Fish Protection Fund distributes nearly $125,000 to study fish passage and fish protection measures on the Lower Chippewa River

Chippewa River Protection and Restoration Fund created to mitigate the environmental impacts of hydroelectric dams

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For immediate release
July 19, 2016

The Chippewa River Protection and Restoration Fund (CRPRF)–a natural resource settlement funded by Xcel Energy and held by the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin–made its first distributions from the Fish Protection Fund, one of its two sub-accounts. The funding will be used to research methods to help prevent fish from being entrained in, or passing through, turbines at hydroelectric dams on the Lower Chippewa River, and to analyze the genetics of lake sturgeon populations in the river. The Lower Chippewa River Settlement Implementation Team oversees disbursements from the CRPRF.

The Fish Protection Fund is one of several natural resource settlement funds held by the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin. The Foundation serves as a trustee for funds from legal and regulatory actions related to natural resources in Wisconsin. The distributions from this fund aim to better understand the impacts of hydroelectric dams on fish communities and research ways to reduce fish entrainment.

“These projects represent an important step forward in evaluating the need for safe passage of Wisconsin’s native fish species at hydroelectric dams of the Lower Chippewa River,” said Ruth Oppedahl, executive director of the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin. “The Natural Resources Foundation is proud to serve as a trustee for natural resource settlement funds such as the Fish Protection Fund.”

The Fish Protection Fund was created in 2003 as a result of the federal relicensing or license-amending of six hydroelectric projects on the Lower Chippewa River. The primary objective of the fund is to mitigate fish mortality as a result of entrainment by researching effective fish protection measures. As there is no proven technology to ensure safe fish passage through hydroelectric turbines, one of the projects funded by the Fish Protection Fund is a Fish Protection Feasibility Study, which will evaluate the effectiveness and feasibility of protection measures such as narrow trash racks, barrier nets and bar racks, which could help reduce fish passage through the turbines.

The Lower Chippewa River Basin holds 70 percent of Wisconsin’s native fish species. The Fish Protection Fund also funded the Sturgeon Genetics Study, which evaluated the genetic diversity of lake sturgeon on the Lower Chippewa River. Knowing the genetic diversity will help determine the need for passage around the dams.

“The Fish Protection Feasibility Study and Sturgeon Genetics Study will provide basic information for the Implementation Team to use in its decision-making process regarding how best to spend future Fish Protection Fund money,” said Matt Miller, hydro license compliance consultant with Xcel Energy.
“We’re looking at several options, including fish protection, fish passage and quite possibly fish habitat improvement. However, money from the Fish Protection Fund cannot be used for measures other than fish passage and protection until 20 years have elapsed since the inception of the fund.”

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Photo: Lower Chippewa River by Joshua Mayer

The Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin provides sustainable funding for Wisconsin’s most imperiled species and public lands, while helping citizens connect with our state’s unique natural places. This year marks the Foundation’s 30th year of boosting private sector support for Wisconsin’s public lands, waters and wildlife. Learn more at wisconservation.org

Contact
Caitlin Williamson
Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin
[email protected]
(608) 266-1430