Monday, June 1, 2020

Minsi Lake Habitat Improvements In Northampton County Recognized By National Fish Habitat Partnership

The Top 10 is a list of rivers, lakes, streams and shores assembled by the nation’s leading authorities on aquatic conservation to create cleaner and healthier habitats for the many fish & wildlife species & people who call these areas home.
Minsi Lake is the only body of water in all of Pennsylvania to achieve this distinction in 2020! This is due to a collaborative partnership of organizations that have improved in lake habitat at Minsi and who continue to now improve recreational & terrestrial habitats at Minsi Lake Park & the surrounding Minsi Lake Greenway. 
Click Here for a fact sheet on Minsi Lake from NFHP.
640 Fish Structures Built As Part Of Minsi Lake Cooperative Habitat Project
The Minsi Lake Cooperative Habitat Improvement Project was a collaborative effort undertaken by the Fish & Boat Commission, Northampton County Parks & Recreation and Friends of Minsi Lake, a standing committee under the auspices of the Northampton County Junior Conservation School
The project remediated a lack of fish habitat that was identified in a nationwide reservoir habitat impairment assessment by the Reservoir Fisheries Habitat Partnership in 2013, and confirmed by the Fish & Boat Commission during a 2017 survey of the empty Minsi Lake basin, which was drained earlier that year for a dam rehabilitation and spillway reconstruction project.
In 2017, the County signed on as a cooperating organization with PFBC's Cooperative Habitat Improvement Program. 
The program calls for the cooperator to coordinate a community effort that brings public attention to the need for the project, engages the community in the project and raises funds to purchase all the project materials. In turn, PFBC develops the plan and builds the project.
The County formally partnered with the nonprofit Northampton County Conservation School to establish Friends of Minsi Lake in 2017. 
The County led the friends group on behalf of the partnership, which developed and delivered print and digital outreach materials, presented dozens of information and marketing programs to local clubs and civic groups, engaged youth in building turtle basking platforms as part of the project, and raised enough funds through grants and local donations for PFBC to construct one of the three largest lake habitat projects in its history. 
The end result is a much improved sport fishery, which will improve angling success and recreational enjoyment for the thousands of children, adults and families who fish and boat at Minsi Lake each year.
The objective of the project addressed a regional reservoir habitat impairment identified as an issue affecting the ecological health and function of reservoir systems in a nationwide reservoir habitat impairment assessment completed by the Reservoir Fisheries Habitat Partnership in 2013. 
The habitat impairment at Minsi Lake was identified as limited littoral structure due to a lack of woody elements on the lakebed for fish and other aquatic organisms and communities.
The genesis for the project was the $4 million Minsi Lake Dam Rehabilitation & Spillway Reconstruction Project, which was begun this spring and is expected to be completed this fall. 
The lake was completely drawn down in 2017 in preparation for the dam rehab project, which offered a rare opportunity to access the empty lake basin, address the impairment issue and complete an extensive fish habitat restoration project.
In 2017, Northampton County became a cooperating organization with PFBC's Cooperative Habitat Improvement Program (CHIP), which provides technical assistance in planning and the construction and supervision of an approved project on a waterway open for public fishing. 
That same year, PFBC conducted a field survey of the lake basin, which revealed that about 75 percent of the lakebed was lacking adequate fish habitat. PFBC then developed the Minsi Lake Habitat Improvement Plan to address this issue. 
The plan calls for 640 large scale habitat structures to be built from stone and lumber in place on the empty lakebed by PFBC using heavy equipment, and 210 small scale habitat structures to be built outside the lake basin by volunteers using hand tools under PFBC supervision and later submerged in the lake after its refilled with water in 2020.
The CHIP Cooperator is required to collaborate with the community to raise awareness of the need for the project and to raise funds for and purchase all the project materials. 
To that end, Northampton County collaborated with Northampton County Junior Conservation School, an award-winning nonprofit youth environmental education program, to establish Friends of Minsi Lake (FOML) as a standing committee under the Conservation School. 
In 2017, the Conservation School established by resolution the Friends of Minsi Lake Committee. The purpose of the resolution is to create a coalition to work with the County to chart the course and provide the resources needed to enhance the natural and recreational assets at Minsi Lake and the surrounding Minsi Lake Greenway.
The Conservation School, the County and FOML are committed to the enhancement of in-lake and terrestrial habitats, recreational improvements and accessible opportunities for everyone who visits Minsi Lake and the surrounding greenway. 
In turn, Northampton County Council approved by resolution its support for the Conservation School’s efforts for the betterment of recreation, tourism and habitat improvement at Minsi Lake and the Minsi Lake Greenway.
Since 2017, FOML has produced print and digital marketing materials and a PowerPoint program and created a Facebook page and a landing page on the Conservation School’s website. 
The friends group went on to present its PowerPoint program to dozens of sportsmens' clubs and civic organizations; tabled its marketing materials and popup banner at many public events throughout the Lehigh Valley; and raised over $140,000 in grants and many generous donations from local organizations and individuals. 
These funds were used to purchase 1,800 tons of freshly quarried limestone and 1,960 pieces of untreated rough cut hemlock lumber for the project.
The project has transformed the relatively habitat-barren lake basin into one that now has plenty of wood and rock rubble habitat for fish, which will vastly improve the sport fishery at the lake and angling success and recreational enjoyment for the thousands of children, adults and families who fish Minsi Lake each year. 
The project was constructed by Fish & Boat Commission staff over a three-week period from July 8-July 22 this year and is among the top three largest cooperative lake habitat improvement projects ever constructed by PFBC.
Among the 640 structures built as part of the project are seven rock framed shoreline deflectors, which provide nearly 200-linear-feet of armoring against wind and wave erosion, which protects the shore and water quality, while providing aquatic microhabitats and easy access for anglers to fish from a solid open shoreline. 
Total project material expenses were $70,992.45, all of which was raised and paid for by Friends of Minsi Lake; not a penny of County taxpayer funds or funds from any County coffers paid for project materials.
All project materials were locally sourced, thus supporting the local economy. 
PFBC contributed $62,638 of professional in-kind services through project planning, construction and supervision. The County contributed over $4,000 of professional in-kind services through project administration on behalf of the project partnership. 
The County continues to provide professional in-kind services to this partnership through grant writing and administration, project and program coordination, and serving on the FOML Committee, including as secretary.
The Minsi Lake Habitat Improvement Project is the first step in a comprehensive rehabilitation plan for Minsi Lake and the surrounding Minsi Lake Greenway that calls for $3 million in improvements to boat launches, fishing piers, picnic areas, trails, restrooms, parking lots, maintenance facilities and ADA Accessible facilities, amenities and pavilions, where non presently exist. 
To this end, Northampton County has committed $500,000, which thus far has been matched by nearly $500,000 in Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and Department of Community and Economic Development grants. 
Additionally, as a partner with Northampton County, FOML has already paid $5,000 for design and engineering of an accessible pedestrian bridge that will span the new spillway at Minsi Lake, creating a nearly three-mile loop trail around the lake for the first time in its 50-year existence; bridge fabrication and installation will be paid for by the County.
The local project partnership has done an outstanding job engaging the community in awareness of the need and funding for the Minsi Lake Habitat Improvement Project though personal engagement and social media, which includes over 1,400 followers on FOML's Facebook page. 
Last year, children with the Delaware River Shad Fishermen's Association Youth Outdoors Adventure Program built ten turtle basking platforms as part of the small scale habitat structures phase of the project.
The platforms are currently stored at the County Parks Maintenance Facility in Nazareth; they will be anchored in place on the lake, when it is refilled with water next year. 
At that same time, youth and adult volunteers alike will build 200 small scale fish habitat structures called porcupine cribs. 
These volunteers will build the structures with hand tools in the parking lot at Minsi Lake under PFBC supervision. 
Once finished, the cribs will be taken out on the lake by PFBC and submerged on the lakebed at mapped waypoints.
Click Here to watch a video on the Lake Habitat Improvement Project.
To learn more about these and other projects, visit the Friends of Minsi Lake Facebook page.
(Photo: One of 40 spider hump fish habitat structures under construction in the Minsi Lake.)
Related Article:
[Posted: June 1, 2020]  PA Environment Digest

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