NJ Audubon, More than just Birds – Fish, Invertebrates and Water Quality Benefit from Partner Restoration Project in Musconetcong River

Through a partnership between Trout Unlimited (TU) and New Jersey Audubon (NJA) a restoration project on 4,807 linear Urbani excavatingpool in Muskyfeet of the Musconetcong River in Warren County, NJ was implemented in July 2015. Funding for this restoration was obtained by NJA through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) from the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service and private donations obtained by TU.

The project involved enhancement and stabilization of the river channel with the intention of creating or enhancing existing fish habitat as well as improved water quality. The design included excavating and/or deepening several pools, to provide fish with optimal feeding, holding and spawning habitat. Between several pools, the ‘thalweg’ was enhanced by reorganizing the stream-bed material into pocket pools associated with small point bares; that will concentrate the flow during low water periods, producing improved invertebrate habitat and reduced water temperatures. (NOTE: In hydrological and fluvial landforms, the ‘thalweg’ is a line electroschock survey at Muskydrawn to join the lowest points along the entire length of a stream bed or valley in its downward slope, defining its deepest channel. The thalweg thus marks the natural direction (the profile) of a watercourse.)

A few weeks after restoration was complete, staff from the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife,sorting fish from surveyat Musky along with staff from Urbani Fisheries, LLC (the firm used to design and perform the in-stream work) and NJ Audubon, performed electroshock surveying of the restored area to determine fish species diversity and abundance. Electroshock surveying is a common scientific survey method that uses electricity to temporarily stun fish before they are caught. The stunned fish are netted and transferred to live-wells and results in no permanent harm to fish, which return to their natural state after being stunned in as little as two minutes. They are then removed from the live-well, identified, counted, checked for general health, measured by the biologists and returned to the river.

trout caught in surevy at MuskyResults of the survey determined the presence of the following species in the restoration area: wild Brook Trout, Brown Trout, Madtom, White Sucker, American Eels, Rock Bass, Redbreasted Sunfish, Smallmouth Bass, Cutlip Minnow, Blacknose Dace, Longnose Dace, Chubs, Shiners and Darters.

“NJA is especially happy to have been a partner on this project with Trout Unlimited, NRCS and NJDFW,” said John Parke, Project Stewardship Director of NJA. “The expertise of NRCS and NJDFW biologists and Urbani Fisheries were critical in accomplishing this project,” Parke added. “Not only did the project enhance habitat for fish and other aquatic species significantly, but work like this also has an enormous impact on improving water quality for all who live in the Musconetcong Watershed.”

Photos by John Cecil and John Parke