2013.
The three of us were canoeing though the 2.8 mile restoration area, the zone that was underwater prior to removing the dam. The former pond and backwaters, where paddling was once slow and laborious, had reverted to being a quick-moving river – today a joy to paddle.
What these scientists had discovered in streambed, set in a wild tangle of forest, were the empty cases of caddisfly larvae that had emerged, tiny conical structures made of fine gravel, found only in running water. Trout food, essentially; at very least, an indication of bugs that trout love.
“This place (the creek bottom) was all filled with mud,” Fessell explained, admiring the fresh gravel bed that was uncovered once the muck washed out, pushed by faster stream velocities made possible after pond waters went down.
“Now you have all these little pockets and pools – same as a larger river – and just as important for fisheries. This is going to be better spawning and nursery habitat. I am confident we will see more brook trout.” Continue reading