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For Release: Friday, September 2, 2022

DEC Announces Completion of New Aquatic Habitat Improvement Projects in Jefferson County

Enhancements Create Spawning Habitat for Native Fish Species and Threatened Lake Sturgeon

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) today announced the completion of two aquatic habitat improvement projects in Jefferson County. These habitat enhancements, on the Black River below the town of Dexter and in Chaumont Bay, Jefferson County, were implemented in partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) (leaves DEC website) and U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) (leaves DEC website) and create new spawning habitat for native fish species that are critical for local economies and ecological diversity in the region.

"DEC is proud to have worked with our partners at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S Geological Survey on this important project," said Region 6 Director Randall Young. "This project fulfills the DEC's mission by helping to enhance native fish populations through the creation of new spawning habitat in an area where spawning beds are limited.

"The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service works closely with the DEC and other partners to restore and enhance important fish habitat throughout the Lake Ontario basin for the benefit of wildlife and people," said Gian Dodici, a fish and wildlife biologist at the Service's New York Field Office. "These efforts are key for sustaining healthy populations of fish species, and they provide benefits to communities by supporting an economically important fishery."

"The spawning bed has the potential to significantly increase walleye and lake sturgeon production in eastern Lake Ontario, and we're thrilled to contribute to the project," said USGS scientist Dawn Dittman. "These spawning habitat improvements will benefit valuable fish populations and the watershed as a whole - including the people that depend on it."

The Black River is one of only five high-volume tributaries to the New York portion of Lake Ontario between the Niagara River and the St. Lawrence River. It is the only tributary providing swiftwater spawning habitat for the Eastern Basin of Lake Ontario, one of the premier fisheries in the state. The completed project created new spawning habitat for walleye, a popular sportfish; and lake sturgeon, a threatened species in New York State. Previously, quality spawning habitat was limited for lake sturgeon and walleye in the Black River and downstream of Dexter.

Chaumont Bay is a large embayment in Lake Ontario's eastern basin and supports one of the last remaining spawning populations of lake whitefish and cisco in the New York waters of Lake Ontario. These fish are native to Lake Ontario and were part of the historic prey fish community, but their populations have been far below historic levels for several decades.

This approximately $750,000 project was possible with Environmental Protection Agency Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (leaves DEC website) funding for both construction and evaluation of the site. The spawning habitats were constructed with material appropriately sized to benefit walleye, lake sturgeon, lake whitefish, and cisco spawning success. The Black River spawning bed was designed to remain in place during high flows typically seen in the Black River. The Black River spawning bed measures approximately 512 linear feet long, and ranges in width from 60-70 feet depending on the river bottom. The USFWS's design of the bed considers bathymetry, water velocities during high flow events, sediment supply, and material sizes suitable for these species. The Chaumont Bay spawning reefs were designed as four separate reefs located across a range of depths. This design will provide increased spawning habitat for lake whitefish and cisco while also facilitating targeted research into the physical drivers of egg deposition, egg survival, and fry emergence that will inform future habitat improvement projects in Lake Ontario.

DEC will monitor the Black River for use by adult walleye and lake sturgeon during the spring spawning period, DEC's Eastern Basin Warmwater Assessment will inform walleye and lake sturgeon recruitment, and information collected during an Acoustic Telemetry Study will all provide information on the use and success of the Black River spawning bed.

The USGS Tunison Laboratory of Aquatic Science will conduct a study to evaluate spawning activity by quantifying the production of walleye and lake sturgeon before and after spawning bed development. They will use a variety of sampling methods to measure the use and effectiveness of the site.

The USGS Lake Ontario Biological Station has been monitoring lake whitefish and cisco egg deposition and larval emergence with regard to different habitat types in Chaumont Bay for the past three years. They will begin evaluating egg deposition and larval emergence on the newly constructed Chaumont Bay spawning reefs this fall and will continue to monitor several other unmanipulated control sites within the bay to compare the constructed reefs to the existing habitat.

To learn more about the Lake Sturgeon Recovery Plan, visit the DEC webpage. For any questions specific to these projects or Region 6 waters, contact or

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