|Please describe the project methods. Will the product be used in conjunction with existing habitat restoration efforts on the reservoir? Will the product supplement natural brush, rock, or other materials being added to the reservoir?
Phase 1 – Artificial Fish Habitat Structures
Phase 1 began in February 2020 as employees and volunteers from the aforementioned organizations collaborated to build and deploy over 90 artificial fish habitat structures across 11 locations at Coleto Creek Reservoir. The habitat sites are comprised of various combinations of Georgia Cubes, Mossback Fish Habitat Trees, Rootwads, and Safehavens. The multiple artificial structures serve as a refuge for all types of prey in areas where habitat was previously limited around banks, open water areas, and deeper channels of the reservoir. The structures enhance habitat for fish to take shelter, feed, and reproduce which leads to improved recreational fishing. The location of these structures was strategically selected to fit the life cycle needs of largemouth bass, crappies, and catfishes and maximize boat and shoreline angling opportunities.
In the fall of 2021, The DOW Chemical RISE program joined with GBRA and Coleto Creek Power Plant to provide volunteers and materials for the construction of 10 additional Georgia Cube style artificial fish habitat structures that were added to several of the existing habitat sites.
The locations of the habitat structures are mapped and shared with the public through brochures at the Coleto Creek Park office and can be viewed coletocreek-fishing-structures.pdf (gbra.org). The website also includes the coordinates of each structure and anglers can enter these coordinates into their GPS or download the coordinates for use in GPS devices.
Phase 2 – Native Aquatic Vegetation Planting
In November of 2021, volunteers from St. Joseph High School in Victoria, Texas joined the aforementioned collection of organizations to rejuvenate the littoral shoreline of the reservoir.
Phase 2 included the planting of over 2,400 native vegetation species and installation of permeable enclosures to protect them from herbivores in wetted sections of the lakeshore. Biologists selected a mixture of submerged and emergent vegetation types such as Vallisneria, Illinois pondweed, Coontail, Water-willow and an assortment of sedge and grass species that will provide additional preferred habitat for fish, as well as new angling opportunities. Once these planted colonies become established, they will expand to other areas of the lake through vegetated growth and floating propagules.
The planting sites were surveyed in May 2022 by GBRA. All planting locations showed evidence of increased density and persistent vegetative growth during the spring season. A severe regional drought was experienced throughout the summer of 2022, which caused a 2.5-foot drop in reservoir depth and a 19% drop in capacity from typical conservation levels. TPWD performed a follow-up survey in late July of 2022. Reductions in lake depth had caused the dewatering of approximately 20% of the submerged vegetation planting locations. TPWD observed growth of the Illinois pondweed and vallisneria outside of the protective enclosures as it expanded towards the retreating water levels. Floating vegetation island plantings also showed success in the face of extended drought conditions. Water is pumped into the reservoir to combat drought effects as a part of normal lake operations, and significant further reductions in water levels are not expected. The information from these surveys will be used to inform future planting locations, to ensure that persistent suitable habitat is targeted for variable reservoir depths.
The proposed project will fund continued project initiatives. Project partners are eager to build on the success of previous enhancements by adding additional fish habitat sites in the reservoir and by thinning, spreading, and replanting the native aquatic vegetation plantings.
Tree and Brush Fish Habitat
Each year Christmas trees from the park’s patrons are recycled to create fish habitat. The branching structure of the trees provides refuge from predation by establishing barriers and creating shadows that camouflage prey species of fish. The trees are collected, bundled together, and placed in clusters around the reservoir’s fishing pier. Placing trees in clusters tends to be more effective at attracting fish than singular trees.
The grounds at Coleto Creek Park have plenty of oak trees. The pruning of the trees occurs during the winter when the trees are dormant. The pruned branches from the oak trees will provide natural fish habitat consisting of dried brush cut to size, bundled and tied together, with concrete cinder blocks added as weight. The bundles will be deployed into the reservoir.
Grant funds will be used to purchase supplies for installation of fish habitats comprised of natural materials.
Planting, Harvesting, and Transplanting of Native Aquatic Vegetation
The plantings are expected to continue to thrive and grow . The next step will be expanding submerged vegetation coverage into new spatial locations and ensuring that the flourishing native vegetation species are planted in depths suitable to withstand documented lake fluctuations. The next phase of plantings will build on previous efforts to further improve water quality and provide preferred habitats largemouth bass, crappie, sunfish and prey species in the littoral zone. These improvements should also provide increases in recreational angling success.
Grant funds will be used to purchase plants and supplies for the expansion of native aquatic vegetation planting locations throughout the reservoir.
Local community and youth groups will participate in the continued project initiatives as service projects for their organizations and clubs.
|Will state fish and wildlife agency staff be directly involved in the project? How so (planning, site selection, participation in installation)? Is there an associated lake or habitat management plan that states the need for structural habitat enhancement?
TPWD agency staff has been and will continue to be involved in this project. TPWD employees will provide in-kind support of expertise, manpower, and equipment to assist with the planting, harvesting and transplanting of vegetation in the reservoir. Agency staff will perform scheduled electrofishing and creel surveys of the reservoir to assist in determining changes in fish population abundance and angling success for important fish species.
The need for this project has resulted in the significant change of available littoral habitat in the reservoir over the last decade The region experienced a drought of record from October of 2010 until the end of 2014, which desiccated many of the plants along the shoreline. In March of 2015, a 9,110 cubic feet per second (cfs) flood event washed a large plume of sediment into the reservoir from the drought stricken uplands. A prolonged period of water turbidity prevented sunlight penetration and inhibited the photosynthesis driven growth of submerged vegetation during the spring growing season. The March flood event was followed by a similar 6,510 cfs event in April, an 11,000 cfs May event and a scouring 15,400 cfs flood in June, which effectively decimated macrophyte populations. The few plants that were able to subsist experienced a similar cycle in the following year, when a 9,210 cfs flood event swept sediment into the reservoir in March of 2016. Surveys by GBRA and TPWD biologists have confirmed that the reservoir has become almost completely devoid of submerged vegetation since 2015 . (Documented by TPWD in Coleto Creek Reservoir 2020 Fisheries Management Survey Report, as required by Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Act, Texas, Federal and Project F-221-M-4, Inland Fisheries Division Monitoring and Management Program). In addition to substantial reductions in critical fisheries habitat, native vegetation loss may also be responsible for a degradation in water quality.
To address reservoir impairments and the losses in fish habitat, GBRA and TPWD in a collaborative partnership have implemented the Coleto Creek Habitat Restoration and Enhancement Project to make long term physical habitat and water quality improvements to Coleto Creek Reservoir. The project aims to meet objectives contained within TPWD Coleto Creek Reservoir 2020 Fisheries Management Plan.
|List the species that the project is expected to benefit:
Fish: Largemouth bass, crappie, sunfish, and catfish
Vegetation: Illinois pondweed, vallisneria, water-willow, Coontail, and an assortment of sedge and grass species
|How do you plan to conduct outreach and advertise the project? (Examples: on-site signage, press releases, websites, message boards)
GBRA plans to perform extensive outreach throughout the project. The outreach will include installation of signage at Coleto Creek Park and Reservoir to educate anglers and park visitors about the restoration and enhancement efforts, educate constituents about the importance of native vegetation, and identify the site locations of the artificial fish habitat structures. Updates from this project will be shared with the public through local newspapers, the GBRA website (www.gbra.org), Texas BASS Nation online (www.texasbassonline.com), and the social media pages of GBRA, TPWD, Texas BASS Nation South Region, and Coleto Bassmasters when major milestones are reached. Articles about this project will be submitted for publication in state and national publications such as the annual GBRA River Run magazine, the Texas Clean Rivers Program Guadalupe Basin Highlights Report, the BASS Times magazine, and the BASS magazine. Additionally, GBRA staff provides educational tours of the Coleto Creek Park to approximately 500 local students annually. GBRA will augment these school tours to emphasize the importance of native vegetation in a reservoir fishery. TPWD will also provide outreach and distribute press releases regarding the Coleto Creek Reservoir Habitat Restoration and Enhancement Project to local and statewide media outlets.