With the ushering in of 2024, Friends of Reservoirs/Reservoir Fisheries Habitat Partnership can look back at 15 years of fish habitat work through wonderful partnerships, hard work on the ground, and the long-term dedication of volunteers and staff, supporting better quality of life for those who enjoy being near water. We would not be here if not for all of you!
What do we hope to accomplish this year?
Well, given we've been working on an application for Congressional approval for the ACE Act's requirements, we revisited some of the foundational concepts that made our partnership.
Our vision is...
Clean water and healthy aquatic habitat in reservoirs and their connected waterways are critical to human life and healthy communities. We envision a future that includes healthy reservoir systems across the country supporting robust fisheries and sustainable clean water supplies.
We envision a future where reservoirs are managed to help maintain both upstream and downstream flows and critical terrestrial habitats, and where the value of healthy and sustainable reservoir systems is appreciated by the millions of Americans who use them and our elected officials.
We see opportunities for reservoir owners, managers and regulatory agencies to cooperate towards seamless management and conservation goals. We anticipate that recreational uses of reservoir systems will become more available to all Americans, and that users will be better connected to conservation programs through volunteerism.
How do we promote health of important fish and fish habitats?
The RFHP protects, restores, and enhances riparian shorelines, physical habitat, spawning habitat, and native aquatic plants. We manage aquatic and riparian nuisance species, maintain or restore appropriate hydrologic conditions in reservoir systems to support healthy aquatic ecosystems, protect, restore and enhance watershed connectivity. We also maintain or restore water quality in reservoir systems, maintain or restore sediment flows in reservoir systems, develop procedures and methodologies to prioritize and select fish habitat projects, and monitor and evaluate the health of fish habitat in reservoir systems.
What have we accomplished?
We have worked on 91 projects across the U.S., drawing an NFHP investment of $2.4 million and countless millions more in match. We are working to compile the numbers in the new NFHP database, which lack many of the early projects' quantitative achievements, but we can happily say we have been part of placing thousands of structures and improving tens of thousands of acres of aquatic habitat. Miles and miles of shoreline or tributary banks have been improved, and sediment inputs have been reduced or captured through the work of this partnership.
We now have over 140 Friends of Reservoirs chapters or groups in 32 states!
What do we hope to do in the future?
Much of this is up to you. If you have ideas you'd like to see pursued, please contact us and let us know!
Above all, we would like to shift toward greater financial flexibility and capacity through sponsorships and fundraisers, which would enable us to give more and larger grants. Federal funding has been the foundation of our grant-giving operations, but does require 1:1 match and various permitting and reporting that can become a barrier to Friends groups. In contrast, our small grants and product grants are simplified in application, selection, fund allocation, and reporting. We just want to help you put more fish habitat in the water! We will continue working toward this goal throughout the year.
Next, we would like to strengthen the science underlying our practices as an organization. When the partnership started, we supported both a Master's and PhD project to assess fish habitat nationwide and compile quantitative descriptors of reservoir environments. These projects yielded our regional priorities and helped elucidate how habitat challenges shifted across large geographic areas. Much like other measures of biotic integrity, reservoir habitat integrity could be measured by different quantitative metrics depending on broader environmental context, and such an approach was recently accomplished for the state of Ohio. As the NFHP enters a revision of their own scientific approach to fish habitat assessment, we hope to update our approach by shifting from qualitative to quantitative assessment specific to each region. In addition, we hope to support other work relevant to reservoir habitat, such as quality investigation of plastic risks to reservoir environments, if said study could guide our Friends groups to better practices.
Finally, we will continue to administer fish habitat grants that emphasize fixing the underlying impairments and building community. Water supports life and livelihoods, and we hope to build a legacy that lasts as long as possible. That means addressing tough impairments like sedimentation, nutrient imbalances, and nuisance plants and animals, in order extend the shelf life of our projects. That often means we are only one cog in a larger wheel, one funding source in a larger, more holistic project, and that's a good thing. The relationships that can grow from these projects are what makes the impact lasting.