“Collectively, these measures will help minimize impacts to the species and ensure the duskytail darter’s future survival in the Big South Fork,” said Lee Andrews, Field Office supervisor for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Kentucky. “We understand the recreational and economic importance of Lake Cumberland in southeast Kentucky and have worked closely with the Corps to expedite this review. This is another good example of how our implementation of the Endangered Species Act can balance economic and other human needs with the needs of our rarest species.”
The Corps and Wildlife Service agreed to move forward with three primary conservation measures that were essential to the Service’s analysis of the project’s effects on the duskytail darter. The three conservation measures are: Capture and Hold –– capturing duskytail darters and establishing a temporary, captive population of the species for future recovery efforts of the darter; Water Quality/Habitat Improvement –– the Corps will remediate two acid mine drainages on tributaries of the Big South Fork and also complete one sediment abatement/soil stabilization project; and Interim Dam Adjustment –– the Corps will modify operations at the Wolf Creek Dam to follow the Top Southeastern Power Administrative (SEPA) Curve during the Winter and Spring filling cycle with an overall goal of reaching elevation 723 around the middle of May. This interim operation will last for a minimum of three years, or longer, if the water quality improvements have not been completed.
The darters will be maintained and propagated at Wolf Creek National Fish Hatchery in Russell County as part of the recovery effort and will, over time, be used in reintroduction or population augmentation efforts. Any reintroduction effort will require additional coordination with participating agencies.
“(The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) is going to take a bunch of those duskytail darters to (Wolf Creek Dam National Fish Hatchery),” Rogers said. He indicated the endangered minnows will be kept there until a proper habitat can be found.