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Huron Pines

Reconnected At Last: Huron Pines Restores ‘Pivotal’ Shingle Mill Site on E. Branch Black River

“There’s brook trout above and below the crossing already but that upstream habitat is high quality, critical spawning habitat. It’s a key migration corridor and, with climate change really impacting coldwater streams, being able to migrate through that crossing gives them a better chance for survival. It’s pretty exciting to get this completed.”

Matthew Kowalski, Fish Biologist,

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 

 

Grayling, MI (July 2020)A pipe culvert that obstructed the East Branch Black River for decades is gone and with it the persistent problems it caused with erosion, flooding and fish passage. In its place, a shiny aluminum arch ushers wild brook trout to 20 miles of habitat upstream of County Road 622 — vital spawning and nursery grounds supporting the river’s famed fishery. Huron Pines is proud to have led this effort, more than two decades in the making, to restore the Shingle Mill crossing.

Dodging raindrops, a yellow- and black-striped dragonfly hovered and dipped her tail into the flowing water again and again, each time depositing her eggs into fine gravel at the river’s edge. Just feet away, a massive Montmorency County Road Commission grader rumbled slowly across the newly rebuilt road crossing, its scraper blade gingerly smoothing the last bit of earth into place. Unfazed, the dragonfly went about her work — dodge, dip, repeat — before she zoomed off somewhere downstream.

This is the point where a typical story would talk about the return of nature as men and their machines retreat but, the fact is, nature never left the Shingle Mill crossing in the first place. Those construction workers talk excitedly about big trout they’ve spotted over the course of the 6-week river restoration project. A week into the excavation, as a temporary channel diverted the river around the job site, workers marveled at a native lamprey they plucked from a hole and released unharmed into the stream. It’s more like nature was eagerly waiting outside a concert hall for the doors to open and they finally have.

Arch bridge on East Branch Black River to correct seasonal flooding and reconnect 20 river milesDownload a high-resolution version of this photo.

At certain times of the year, the old Shingle Mill crossing was very much like a locked door to fish and other river creatures. Spring runoff rushing through the 9-foot-wide pipe culvert was too strong for trout to swim against, cutting off access to the upstream side of County Road 622. Even more damaging was the sediment washing into the East Branch whenever floodwaters overtopped the dirt road during heavy rains and thaws. That sediment buried crucial spawning gravel where trout and other river creatures, including dragonflies, lay their eggs.

These problems were finally resolved in June with the installation of a 27-foot bottomless arch culvert that lets the river pass naturally through and grants brook trout, a native and prized game fish, unfettered access to upstream habitat.

“Putting this 27-foot span here will improve the ability of the river to pass flood water which has been a maintenance and safety issue for the road commission,” Josh Leisen, Senior Project Manager with Huron Pines said. “It also slows the water velocity way down so it’ll be nice and easy for trout and other organisms to reach upstream habitat that’s important for spawning, refuge and foraging. Having a well-connected river is really important for brook trout.”...

...“The Walters Family Foundation is proud to support Huron Pines in their critical work to build sustainable river systems like that of the Black River because we believe in the interwoven vitality of Michigan’s communities and our natural environment,” said trustee, Peter Walters.

The full article and video can be found on the Huron Pine's website.

Flooding on County Road 622 before the new bridge was installed.Download a high-resolution version of this photo.