The Restoration of Spawning Grounds in Ozaukee County's Ulao Creek
For the last half dozen years, a group of dedicated conservation advocates have showcased preserved parcels scattered around Ozaukee County.
This Saturday, June 20, scientists and naturalists will be on hand to guide visitors at seven designated "Treasures of Oz."
Ulao Creek is a 9-mile-long tributary of the Milwaukee River. It headwaters in the city of Port Washington and the town of Grafton and flows south into Mequon.
A mile and a half of the creek is undergoing extensive habitat restoration as part of Milwaukee River Watershed Fish Passage Program. It’s a project usually only accessible for work crews and specialists, but open to the public this Saturday.
Andrew Struck knows the project well – he’s director of the Ozaukee County Planning and Parks Department. Struck says over the years the Ulao Creek has been impacted by a number of things - primarily by transportation and agriculture, but is worth restoring.
"Ulao Creek is really important to us because, historically and even now, Ulao Creek has about 28% of the wetland flood plain area for spawning - particularly for northern pike - in the whole Milwaukee River basin," he says.
Struck says one of the main goals of the habitat restoration project is to provide access for fish, and all aquatic life, to their historic spawning grounds.
"This restoration now has been in since last fall, so we are doing post-restoration monitoring," he says. "Our native fish need this migratory pathway. (The northern pike) live their adult life in Lake Michigan and then they migrate up...to these tributary streams to reproduce. So the story is that we were just larval trapping last year and we caught about six year-of-the-young northern pikes so we know that we are getting spawning in areas we haven't had before."
Struck says as crews restore the creek, their goal is to "provide more in-stream diversity and stable meandering channels", or return the creek back to its natural curvy self that ebbs and flows.
He says the restoration of this creek is particularly significant because it will create fish connectivity to Lake Michigan as well as a sustainable fishery.
"If we can provide places to breed and reproduce successfully, we can create a sustainable fishery without having to do stocking and other methods that are far more costly," Struck says.