A four year vision is finally coming to fruition, as the Nebraska Trout Unlimited Chapter 710, recently received $200,000 from the Nebraska Environmental Trust for the “Dry Spotted Tail Creek and Wetland Project.”
The project actually began with Ducks Unlimited approaching the Nebraska trout chapter.
“The area the stream runs through is de-watered by how much the stream has incised itself into the ground,” said Mark van Roojen, past president of the Nebraska Trout Unlimited Chapter 710. “So, instead of making it wetter, it’s actually draining the area there near the river.”
This has had an adverse effect on the surrounding prairie and wetland communities. Ducks Unlimited was looking to raise the water level and asked the Nebraska trout chapter to partner with them.
The first grant application the trout chapter put together was rejected, but they picked up another partner in the Nebraska Game and Parks.
To have “boots on the ground” in the area, van Roojen said they looked for members in western Nebraska, which formed the Western Nebraska Trout Unlimited Chapter, known as, the Chasing Rainbows Chapter.
The Dry Spotted Tail Creek’s current channel’s fast moving flows prevent upstream passage for many aquatic life forms, especially small-bodied fishes. Even strong swimming trout no longer reside in the stretch and move quickly through the area rather than use it as holding habitat.
“We know that historically these streams had held trout,” said John Morgan of Mitchell and president of the Chasing Rainbows Chapter. “And it still feels like we can provide satisfactory trout habitat and work with the local landowners to satisfy their use needs as well.”
In submitting an application for the Nebraska Environmental Trust grant the trout chapter hired engineers to draw up plans on how the river would transform to a more meandering course through the wetlands area for a more natural stream habitat for the fish and other wildlife.
“The project is important for all of us, the creek is a barometer of water quality and environmental quality here in our area,” Morgan said.
The project, which is expected to take a couple of years before completion will not affect the current trout in the river. It will also allow for environmental education for the Mitchell High School students and Boy Scout Troop 13, who will be helping with the project.
The trust’s grant and Nebraska Trout Unlimited’s own contributions will be supplemented with contributions from Western Nebraska’s “Chasing Rainbows” chapter of Trout Unlimited and from TU’s national Embrace-A-Stream program, as well as generous contributions from the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, Ducks Unlimited, Pheasants Forever, Scottsbluff Scout Troop 13 and landowners Platter River Basin Environments.