Fish Passage in a Western Iowa Stream Modified by Grade Control Structures

Mary E. Litvan, Iowa State University
Clay L. Pierce, United States Geological Survey
Timothy W. Stewart, Iowa State University
Chris J. Larson, Iowa Department of Natural Resources

This article is from North American Journal of Fisheries Management 28 (2008): 1384, doi:10.1577/M07-097.1.


Grade control structures (GCSs) are commonly used in streams of western Iowa to control bank erosion and channel headcutting but may be barriers to fish passage. From May 2002 to May 2006, we used mark–recapture methods to evaluate fish passage over a total of five GCSs, ranging in slope (run : rise) from 13:1 to 18:1 in Turkey Creek, Cass County, Iowa. Three structures, over which limited fish movement was documented from 2002 to 2004, were modified in the winter of 2004–2005 to facilitate fish passage. Before modification, the majority of recaptured fish were recaptured at the station where they were originally marked; only 1% displayed movement between sites and either upstream or downstream over a GCS. After modification fish passage improved, 14% of recaptured fish displayed movement either upstream or downstream over a GCS. Individuals of four target species—channel catfish Ictalurus punctatus, yellow bullhead Ameiurus natalis, black bullhead A. melas, and creek chub Semotilus atromaculatus—passed over at least one modified structure. The majority of documented movements over GCSs were in the upstream direction and occurred in late spring and early summer, when streamflow was relatively high. Although we documented low numbers of fish passing both upstream and downstream over GCSs, these structures are probably barriers to fish movement during periods of low flow and when there is a structural failure, such as in-channel movement of riprap. Grade control structures are pervasive in western Iowa streams; nearly every low-order stream contains at least one instream structure. To sustain fish populations, management efforts should focus on constructing or modifying GCSs to allow fish passage.