North Atlantic Aquatic Connectivity Cooperative Completes Second Season

North Atlantic Aquatic Connectivity Cooperative Completes Second Season

Launched in June 2015, the North Atlantic Aquatic Connectivity Cooperative?s (NAACC) goal is improving aquatic connectivity of rivers and streams across 13 states from Maine to West Virginia. For the species dependent on these watersheds, their ecosystems are particularly vulnerable to fragmentation from culverts and bridges that might prevent access to important habitat. Because stream crossings are so numerous throughout the region, any effort to increase connectivity of streams and rivers could only be successful with the cooperation of multiple states and the expertise of many partners. The cooperative recently finalized its second field season and added important new data to the NAACC online database.

The NAACC is a network of individuals from universities, conservation organizations, and state and federal natural resource and transportation departments. Support for the program comes from the North Atlantic Landscape Conservation Cooperative and DOI Hurricane Sandy Mitigation funds, the University of Massachusetts Amherst, The Nature Conservancy, and expert partners throughout the 13 states. In addition to supporting on the ground road-stream crossing assessments, the NAACC provides an online training program with unified protocols for assessing road-stream crossings, maintains an online database to serve as a common repository for collected assessment data, and provides a tool to identify high priority watersheds and crossings.

Now that two field seasons have been completed, several projects that received funding through the NAACC program have completed their assessments. Four projects just completed their final reports and added their data to the NAACC database. For example, Trout Unlimited just finished assessing the Lower Willowemoc Creek watershed in south central New York. They assessed 53 crossings for aquatic passage, geomorphic compatibility and hydraulic capacity. They found that only 38 percent of the assessed crossings were fully passable for aquatic organisms; 25 percent were unpassable and 38 percent were passable under certain flows. This study has allowed Trout Unlimited to identify seven structures that will be examined by experts to determine which should be replaced with ecologically and hydrologically appropriate alternatives.

Another Trout Unlimited project that started in 2013 surveyed high priority native brook trout watersheds in Pennsylvania. The project received funding from the NAACC allowing for a total of 755 road-stream crossings to be evaluated and it was determined that 239 of the crossings allowed for no aquatic passage. The survey data has been entered into the NAACC database.

Funding from the NAACC program also helped support a project by the James River Association in Virginia on the Upper James River watershed. In this study, 400 crossings were assessed and the results added to the NAACC database. The Dutchess County Soil and Water Conservation Districts received NAACC funding to survey multiple watersheds in Dutchess and Rockland Counties, New York. During this study, 156 crossings were assessed and entered into the database. Studies like these help identify the structures that if replaced or removed could provide the greatest benefit to aquatic organisms by opening up miles of habitat.

More information about the project, including how to become involved or get training, is available at the NAACC website.

December 14, 2016