“The habitat is very healthy,” said Jim Hopson, who works in public relations for the TVA. “We just want to make sure it stays that way.”
The TVA issued a press release announcing that it was working with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency to take part in one of many fishery habitat enhancement projects during the extended drawdown of the lake that will last anywhere from 5-7 years. This project includes establishing desired vegetation cover in the draw down area on both federal and private lands by planting annuals, flood tolerant trees and shrubs, as well putting in plants that provide the aesthetic value.
Improving conditions to avoid erosion during the drawdown time, these plants and trees are going to provide a healthy habitat when water levels are returned to their traditional levels.
“Once the reservoir returns to operating at normal summer pool, the trees and shrubs will provide additional habitat for aquatic species and also provide a lasting impact for fish populations, while the established vegetation in the drawdown area will die and provide the needed nursery habitat for juvenile fish to survive,” the TVA’s release said.
Hopson has taken quite a few public comments since the July 30 announcement of the multi-year, several hundred million dollar fix of the reservoir’s dam and he said many of the comments were centered around legitimate concerns, like people concerned with fish populations, water quality and if the temperature of the water would go up significantly in more shallow water.
“That’s why we have biologists on staff,” he said.
Working with TWRA, which was actually helping out before the big fix announcement, the two groups are trying their best to have the long term interest of the reservoir in mind. Private property owners along the water can help out by taking part in the proper planting.
Bart Carter, of TWRA, said agents are working with the TVA in getting private property owners signed up to help make the situation as good as possible. Anyone interested can either contact Shannon O’Quinn at 423-467-3807 or TWRA’s John Hammonds at 423-587-7037.
Within the reservoir’s water, largemouth and smallmouth bass are a popular species for those who fish, as well as catfish, trout and striped bass.
Calling this first season of low water level fishing a bit of a boom, Carter expects the fish populations to reach their own natural plateau.
“It will certainly decline as time goes on and reach an equilibrium,” he said. “Over time, that will reach a balance.”
When needed, TWRA will use its hatcheries to keep the waters populated as needed, but a lot of it will be natural. There’s only so much food available to the fish in Boone Lake and it will self-regulate with certain insect and plant life providing the needed resources.
The TVA is also monitoring oxygen and temperature levels on the lake to make sure the water quality is strong. From what Carter’s seen, he said, nothing he’s seen concerns him.
Hopson said as bad as the situation might be, Boone Lake is open for business and very accessible.
The dam repair is expected to take 5-7 years.
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