4.2 Ecological Integrity

Goal 2 - Ecological Integrity

Promote activities that maintain, support and enhance floral, faunal quantity and ecological integrity of upland and aquatic resources throughout the watershed.

Discussion

The Painter Creek subwatershed is notable for its ecological resources and large tracts of minimally developed area, including wetlands, forests, and grasslands and the Baker Park Reserve.  Many of those areas within the subwatershed are located in an MCWD, local or regional conservation corridor.  There is potential to create ecological corridors through the watershed centered on the streams and wetland complexes through which they flow.  These connect with Baker Park Reserve as well as other resources in adjacent subwatersheds.  The Painter Creek Feasibility Study identified a Painter Creek corridor in which the District and its partners should consider focusing efforts for active conservation.

Connected corridors are desirable as they provide a variety of habitats both aquatic and terrestrial as well as protected areas for passage.  Within these conservation areas wherever possible the District would promote the conservation or establishment of native vegetation to increase or maintain infiltration rates; decrease or maintain runoff rates and pollutant conveyance to water resources; and minimize erosion of shorelines and streambanks.   Sustaining or improving water quality and ecological integrity is necessary to meet the District goals in this plan as well as to meet state and federal nondegradation, water quality and biological integrity requirements and to prevent the need for future TMDLs.

The Painter Creek subwatershed includes numerous wetlands with exceptional or high fish or wildlife habitat value as well as wetlands with exceptional or high vegetative diversity.  The Key Conservation Areas identified in this plan (see Figure 19) include those wetlands as well as associated upland areas of high ecological value such as maple-basswood forest.  Conservation of those associated upland areas not only provides additional habitat type, but also helps preserve local runoff and infiltration rates.  The plan also identifies areas within the Baker Regional Park Reserve as high-value resources, and coordination between the Three Rivers Park District, DNR, the MCWD, and other interested parties will be important to protecting and improving those resources.   

Katrina Lake, Painter Creek and associated riparian wetlands are primary ecological resources.  The ecological community in Painter Creek is limited by its hydrology and morphology as well as the existing water quality.  The primary strategies for improving aquatic communities are the acquisition of new data such as vegetation surveys and management plans, and improvement of water quality.  The several wetlands in the subwatershed with exceptional or high vegetative diversity would be inspected at least annually for invasive vegetative species.

Desired Outcomes:  Functional and healthy ecological corridors and waters throughout the subwatershed.

Metrics:

  • Macroinvertebrate Index of Biotic Integrity (M-IBI) in Painter Creek
  • Stream Visual Assessment Protocol (SVAP) in Painter Creek
  • Acres of land conserved in Key Conservation Areas
  • Acres of restored/created wetland within Key Conservation Areas
  • Linear feet and width of riparian areas protected in Key Conservation Areas

Goal 2.1 - Painter Creek

Maintain and improve overall ecological integrity within the subwatershed.

Actions

  1. Continue Land Conservation Program efforts to proactively seek out conservation opportunities identified in this plan as District priority areas.
  2. Protect existing fish and wildlife habitat and promote the improvement of habitat and corridors by the conservation of key ecological areas (see Figure 19).
    1. Require LGUs to recognize Key Conservation Areas in their natural resources and land use planning and to identify in their Local Water Management plans how they intend to conserve their ecological values.
    2. Provide education and training opportunities, technical and planning assistance, and financial incentives to LGUs to actively conserve key ecological areas.
    3.  Restore areas of degradation within key conservation areas.
  3. Work cooperatively with other agencies and organizations to improve existing conservation corridors and where practical, develop new conservation corridors connecting wetlands within the Painter Creek subwatershed of exceptional or high wetland functions and values and subwatershed stream corridors with areas that have been identified by others as having high local, county or regional ecological significance.
  4. Identify keystone, umbrella, and indicator species to serve as indicators of ecological integrity, evaluate existing habitat within the subwatershed, and develop strategies for the conservation of that habitat.
  5. Provide regulatory incentives for the conservation of undisturbed native vegetation as sites develop.
  6. Require MCWD review of preliminary plats and vegetation surveys so the District may comment on proposals and how they relate to District ecological integrity goals.
  7. Require submittal of a Natural Resources Inventory and Conservation Plan as a condition of permit approval.

Goal 2.2 - Painter Creek

Manage rough fish populations to reduce water quality impacts.

Actions

  1. Evaluate options for rough fish management and control in Katrina Lake.
  2. Install a flexible fish barrier at the mouth of Painter Creek to prevent rough fish migration to the creek and its wetlands.
  3. Evaluate options for rough fish management and control in Painter Creek and its wetlands.
  4. Reinstall velocity fish barrier at Painter Road to prevent rough fish migration and spawning.

Goal 2.3 - Painter Creek

Maintain a healthy aquatic vegetation community.

Actions

  1. Develop and implement a plan to monitor wetlands with exceptional or high vegetative diversity for presence of exotic vegetative species.

Goal 2.4 - Painter Creek

Maintain conditions suitable for a healthy and varied biologic community in Painter Creek.

Actions

  1. Reduce phosphorus and sediment in Painter Creek and minimize periods of low dissolved oxygen.
    1. Implement the water quality improvement actions of this plan to reduce load discharged into the creek from Katrina Lake and from the watershed.
    2. Work cooperatively with the LGUs to spot repair eroded streambanks identified in the Stream Assessment and through other inspections.
    3. Implement the water quantity improvement actions of this plan to limit periods of erosive velocities in the creek.
  2. Increase macroinvertebrate and fish habitat in Painter Creek to achieve M-IBI scores above the MPCA threshold for impairment and to achieve a Stream Visual Assessment Protocol mean score above 5.0.
    1. Increase the variety of habitat features such as improved substrate, cobble and boulders, vegetated streambanks, root wads, and large woody debris.
    2. Periodically update the Painter Creek stream assessment to assess current stream condition and ecological integrity.
  3. Monitor the macroinvertebrate community every 2-3 years.
  4. Improve degraded stream reaches for the purposes of bank stabilization, reducing sediment loads, preserving existing stream courses, improving habitat, and enhancing biotic integrity.
  5. Woody debris that falls in Painter Creek or other streams shall only be removed if it causes an obstruction to flow such that streambanks are destabilized or eroded or the creek is caused to overtop its banks.  Such debris shall be removed by the District or by cooperative arrangement with the LGU at the owner’s expense.