below Douglas Dam are teeming with life these days. There are plenty
of insects for the fish to eat, and the water contains an ample supply
of oxygen to support a variety of aquatic life. Species that had nearly
vanished are back again and thriving. In fact, things are looking so
good that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Tennessee Cooperative
Fishery Research Unit, and other agencies have already reintroduced
lake sturgeon, spiny riversnails, and some types of mussels. More species,
many of them endangered, may follow as experimental populations.
this is a complete turnaround. In the past, especially during periods
of drought, the rivers below high dams sometimes dried out or developed
low levels of dissolved oxygen. TVAs Reservoir Releases Improvements
program, which began in 1991 and won a habitat-conservation award from
the Wildlife Habitat Council in 1999, installed state-of-the-art aeration
equipment like auto-venting turbines, line diffusers, aerating weirs,
air compressors, and surface water pumps to address the problem. Those
investments have dramatically increased dissolved-oxygen levels and
improved water quality in 300 miles of river. And theres more
water too, thanks to year-round minimum-flow levels.
Upstream from the dams, the aquatic habitat is getting better as well.
Through its partnerships with Trout Unlimited and the Bass Anglers Sportsman
Society (B.A.S.S.), TVA continues to enhance Tennessee River watershed
fisheries. For example, the agency helped restore viable populations
of native brook trout in sections of the Tellico River watershed in
the Cherokee National Forest. TVA has also made a concerted effort to
hold reservoir levels steady during the spring weeks when water temperatures
hover at 65 degrees Fahrenheit, the best temperature for fish spawning.
The best measure of water quality is the response of the animals,
says Dick Biggins, fish and mollusk recovery coordinator for the U.
S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Asheville, North Carolina. If
something living in the water is doing well, if the fauna is coming
back, then you really know the water quality is coming back.
and the land surrounding them provide habitats for threatened or endangered
species like the bald eagle. Biologists employed by the agency have
identified 56 sites where
populations of federally listed species can be found on TVA land. They
work to track population trends and to build a base of knowledge that
will help protect wildlife.
Tennessee River watershed is an incredible source of recreation and
other diverse public benefits for local citizens in the Valley. TVAs
very effective stakeholder outreach separates it from other agencies.
TVA gets stakeholders involved in many agency decision processes and
empowers them to find solutions to common problems. Because of this,
Tennessee Valley natural-resource stakeholders have a better grasp of
the multiple purposes of the integrated system and how valuable all
the benefits are.
Bruce Shupp, National Conservation Director,
Bass Anglers Sportsman Society (B.A.S.S.)