As required by its new 50-year license to operate the US portion of the St. Lawrence – FDR Power Project, the New York Power Authority has constructed two Sturgeon spawning beds in the river and documented successful spawning of Lake Sturgeon.
Female Sturgeon can live 150 years, and make excellent indicators of eco-system health. They are also an endangered native species whose habitat was dramatically altered by human activities, pollution, the construction of dams and other factors.
No data as to the extent of Sturgeon spawning activity on the sites prior to the construction of the new beds was made available. Each of the NYPA-designed spawning beds consists of ten thousand square feet (100 x 100) of pea gravel, with boulders positioned as current breaks at the downstream ends. The beds are positioned both above and below the Iroquois Dam near Waddington, NY.
Iroquois Dam is principally used to control water levels, and the ability to raise or lower its 32 gates is one of the principal reasons Lake Ontario is the only great lake where the water level can be controlled by man.
NYPA used a Canadian firm to conduct the study.
Upstream, in Lake Ontario and throughout the Great Lakes, Sturgeon numbers are reportedly increasing without the aid of new spawning areas. The recovery is credited, in part, to the proliferation of zebra and quagga mussels, which appear to be benefiting many benthic (bottom-feeding) species including Sturgeon.
Update: A full report on the project, including the pre-existing conditions on the two sites, was published today (07/08/2010) by Waterpower Magazine.