“The Topeka Shiner doesn’t like to swim over the corrugated steel.” –County Administrator Brad Homman.
By TIM HORAN
The fish is only about three inches in length but carries a lot of weight.
When Dickinson County crews work on roads, bridges and culverts in the southern part of the county, that fish rules.
The Topeka Shiner is an endangered fish. Any disruption of the habitat of the fish is a no-no for the county.
County Administrator Brad Homman said that crews must allow that fish to migrate back and forth through the bridge construction.
“It can only be done at certain times of the year,” he added. “You can’t do it during their spawning season.”
The county runs across the fish in mostly small tributaries.
“We try to do it in the summer when the water is the least, unless it’s this year: it’s the most,” he said.
To allow the fish to have access to its natural habitat during bridge and culvert repair and replacement, the county puts in tubes so the water and the fish can continue to migrate back and fourth.
“A minimum of 12 inches of water has to flow through that tube so that the fish can migrate back and forth,” Homman said. “They also made us put a minimum of six inches of debris or gravel in the bottom of that tube. The Topeka Shiner doesn’t like to swim over the corrugated steel. They like the gravel. I’m not sure who told them that, but that’s one of the requirements.”
The first time the county ran into the Topeka Shiner the extra work resulted in extra expense. This time federal government is stepping up with some funds.
County Engineer John Gough met with officials of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and learned that the county will receive $65,000 in federal funds to work on bridges to protect the Topeka Shiner when the county repairs bridges and culverts.
Homman reported at a recent Dickinson County meeting that another $40,000 is available.
The money will help Dickinson County protect the Topeka Shiner during bridge and culvert repair.
The good news for the county is that those four locations were in need of repair and the federal funds will help pay for the cost.
Two culverts at 1742 600 Avenue and 649 Paint Road, will be replaced for a cost of $106,000 ($65,000 federal funds and $31,000 county labor and equipment).
Two more at 1210 Sage Road and 421 Paint Road will be repaired at a cost of $66,000 ($40,000 federal funds and $26,000 county labor and equipment.)
In January 2010, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service completed a 5-year review of the Topeka shiner. At the time of the species’ original listing, it concluded that significant reductions in the species’ range, within the context of continuing and expected impact, supported an endangered status.
This conclusion was particularly accurate in southern portions of the range where historic changes in land use, land cover, and hydrology have largely reduced the species to small, isolated populations susceptible to ongoing and projected threats.
Even with Federal protection, it is likely that additional sites in the portion of the range will be lost within the foreseeable future, the Service said on its web page.
However, some successful recovery efforts have been undertaken with demonstrated success. For example, in Iowa over 25 degraded oxbows were deepened and reconnected, yielding significant increases in Topeka Shiner numbers.
Importantly, new distributional data and a better understanding of threats in the northern portion of the range have altered the perception of the species' overall status.
Available information now suggests the species is distributed widely across its historic range in Minnesota and South Dakota. Populations in these two states represent about 70 percent of the species' current range. In short, the species appears to have been minimally impacted by historic and current threats in this portion of the range. Still, several potential future threats remain a long-tem concern, according to the Service.