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Habitat restoration work underway on Eau Galle

SPRING VALLEY -- Brown and brook trout living in the Eau Galle River as it winds its way through Spring Valley are experiencing improved conditions.

A Department of Natural Resources (DNR) crew has undertaken the latest in a series of habitat restoration projects along the river, this one on a stretch behind the local elementary school and Sacred Heart Catholic Church. The upgrade began earlier this month and was expected to be completed next week.

"This will make it a lot more user-friendly," John Sours of the West Central District DNR office said about the nearly 2,000 foot stretch of river Tuesday, aware residents regularly take advantage of its proximity to the heart of the village.

That location has been a factor in the part of the work addressing accessibility, Sours said. A lot of debris is being removed to make the river more accessible, including fill, concrete, car parts and other items.

But the fish environment has been the project's main focus. He said water temperatures which have been too warm were lowered by such measures as widening the channel.

"Right now, temperatures in the 60s are fine for brown trout," he said, estimating they comprise 85 percent of the fish population there.

Habitat and cover are other top concerns, according to Sours. Rock has been hauled in, riprapping and stream bank improvements done, plus brush cleared. Around eight-to-nine shelters have been built on-site and installed under natural tables, giving the trout a place to take refuge from wildlife including herons, to which they are susceptible.

"It spreads out the habitat so they're not all in one spot," he said of the shelter arrangement.

The mostly dry weather has been ideal for the restoration, he said. The DNR typically sends four-member crews to handle these efforts; in the case of the Eau Galle, Rob Herman, Greg Rieck and Nate Johnson have been laborers, besides Sours. Two department backhoes were at the site last week; shocking done in conjunction with the restoration showed quite a few good-sized fish, Herman said.

Much of the remaining work will be cosmetic, Sours said. The channel will be further dug out, as well as grading accomplished, soil placed on top, then seeding and mulching finished. He thought appropriate areas will likely be mowed in the future.

Read more in the print version of the Herald July 25.