Lake Habitats

Chester Morse Lake

Chester Morse Lake provides habitat for bull trout, pygmy whitefish, and rainbow trout.

The largest lake in the Cedar River Municipal Watershed is Chester Morse Lake. This lake functions as a reservoir to store and release water in the Cedar River for municipal water supply, instream flows, hydroelectric power generation, and flood control. The Masonry Dam, completed in 1915, and a secondary control structure called the Overflow Dike regulate water levels in the lake. The annual fluctuation in water level averages about 20 feet, with a high water surface elevation typically about 1,560 to 1,563 feet above sea level. When water levels drop to 1,532 feet, the elevation of the natural lake outlet, pumping is needed to meet municipal supply and downstream flow needs in the Cedar River.

Reservoir management potentially affects bull trout, pygmy whitefish, and rainbow trout, which live in Chester Morse Lake. In addition, common loon nesting in shoreline and delta areas of the reservoir is affected by lake level fluctuations. A potential change in reservoir management called the Cedar Permanent Dead Storage Project could adversely affect one or more of these species, and the HCP includes measures to evaluate the consequences of this project on species and their habitat.

The Watershed also includes numerous small lakes. Walsh Lake and a group of small ponds known as 14 Lakes occur in the lower Watershed. Walsh Lake supports a population of kokanee, and 14 Lakes provides important amphibian habitat. Lakes in the upper Watershed include Findley Lake, Sutton Lake, Twilight Lake, among others. These lakes mostly occur in cirque basins at the head of alpine glaciated valleys.

They lack natural fish populations but support populations of several amphibian species such Cascades frogs, tree frogs, northwestern salamanders, and rough-skinned newts. For these smaller lakes, HCP mitigation and conservation strategies focus on protection and restoration of their surrounding riparian forests.

Goals for lake habitats

There are two major goals for riparian restoration described in the HCP, both of which are directed at restoring riparian structural and habitat diversity and associated stream/riparian ecosystem functions:

  1. Evaluate potential impacts of the Cedar Permanent Dead Storage project on resident fish and wildlife upstream of Masonry Dam
  2. Protect and restore riparian forests adjacent to lakes and ponds

What are we doing for lake habitats?

Cedar Permanent Dead Storage Evaluation
This project examines the potential for permanent access to water stored below the natural gravity outlet of Chester Morse Lake and the possible impacts of the project to resident fish and wildlife utilizing the lake. View more information on reservoir management and research.

Riparian Thinning
Thinning in riparian stands is implemented to increase structural complexity and accelerate development of late successional characteristics, including tree size. View more information on our riparian thinning program.

Strategic Planning for Restoring Riparian and Aquatic Habitats
Restoration in riparian areas is coordinated with aquatic restoration to improve both short and long-term functioning of aquatic ecosystems. View more about our strategic planning.