Cross-posted with permission from SARP’s online news.

IT’s HERE! The Southeast Aquatic Resources Partnership (SARP) just released a NEW tool to prioritize dams and road-stream crossing barriers across the entire SARP region. This tool created by the Conservation Biology Institute and SARP allows partners to prioritize dams and road-stream crossings for potential removal or remediation based on ecological metrics. Tune in to a webinar on March 7th @ 1 pm EST to learn more.

People in field clothes standing on a dam.

SARP partners in MS learn how to assess culverts for further prioritization. Photo by Jessica Graham.

The southeast U.S. supports almost two-thirds of the nation’s fish species and over 90% of the nation’s mussel species in it’s 1.18 million miles of aquatic habitat (NHDplusV2 Medium Resolution stream network). These resources and the species that depend on them are under a great amount of stress primarily from intensive human development in recent decades. Aquatic fragmentation is one impact resulting from historic efforts to use our rivers for milling, power generation, and water supply. Today, many of these barriers are no longer used for their intended purposes but continue to alter our rivers and impact aquatic species. In an effort to reconnect the southeast’s rivers and streams, SARP has been working with partners across the region to document the location of these barriers and provide data to help determine feasibility for removal or remediation to benefit the system and species.

SARP has been working with partners since 2013 to inventory barriers across the Southeast. Dams from national, state, and local datasets have been combined and standardized.  In addition, SARP has created a new standardized protocol for assessing road-stream crossings across the region based on the work of the North Atlantic Connectivity Collaborative (NAACC). This protocol is a rapid assessment to identify road-stream barriers in the field. Partners have been trained to use this protocol, and are currently collecting data using a smartphone application. To complement the new Aquatic Organism Passage (AOP) data, SARP has been gathering information on previous efforts that assessed road-stream crossings throughout the region. All of these data have been uploaded into interactive web-maps using ESRI’s ArcGIS online, so that partners may add additional unregulated dams, and assess each for potential social feasibility of removal.

Screenshot of prioritization tool.

Our NEW interactive Southeast Aquatic Barrier Inventory and Prioritization Tool created by Brendan Ward at the Conservation Biology Institute includes the location of each inventoried barrier as well as ecological metrics that can be used to assess potential ecological benefits.  These metrics include the amount of habitat to be gained and the condition of the watershed to be reconnected by removal of the barrier. This tool also provides summary information of dams and road-stream crossings within different geographic areas, such as states, watersheds, and counties, as well as the ability to prioritize dams and road-stream crossings within these areas based on watershed condition, network connectivity, or a combination of both. Results can be exported and used by partners to maximize on-the-ground efforts to reconnect our rivers and streams. In the future, SARP plans to work with partners to individually assess the top dams in areas of high priority to determine their true feasibility and project-specific factors.

To use the tool, visit: http://connectivity.sarpdata.com/

Please note:  This tool is still in development. For comments or suggestions, please contact Kat Hoenke at Kat@Southeastaquatics.net.

This tool has been made possibly through generous funding from many partners including the GCPO LCC, USFWS Fish Passage Program, and Florida’s Wildlife Legacy Program.