Commonwealth Journal

News Live

May 16, 2014

Duskytail darters to get new home


Burnside —

Duskytail darters, an endangered species, moved into a five-mile stretch of the Big South Fork River while Lake Cumberland was being kept at a low level to facilitate repairs to Wolf Creek Dam. The slow-swimming darters thrive in rocky riffles in a flowing river and the minnows’ habitat is destroyed by sediment in lake water. 
When Wolf Creek Dam was fixed and the lake could have returned to normal, environmentalists screamed that the water couldn’t rise over the newly claimed habitat of the duskytail darters. Tourism interests in the Lake Cumberland area cried foul, and their laments reached the Halls of Congress.
Senators McConnell and Rand Paul, both of Kentucky, Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Somerset’s Congressman Hal Rogers met with heads of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in McConnell’s Washington office and hammered out a quick solution to the problem.
“We were forceful,” McConnell told a reporter for the Commonwealth Journal. The quick solution was to seine some of duskytail darters out of the Big South Fork River for propagating and safekeeping and let the lake return to normal levels. It did; that’s why they were celebrating at Lee’s Ford Resort Marina.
Lee Andrews, field supervisor for Kentucky Ecological Services Field Station, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, said between 20 and 40 of the federally endangered minnows will be taken later this summer from the Big South Fork River in the Blue Heron area of McCreary County.
“The water is too high now (to seine the minnows),” Andrews said. The lake’s current pool stage has backed water over the newly claimed habitat of the darters in the Big South Fork. Andrews said high water won’t kill the darters but sediment from the lake would eventually degrade the minnows’ habitat.

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