Reservoir Fisheries Habitat Partnership Announces Conservation Projects for 2019

The Reservoir Fisheries Habitat Partnership (RFHP) is pleased to announce the following projects have been selected for funding through the National Fish Habitat Partnership.  These projects represent the top conservation priorities of RFHP for 2019.  $120,000 has been awarded to the partnership through the Fish and Aquatic Conservation Program of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for the following projects:

Control Hydrilla and Enhance Aquatic Habitat in Harris Lake, North Carolina- $30,000; Total Project Cost: $92,000

Harris Lake is a 1,680-ha impoundment of White Oak and Buckhorn creeks, tributaries of the Cape Fear River, and is located 22 miles southwest of Raleigh, North Carolina (Appendix A). It is owned by Duke Energy Progress and serves as make-up cooling water for Shearon Harris Nuclear Electrical Generation Station and general operational water supply for the nuclear station. It is utilized for recreational use including fishing, boating, and hunting. The reservoir is accessed using two public boating access areas and the 600-acre Harris Lake County Park, operated by Wake County. The shoreline is undeveloped and has a wide shoreline buffer zone along the entire perimeter of the reservoir. The 37-year-old reservoir was cleared of all woody habitat prior to filling. There is no standing timber and only a few stumps remain in coves. Current aquatic habitat includes rock outcroppings, flats, roadbeds, five artificial fish structure reefs and aquatic vegetation. Like most reservoirs, its main creek coves have started to silt in. Hydrilla has been present in the reservoir since the mid-80’s. In 2015, a submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) survey estimated Hydrilla covered approximately 384 hectares. Hydrilla is spreading from Harris Lake into other water bodies, including Jordan Lake and downstream into the Cape Fear River. The North Carolina Division of Water Resources – Aquatic Weed Program (DWR-AWP) is planning to stock Grass Carp in Harris Lake to control Hydrilla in the fall of 2018. The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (Commission) will develop a comprehensive five-year aquatic habitat enhancement plan with input from the public and other partners by December 2018. The plan will prioritize work over a 5-year period with the goal to install at least 12 hectares of artificial (approximately 700 fish habitat structures) and natural structure; and establish founder colonies totaling 0.4 hectare of native vegetation. This proposal specifically covers habitat enhancements planned for June 1, 2018 to December 31, 2020. Two hundred and fifty fish attractors will be placed throughout the reservoir at varying depths and habitat features (flats, creek channels, points, roadbeds, humps) to ensure seasonal use by a variety of sport fish species as identified in the habitat plan. The exact number and type of structures placed will depend upon on-site conditions and public recommendations. Most fish attractors will be placed in areas available for fish to use throughout the year, known as the Habitat Enhancement Zone. These zones consist of areas in the reservoir where oxygen levels are adequate in the summer and deep enough for adequate water depth during low water conditions.
Establishing native aquatic vegetation will take multiple years and will be completed in two phases. Phase 1 involves developing a list of resilient plant species for revegetation (Appendix C), mapping existing vegetation, identifying areas for re-vegetation throughout the lake (plant protection areas), and planting and monitoring a variety of plant species within and outside of small protective fenced exclosures. Monitoring during Phase 1 will help us ascertain the levels of protection needed from grazers and determine which species will likely result in the successful establishment of founder colonies. This information will dictate the best course of action to take during subsequent growing seasons (Phase 2). The size and number of protective exclosures will be expanded in Phase 2 and should result in the successful establishment of at least a total of 1 acre of all founder colonies by 2023. Once established, these colonies should expand by either vegetative spreading from the colony or through colonization (formation of new colonies from fragments, seeds, etc.). RFHP funding will be used to purchase materials for artificial and natural structure components and to develop a plant nursery and initiate founder colony establishment. Two informational kiosks will be installed to advertise the project.

Partners: North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, The North Carolina Division of Water Resources, Duke Energy, North Carolina B.A.S.S. Nation

Lewisville Lake Fisheries Restoration- $30,000; Total Project Cost: $172,400

Lewisville Lake is a high use recreation area consisting of 29,000 surface acres and is primarily managed as a flood risk management reservoir, but additionally managed for environmental stewardship, habitat restoration, fish and wildlife rehabilitation and stabilization, drinking water supply, and hydropower. South of the dam, there are 2,500-acres of riparian and prairie ecosystems, a USACE Engineer research and Development Center operated aquatic plant research facility called the Lewisville Aquatic Ecosystem Research Facility (LAERF), and a nature preserve known as Lewisville Lake Environmental Learning Area (LLELA), where park areas are leased to the City of Lewisville and open to the public. Lewisville Lake is currently the busiest lake within the Dallas Metroplex with over a million visitors a year, 10,000 plus adjacent landowners, and 180 miles of shoreline. The recreational activities on Lewisville Lake include, but are not limited to, water recreation, hunting, hiking, viewing wildlife, and fishing. Located in the middle of a urbanized area, Lewisville Lake is faced with habitat loss (a paucity of beneficial aquatic vegetation coupled with degraded submerged natural structure due to age of the reservoir) and erosion contributing to loss of shorelines, turbidity, and siltation. By addressing sedimentation and water quality impairments the Corps would develop and establish native emergent vegetation and a flood-tolerant seed mixture that works with the hydrology of Lewisville Lake at areas of concern. The proposed objectives for the USACE and partners regarding this project, would address turbidity, siltation, shoreline stabilization, water quality, public outreach, and improved fishery habitat. The overall goal is to provide the public with a cleaner watershed that can continue to adapt to urbanization and provide habitat for a variety of fish and wildlife species. Tasks proposed to achieve the aforementioned restoration objectives will include conserving driftwood found along the shoreline providing fishes with natural habitat, planting/seeding native aquatic/emergent plants, installing riprap in areas of concern - alone and in concert with aquatic/emergent vegetation, installing of artificial habitat, and placing educational kiosks in high lake traffic areas highlighting the importance of healthy shorelines.

Partners: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Dallas Bass Hookers, Dallas Fly Fishers, Ducks Unlimited, Lake Dallas High School Bass Fishing Team, Orvis, Texas B.A.S.S. Nation

Buckeye Lake Fish Habitat Partnership $30,000; Total Project Cost: $139,100

The quality of the physical and chemical habitats available for fish and other aquatic life at Buckeye Lake is poor, characteristic of a 178-year old reservoir. The lake bottom substrate is composed primarily of unstable, nutrient-rich organic muck that, combined with poor water clarity, provides little opportunity for beneficial rooted aquatic vegetation to become established. In addition, much of the shoreline is lined with sheet-piling to prevent shoreline erosion and has little value as littoral habitat to fishes. The high-quality habitats necessary to promote the success of naturally reproducing sport fishes, such as largemouth bass, are limited in Buckeye Lake. Habitats needed for successful spawning (stable sand or gravel beds) and to provide cover for young juvenile fishes (rooted aquatic vegetation, woody complexes) are generally lacking. At 2,813 acres, Buckeye Lake is Ohio’s 10th largest reservoir, but, characteristic of canal reservoirs, is very shallow, with an average depth of 5.2ft and a maxi-mum depth of 15.4ft During 2014, the US Army Corps of Engineers, Huntington District (USACE) conducted a structural assessment of the Buckeye Lake dam and noted numerous is-sues with its structural integrity. The USACE provided recommendations to the ODNR, including emergency measures that would minimize the immediate risk of dam failure and potential for subsequent losses of life and property for residents below the dam. The ODNR is currently in the process of reinforcing the 178-year old dam, which will occur in two phases. Phase 1 required that the reservoir water level be lowered to 888.75 ft. above sea level (three feet below summer pool) to lessen the pressure on the existing dam and to facilitate construction of a stability berm along the 4.1 miles of the dam. The stability berm is approximately 30’ wide at the base and was constructed using a mix of sand, gravel, and rip-rap, reinforced with a soilmix seepage barrier installed vertically down the center of the berm. Construction of the stability berm and seepage barrier was completed in spring of 2016, and reservoir water levels have now been returned to one foot below summer pool (890.75 ft. above sea level). Phase 2 of the dam repair is in the underway and is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2018. More information on the Buckeye Lake dam assessment and repair can be found on the ODNR Division of Engineering webpage ( The work being proposed for this grant is part of a comprehensive management plan that is being conducted to improve both angler access and habitat of Buckeye Lake, to aid in the recovery of the lake and associated fishery as the dam construction project comes to a completion. Habitat work facilitated by the grant will focus on 1) improving water quality via direct removal of sediment-laden nutrients through dredging and 2) enhancing the quality of physical habitat to benefit all life stages of sport fish in Buckeye Lake, including introducing hard, stable substrate to support spawning habitat and new structure to create nearshore physical habitat that will be critical to meeting the needs of juvenile and adult sport fish. Grant funds will primarily be used to purchase supplies for building habitat structures. This will include: 1) Concrete blocks, cement, and flexible pipe for the spider blocks; 2) lumber, rebar, and concrete blocks for the porcupine cribs; Spiny PVC “trees” at a cost of $80 each from Mossback.  A portion of the grant funds will also be utilized to develop outreach materials and educational signage to increase community involvement and awareness on the importance of restoring the habitat health at Buckeye Lake. The HIT Team will be tasked with strategizing the most effective methods for developing and distributing this information.

Partners: Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Ohio B.A.S.S. Nation

Nolin River Lake Habitat Improvement Project -$30,000; Total Project Cost: $332,405

Construction was authorized by the Flood Control Act of 1938 and the project completed in 1963 and is operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to reduce flooding on the Green and Nolin Rivers in SW Kentucky. Total construction cost was $14.5 Million, but it is estimated the dam has saved over $115 Million in flood damages through 2014. In addition, economic benefits from the lake are between $35 and $45 Million each year. Visitation averages about 2 million people annually. In addition to flood control and recreational opportunities, the lake also supplies drinking water to the surrounding area, as well as providing fish and wildlife habitat. The 5,790-acre lake is considered eutrophic (2009 – 2017 average Carlson TSI value = 63, range 54 - 72). Peak stratification occurs in late July to August with a thermocline developing at around 16-20 feet. In recent years Harmful Algal Blooms (HAB) have been documented in Nolin River Lake with three being reported in 2018. Expanses of open water, heavy recreational boating activity, and dramatic annual water level fluctuations provide perfect conditions for excessive shoreline erosion. The dynamic nature of Nolin’s shoreline environment inhibits the establishment of native aquatic vegetation and prevents terrestrial vegetation from succeeding at a rate fast enough to stabilize the banks.

Project objectives include: 1) To improve aquatic habitat by stabilizing eroded shorelines through longitudinal peak stone toe protection and native vegetation establishment, 2) to deploy submerged fish habitat structures adjacent to the restoration sites, 3) to increase the abundance of sportfish at fish habitat sites, 4) to create two new bank fishing access sites, 5) to increase angler use of fish habitat sites (boat and bank anglers), and 6) to increase angler/user knowledge about the value and benefit of a healthy reservoir ecosystem. The proposed project will address several of the priority regional reservoir habitat impairments identified by Krogman and Miranda (2016). Mechanical and biological approaches to erosion control will reduce sediment input into the lake. Rock structures and native vegetation plantings will help keep shorelines intact and reduce shoreline loss and turbidity. Submerged fish habitat structures (concrete reef balls and plastic fish habitat structures) will provide long-lasting fish and macroinvertebrate habitat in areas that have none. The stabilized shoreline resulting from rock structures and vegetation plantings will reduce nearshore turbidity and slow siltation in proximity to the restoration sites, thus preserving connectivity between littoral and limnetic zones. The newly created bank fishing sites and access trails will increase public access opportunities at the lake, and provide maintained sites for fishing, wildlife viewing, and education. Informational kiosks will be placed at each site to provide project specific information, recognize project partners, and inform users of the benefits and necessity of healthy reservoir ecosystems. The results of this project along with the guidance received from the USACE WOTS will guide future habitat plans at Nolin River Lake and similar reservoirs nationwide. RFHP funding will be used to purchase materials for structural habitat. USACE funding will be used for the shoreline stabilization portion of the project.

Partners: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Kentucky Dept. of Fish and Wildlife, Friends of Nolin River Lake, Reef Innovations, Atmos Energy Corp. Roundstone Native Seed, Fishiding, Moutardier Marina, Lowes Concrete

“These projects represent some of the best collaborative initiatives in conservation today,” said Ed Schriever, director of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game and chair of the National Fish Habitat Board. “The leveraging of resources through our partnerships is remarkable, and it proves we can collectively achieve more to benefit fish habitat.”

These projects represent a portion of the on-the-ground conservation work implemented in 2019 under the National Fish Habitat Partnership.  Through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Fish and Aquatic Conservation program, over $4 Million was contributed to 83 projects in 34 states. Overall, these Federal funds were matched more than 3-to-1 with nearly $15 Million in match funding contributed from state agencies, local municipalities, non-governmental organizations, tribes and other partners.

About the National Fish Habitat Partnership:

Since 2006, the National Fish Habitat Partnership has supported 935 projects benefiting fish habitat in all 50 states. The partnership works to conserve fish habitat nationwide; leveraging federal, state, tribal, and private funding resources to achieve the greatest impact on fish populations through priority conservation projects of 20 regionally-based Fish Habitat Partnerships. For more information, visit: