The Ulao Creek fish and wildlife habitat enhancement and restoration project in the Town and Village of Grafton is a large-scale habitat restoration project that is restoring multiple stream reaches through channel re-meandering, floodplain reconnection, wetland creation or enhancement, invasive plant removal, native plant restoration, and installation of fish and wildlife habitat structures. Work covers an area of stream corridor approximately 2.5 linear miles long between Ulao Parkway and just south of STH 60, along the east side of I-43.
The Ulao Creek Watershed contains approximately 28% of the riparian wetlands potentially suitable for northern pike (project target species) spawning in the Milwaukee River Watershed. The creek has multiple ephemeral and intermittent tributaries and provides fish refuge from drought and low-flow conditions in the form of pools and deep runs. Historic manipulation has left over 90% of the channel dredged and straightened and separated from adjacent floodplains and wetlands. Improved habitat promotes the long-term restoration of naturally-reproducing, native fish, wildlife and migratory bird species to the lower Milwaukee River and nearshore Lake Michigan.
The project will improve aquatic and riparian habitats available to resident and migratory fish and wildlife species. Project activities include:
1. Restoration of a manipulated stream reach through a combination of re-meandering, improvement of lateral connectivity, wetland creation or enhancement, invasive plant removal and management, native plant restoration, installation of fish and wildlife habitat structures.
2. To the extent practical given project timelines, monitoring of fish and wildlife communities before and after construction. Fisheries monitoring will include larval trapping to detect natural reproduction and, where applicable, wildlife monitoring will replicate and bolster previously completed occurrence surveys in the watershed, including frog call surveys, reptile and amphibian trapping, bird point count and breeding bird surveys.
Additional project goals include:
Retain/restore sustainable populations of several threatened and endangered species
Enhance sustainable populations and genetic diversity of potadromous top predator gamefish in the lower Milwaukee River, the AOC, and nearshore areas of Lake Michigan
Increase the quantity and quality of in-stream, wetland and floodplain habitat and native vegetation available to native fish,wildlife and bird species
Capitalize on recent aquatic linear connectivity projects in the County portion of the Milwaukee River Watershed byimproving the biological function of formerly isolated habitat
Help supplant the need for artificial stocking, habitat manipulation, and creation of artificial habitat in areas without access to certain habitat types
Capitalize on existing research, data and projects in the Ulao Creek Watershed and Ulao Swamp
Leverage the Ozaukee Washington Land Trust’s existing USEPA/GLRI grant to control aquatic invasive species andincrease native vegetative diversity
Refine strategies and techniques that may assist similar projects throughout the country
Control and limit invasive plant species and promote reintroduction of native vegetation.
Phases I through III Phases I and II were completed in Summer of 2014. Phase III is ongoing and will be completed in 2015.