Huron Pines restoring trout habitat on Gilchrist Creek

Courtesy Photo Josh Leisen, senior project manager for Huron Pines, takes a flow measurement of Gilchrist Creek at Greasy Creek Road in this undated photo provided by Huron Pines. Two undersized culverts there will be replaced with an aluminum arch culvert, greatly improving the river’s ability to flow naturally through the crossing and allowing fish to reach vital upstream habitat

Conservation organization Huron Pines will break ground in the coming days on projects meant to improve trout habitat, reduce erosion, and eliminate the risk of road washouts at two road crossings of Gilchrist Creek.

Carter Road and Greasy Creek Road will remain closed through August as their crossing structures are replaced to restore the natural flow of one of the highest-quality trout streams within the watershed of the Thunder Bay River.

The projects happen a year after Huron Pines installed a 32-foot timber bridge where Harwood Road crosses Gilchrist Creek southeast of Atlanta.

A similar bridge will be built at Carter Road, where an existing undersized culvert is causing Gilchrist Creek to flow too fast, contributing to the erosion of a steep and sandy bank downstream.

“An erosion site like that sends sand and fine soil into the river channel, where it smothers gravel habitat that’s important for fish and aquatic insects, which are the base of the food chain,” said Josh Leisen, senior project manager for Huron Pines. “A timber bridge will allow Gilchrist Creek to return to its natural conditions, reduce erosion and enhance fish passage.”

Twenty miles upstream, at Greasy Creek Road, an aluminum arch culvert will take the place of two undersized pipe culverts that are also a barrier for fish and pose a risk of a road washout in a flood. Of the three projects in total on Gilchrist Creek, this one is the farthest upstream, granting brook and brown trout access to vital spawning, nursery, and refuge habitat.

“Gilchrist Creek is one of the highest-quality streams in the Thunder Bay River watershed,” Leisen said. “It also happens to be a stream with three crossings that were creating problems we needed to address. Restoring its quality habitat will protect brown and brook trout and the angling opportunities those fish provide.”

In total, the projects reconnect more than 40 miles of stream habitat and reduce the amount of sediment entering Gilchrist Creek through erosion by an estimated 11 tons per year.

For safety reasons, anglers should avoid the construction sites and instead use other access points along the creek until the projects are complete.

The two projects combined are estimated to cost just over $500,000. Funding comes from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Fish Passage Program, Great Lakes Fishery Trust, and Walters Family Foundation.

These projects are being managed by Huron Pines and supported with in-kind labor and equipment from Montmorency County Road Commission. Hillman-based MacArthur Construction is working at the Carter Road site; John Henry Excavating of East Tawas is doing the Greasy Creek Road project.


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