Minsi Lake, Pennsylvania named as a 2020 Waters to Watch by the National Fish Habitat Partnership

 The National Fish Habitat Partnership (www.fishhabitat.org) is excited to announce its list of “Waters to Watch” for 2020. This annual list represents a collection of strategic conservation efforts implemented on rivers, streams, estuaries, and lakes to protect, restore, or enhance fish habitat. These voluntary, locally-driven projects represent some of the top conservation activities completed or in progress by 20 regionally-based Fish Habitat Partnerships throughout the country. These conservation projects conserve freshwater, estuarine, and marine habitats essential to many fish and wildlife species. These activities are fundamental to the overall success of the National Fish Habitat Partnership that was established in 2006.

Over 120 Fish Habitat Partnership “Waters to Watch” have been featured since 2007 and demonstrate science-based, on-the-ground conservation efforts protecting or improving fish habitat across the United States. In 2020, the National Fish Habitat Partnership is featuring five retrospective “Waters to Watch,” reflecting on the continued progress of a conservation project featured in previous years. “The projects, which focus on the protection, restoration, and enhancement of fish habitats across the country, are a sampling of the top priorities of our partnerships,” said Ed Schriever, Chair of the National Fish Habitat Board. “The Waters to Watch campaign provides people an opportunity to learn about our projects in a more in-depth way, which exemplifies collaborative conservation involving many partners.”

The Reservoir Fish Habitat Partnership nominated the Minsi Lake Project for the 2020 Waters to Watch list. For a complete listing of the 2020 projects, in addition to previous years" recipients visit the National Fish Habitat Partnership website.  Jake Rose, Georgetown University, developed a visual time lapse of the Minsi Lake project as part of a citizen science effort.

Purpose of the project: Minsi Lake was created for public fishing and boating by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) in 1970 and as one of only two public lakes in Northampton County, is popular with anglers from across the region. Minsi Lake is located in eastern Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley, the fastest growing and third most populous region in the state of Pennsylvania, with a population of nearly 822,000 as of the 2010 U.S. Census. In 1975, the 117-acre lake and surrounding 194 acres of woodlands that are owned by PFBC were leased to Northampton County as part of the county’s park system; an amended version of that lease continues to the present day. The 311-acres of woods and waters is called Minsi Lake Park.

In May 2017, PFBC drained Minsi Lake in preparation for a $4 million, two-year-long dam rehabilitation and spillway reconstruction project, which is scheduled to begin in late 2017; the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection had deemed the dam and spillway structurally deficient. At that same time, NorCor Parks collaborated with PFBC as an official cooperator in the agencies Cooperative Habitat Improvement Program (CHIP) to take advantage of this rare opportunity to address the limited littoral structure and excessive shallowness impairments at Minsi Lake during its complete drawdown. On June 28, 2017, PFBC’s Division of Habitat Management’s Lake Section physically surveyed the empty lakebed, documenting its existing conditions, including its habitat and excessive shallowness impairments. The survey revealed that about 75 acres of the 117-acre lake basin are lacking adequate fish habitat. The agency subsequently developed a Five-Year Fish Habitat Management Project Plan as part of its CHIP Project with NorCo Parks and Northampton County Junior Conservation School (NCJCS). Click here for a visual history of the project.

Project deliverables included:

1. 510 Rock Rubble Humps to provide forage habitat for invertebrates, crustaceans, and baitfish;
2. 200 Porcupine Cribs to provide refuge habitat for and improve recruitment of sunfish, bass and other gamefish;
3. 45 Rock Stars to provide forage habitat for invertebrates, baitfish and sunfish;
4. 40 Spider Humps to provide forage habitat for invertebrates and a diversity of bait and game fish, as well as forage and ambush cover for bass and sunfish;
5. 27 Post Clusters to provide cover for game and sunfish and ambush cover for bass;
6. 12 Post Stumps to provide cover for game and sunfish and ambush cover for bass;
7. 10 Turtle Basking Platforms;
8. 10 Felled Trees cabled to the shoreline and provide excellent habitat for game and sunfish in a variety of ways, i.e., spawning, recruitment, foraging and refuge cover
9. 7 Rock Famed Deflectors to provide about 200 linear feet of armoring against shoreline wind and wave erosion, enhancement of aquatic microhabitats, and provide ready access for anglers to fish from a solid rocky shoreline.

Human Interest/Community Benefit:
Northampton County Junior Conservation School recently established Friends of Minsi Lake (FOML) as a standing committee to chart the course and provide the resources necessary to enhance the natural and recreational assets throughout the Minsi Lake area, including the Minsi Lake Cooperative Habitat Improvement Project with PFBC. The friend’s group includes representatives from eight organizations and an at-large committee member, who represents the public with FOML, occupies a ninth seat on the committee. FOML’s mission is to support Minsi Lake and improve the area’s conservation value, encourage economic development, and enhance recreational opportunities for everyone who lives, works, and plays in Northampton County.

To that end, Friends of Minsi Lake is the face and vehicle for public outreach, education, fundraising, and community involvement in the Minsi Lake Habitat Improvement Project. The group’s public outreach subcommittee developed a 30-minute illustrated PowerPoint program and associated digital and print material about the project and presented to the local community, youth and civic organizations i.e., sportsmen’s clubs, watershed organizations, Scouting groups and Lions Clubs. A FOML Facebook site was developed and within five days of launching, over 1,000 people saw it and nearly 200 began following. The outreach objective is to raise public awareness and enthusiasm for the project; educate about the ecological, economic, societal and recreational values and benefits of a healthy Minsi Lake, it’s watershed and surrounding parklands and greenways; encourage and recruit community involvement with the habitat improvement project, and raise awareness and money for the comprehensive park rehabilitation.

The Minsi Lake Habitat Improvement Project received the 2019 Lehigh Valley Award for Environmental Project and subsequently received a Certificate of Recognition from Senator Mario Scavello of the 40th Pennsylvania State Senate District.

Project Timeline: Start Date: June 1, 2018; End Date: July 2019

Economic Calculator results: $30,000 NFHP funding: Partner Contribution: Cash $64,370; In-kind: $87,019

Jobs: 3.5362
Total Sales:USD $308,305.24
Value Added:USD $167,221.90
Income:USD $118,557.20

Partners: Reservoir Fisheries Habitat Partnership, Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, Northampton County, Northampton County Junior Conservation School, Martins-Jacoby Watershed Association, Sun Belt Rising, Lehigh Valley Center for Independent Living, Penn State Extension-Master Watershed Steward Program, Watershed Coalition of Lehigh Valley, Local Boy and Girl Scout Troups, The H&K Group, Wildlands Conservancy