For several years, work has been coordinated and completed by a team of agencies at Fort McCoy to remove dams, culverts, and other stream barriers to improve the natural flow of those waterways.
Part of that team is the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). On Oct. 3, two members of the USFWS office in Onalaska, Wis., visited Fort McCoy to see the progress of projects they've worked to help via agreements and grant funding support throughout the installation.
Areas such as Tarr, Stillwell, and Silver Creek and the La Crosse River have had decades-old dams removed, had stream banks revitalized, and stream habitat for fish improved through a plethora of projects, said Fisheries Biologist John Noble with the Directorate of Public Works Environmental Division Natural Resources Branch (NRB). Those projects have been completed with USFWS, NRB, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR), and other partners.
"The projects that have been completed improve fish passage to other parts of the streams and enhance overall trout habitat," Noble said. "Through working with the USFWS and others, we are able to continually make these improvements."
USFWS Fisheries Biologist Louise Mauldin was one of the two people who visited. She said the USFWS has invested in many of the Fort McCoy projects.
"We actually have two pots of money that we have used to help out with projects at Fort McCoy," Mauldin said. "This includes the Fish Passage Program, which helps with barrier removal, and the Driftless Area Restoration Effort Fish Habitat Partnership, which helps with stream restoration, bank stabilization, and other efforts."
During the visit, Mauldin and USFWS Project Leader Sam Finney observed the area where the most recent stream-improvement work was completed along Silver Creek on South Post, where the West Silver Wetland Dam was removed this past summer. They also observed the progress on a project that was completed on Stillwell Creek in 2014 and reviewed the area of the La Crosse River on North Post where the Alderwood Dam was removed in 2015.
"We're seeing the response to the actions that have occurred during our visit," Mauldin said.
"I think from what we saw that things look great. I'm looking forward to hearing more about the future plans of what is going to be done (on post) as well."
Mauldin said she also receives monitoring information from stream studies at the installation. "That's really where we are able to look at the response from brown trout and brook trout and how they've adapted to the changes in the streams," she said.
Finney said the visit was a great opportunity to learn more about Fort McCoy's stream-improvement efforts, and more.
"I'm relatively new in my role and a big part of what our office does is the habitat work that Louise runs," Finney said. "I'm often tied up with other things, and she does such a good job doing what she does that I don't get as much of a chance to get out here and see some of the work that has been done, so this was a great opportunity.
"This visit provided me a great opportunity to see where we have helped in the past, and it also gives me a better perspective on where we can help in the future," Finney said.
Noble said the NRB and Fort McCoy are always looking at ways to improve the miles and miles of streams and rivers on the installation. He added the USFWS has always been a great supporter of every effort.
"They have been a major catalyst in all these projects," Noble said.
"Without them, we wouldn't be able to partner with the WDNR (and others) as well as we do for these projects. We appreciate all of their support."