Saving Our Best Streams

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Published on: Nov. 2, 2009

Last revision: Dec. 17, 2009

Shortly after arriving to work in Missouri from his home state of Wisconsin, Fisheries Management Biologist Kevin Meneau took his family to explore LaBarque Creek in Jefferson County. “They fell in love with it,” says Meneau. “The stream has waterfalls, deeper pools for fishing and shallow riffles that kids love to play in.”

These stream features are lovely to look at and also provide habitat for an astonishing 44 kinds of fish within its six miles of permanent flow. Nearby streams of the same size—but of lesser quality—average just 12 fish species.

LaBarque’s surrounding 8,365-acre watershed is just as impressive, says Meneau. “There are moist box canyons, delicate sandstone cliffs, desert-like glades and a variety of forest types.” All of these natural communities support several hundred known species, from ferns to fish to birds—documented by agency biologists and volunteer botanists, birders and other naturalists. And it’s all a half-hour’s drive from the Arch.

The LaBarque Creek watershed is one of the most biologically diverse areas in eastern Missouri, but its proximity to St. Louis makes it especially vulnerable to development. Biologists are not the only ones who think this is a special place. Many of the watershed’s 1,400 landowners are working hard to preserve its beauty and biological integrity. They, along with Conservation Department staff, Jefferson County officials and many conservation groups, began working together in 2002 to find ways to protect the watershed. One of those ways turned out to be the Stream Stewardship Trust Fund managed by the Missouri Conservation Heritage Foundation.

The Trust Fund is an in-lieu fee stream mitigation program. If a developer impacts a Missouri stream, in many cases, he or she must mitigate for that damage. One way to mitigate is to pay a fee to the Trust Fund, which in turn puts the money to work to protect Missouri’s best streams.

To date, the Trust Fund has provided nearly $1 million to protect the LaBarque Creek watershed, which has been identified by the Conservation Department and other Missouri conservation partners as a conservation opportunity area—a place where we have the most biological diversity to lose it if isn’t conserved.

“What LaBarque Creek has are the Big Three needed for high stream quality,” says Meneau: “An intact watershed with 88 percent forest coverage; a natural, unchannelized stream; and protected riparian corridor. LaBarque  Creek is a shining example of why in-lieu fee stream mitigation works.”

Development, Conservation and the Clean Water Act

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