Fish And Wildlife Service Completes Biological Opinion And U.S. Army Corps Approves, To Raise Lake Cumberland Water Level

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Working closely with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers over the past few months, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Monday finalized the Biological Opinion that clears the way for the Corps to resume normal operations at Lake Cumberland immediately. 

With formal consultation complete, on Tuesday Brig. Gen. Margaret Burcham, commanding general, Great Lakes and Ohio River Division, made the decision to allow Lake Cumberland to rise to a target elevation of 723 feet this summer, which is the normal elevation at the beginning of the recreation season.  The Corps and staff from the Service’s Kentucky Field Office implemented an expedited review and analysis process to complete the Biological Opinion in less than 45 days.  The normal consultation process allows up to 135 days.  The Biological Opinion is posted at https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2014/03/25/2014-06502/endangered-and-threatened-wildlife-and-plants-5-year-status-reviews-of-33-southeastern-species.

“As a result of the Biological Opinion and Brig. Gen. Burcham’s decision to increase the pool elevation, we will begin immediately to capture water in Lake Cumberland,” said Lt. Col. John Hudson, commander, Nashville District. “Reaching our target peak elevation of 723 feet this year will be dependent on the amount and timing of rainfall.”  

The completion of the Biological Opinion was the final piece of information required to make a decision about the Lake Cumberland pool level.  The dam safety remedial measures had previously been reviewed by Corps dam safety professionals, who recommended returning the lake to normal operations for 2014.

The Corps discovered the duskytail darter, listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act, during a required biological survey associated with the dam safety project at Wolf Creek Dam.  Duskytail darters were found at seven new locations in the headwaters portion of the Big South Fork embayment in Lake Cumberland in stream habitat that was exposed during the drawdown.

“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 the 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 mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people.  For more information on its work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov.  Connect with its Facebook page at www.facebook.com/usfwssoutheast, follow tweets at www.twitter.com/usfwssoutheast, watch its YouTube Channel at http://www.youtube.com/usfws and download photos from its Flickr page at http://www.flickr.com/photos/usfwssoutheast.

The public can obtain news, updates and information from the U.S. Army Corps Nashville District website at www.lrn.usace.army.mil and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/nashvillecorps.

Clean Stream Grants Application Period Extended

The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency has announced the application period for grant dollars for stream clean-up projects and planting projects has been extended through July 11.  The availability of the grant dollars are to assist cities, schools, community organizations, civic groups, watershed organizations, and conservation groups, etc., with stream clean-up projects ... (click for more)

2 Peregrine Falcons "Lewis And Clark" Released From Rock City June 13

Rock City is continuing its partnership with Wings to Soar in an ongoing peregrine falcon restoration project. Two brother peregrines, named Lewis and Clark by Rock City’s social media followers, arrived at Rock City on May 27 and were placed in a hack box to prepare for release into the wild. Lewis flew at 6:17 a.m. on June 13 and Clark took flight closely behind him at 6:20 a.m. ... (click for more)

Darrel Eric Chapman, 49, Dies In Red Bank Home Destroyed By Fire; Case Ruled Arson/Suicide

Darrel Eric Chapman, 49,  died in a house fire in Red Bank early Friday morning after the homeowner said he was awakened by popping sounds. Red Bank Police Chief Tim Christol said the case is being considered an arson/suicide. He said, " At approximately 12:30 a.m., the Red Bank Fire and Police departments responded to a residential fire at 604 Bitsy Lane where they discovered ... (click for more)

Attorney Gets Misdemeanor Plea In 2nd Case Involving Sexually Harassing Waitress

A Chattanooga attorney who was charged for the second time with sexually harassing a waitress has pleaded guilty in General Sessions Court to a reduced charge. In the latest case, Charles D. Lawson had been charged with aggravated sexual battery after an incident at a local restaurant involving a waitress. Prosecutor Jason Demastus said Lawson pleaded guilty to the B misdemeanor ... (click for more)

Save Coolidge Park - And Response (2)

Last Monday morning while at work a good friend messaged me concerning a matter that I had not heard anything about dealing with Coolidge Park and its future. Apparently that night the City Council was to read an ordinance that would allow the mayor to start negotiations with the relocation of the Medal of Honor Museum. This ordinance would enable the city to lease approximately ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Tipping The Preacher

I got an unusual telephone call the other day from someone I love who asked my help in solving one of life’s delicate mysteries. It is a tough question: “How do you tip a preacher?” In the first place, you never tip a preacher. It’s the preacher who gives out the tips, helping to keep you on the straight-and-narrow in your quest to waltz through the Pearly Gates. But there are ... (click for more)