Wednesday, August 08, 2001

Project moving mussels aside

Relocation to make way for new fishing

The Associated Press

        GILBERTSVILLE, Ky. — A mussel relocation project on the Tennessee River started this week is moving the creatures from a huge sanctuary in the Kentucky Dam tailwaters area to make room for two new fishing jetties there.

[photo] Divers prepare to lay out a grid system to follow in moving mussels from the Tennessee River near the Kentucky Dam.
(Associated Press photos)
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        The mussels, which number about 75,000 by some estimates, will be collected, documented by species and then moved downstream. Divers began plucking the creatures from the river bottom Tuesday.

        Three types of the mussels found in the Tennessee River are on the endangered-species list, officials said.

        The mussel relocation is a spin-off of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project to build a new 1,200-foot lock at Kentucky Dam.

        The 85- and 130-foot jetties will feature concrete walkways. The longer one will offer extra paved strips for wheelchair access. Paul Rister, fisheries biologist for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, said the jetties are expected to create current eddies that should be attractive to fish, drawing some of the species for which shoreline anglers normally fish.

[photo] Three species of mussels being moved in the Tennessee River
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        Workers from Mainstream Commercial Divers of Murray, under contract by the Corps of Engineers, will spend about five to seven weeks moving the mollusks from two adjacent sections of riverbank and bottom just below a boat launch site.

        “The area is a mussel sanctuary, and we estimate that there are 75,000 mussels there,” said Don Getty, lock project manager for the Corps of Engineers.

        Mr. Getty said state and federal wildlife agencies require that the mussels be moved before construction starts.

        On Monday, divers prepared by “mapping” the underwater work areas with a grid pattern that will guide the removal process.

        Once the creatures are removed, two limestone slabs that form the foundation of the jetties will be dumped in.

        The mussels are being moved by hand because the largely stationary creatures can't be simply shooed like fish away from construction activity.

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