Stream health surveys now involve local groups, larger streams

PRATT -- Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks (KDWP) stream survey crews will survey streams and rivers throughout Kansas this summer, adding information to a database that helps assess and monitor the overall conditions of these waterways. These assessments are annual undertakings, but the surveys have expanded their scope this year.

"We're becoming more involved with local Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategy (WRAPS) groups this year," says Mark Van Scoyoc, KDWP stream survey coordinator for KDWP. "These are local stakeholder groups supported by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and managed by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. Money from the EPA goes to the local WRAPS group to address issues they may see in their areas. KDWP helps them assess and monitor plans they are trying to implement on local streams and rivers. This is the first year we've helped them with assessment and monitoring.

"WRAPS is a statewide program that's gaining more support and interest," Van Scoyoc adds. "To help monitor their efforts to reduce atrazine levels in the Little Arkansas River, we've helped the Little Ark WRAPS group with sampling efforts. This helps determine how successful they've been."
Another new effort from the stream survey team program involves the purchase of a boat that will allow the group to monitor large rivers.

"Until now, we've only focused on streams we could wade, but big streams have fish, too," says Van Scoyoc. "We hope to do some large river trolling as soon as we can get a new testing boat for larger river systems. It's in the works, and we hope to be ready by the end of June."

This summer, two five-man crews, led by stream biologists Ryan Waters and Jeff Conley, will sample as many as 90 sites through mid-August, collecting information pertaining to basic water chemistry, stream flow, and evaluation of physical habitat. Fish, freshwater mussels, and other aquatic invertebrates are the primary focus of these sampling sites. The purpose of these surveys is to gather scientific data for long-term comparison and expand the already significant catalog of aquatic species generated from past surveys.

The information from these surveys also helps ecologists in the Environmental Services Section (ESS) review projects that could impact sensitive areas habitat. Permits are required for publicly-funded development projects if any development activities would impact sensitive species and their habitat.

On rare occasion when a permit is required, mitigation or other preventive measures to reduce or minimize impacts to these species of concern, and/or their associated habitat, may be necessary. The information generated from stream surveys aids ESS ecologists in reviewing as many as 2,000 permit applications annually. Of these, fewer than 30 may require any action permit.

Annual Kansas stream surveys have provided a wealth of information about the status of fish and aquatic invertebrates. Van Scoyoc says that various programs within Kansas have helped to restore and maintain some of the critical riparian habitat directly associated with these aquatic systems. Because most Kansas streams are on private property, landowners are first contacted to obtain permission to conduct surveys on their land.

“Without the generous cooperation of landowners, it would be impossible to sample streams,” Van Scoyoc says. “Each site takes about a day to survey, and we always take great care to minimize the impact we have on the area. Larger fish are released unharmed, and only small samples of common species are taken to establish where they have occurred. By allowing these surveys to take place, landowners help conserve and potentially enhance Kansas’ natural heritage for future generations.”

For more information on KDWP’s stream survey activities, phone Van Scoyoc at 620-672-5911.