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Striped bass habitat in Flint to be restored

The National Fish Habitat Action Plan unveiled this year’s 10 “Waters to Watch” list, which includes the lower Flint River.

The list is a collection of rivers, streams, lakes, watershed systems and shores that will benefit from strategic conservation efforts to protect, restore or enhance their current condition, a news release stated.

These waters represent a snapshot of current conservation efforts that are planned to provide cleaner and healthier habitats for the many fish and wildlife species and people who call these areas home.

About the Flint River

Striped bass in the Flint River rely on thermal refuges during warmer months, but there are a limited number of springs in the Flint that harbor striped bass.

Natural sediment loads and debris in the Flint have accumulated in the springs and have restricted flow and access to habitat by Gulf striped bass. Only eight of 20 springs hold fish regularly.

Improved spring flow and thermal refuge availability for Gulf striped bass during the summer months is critical to species management. Natural spring renovation will open the area, allowing increased flow from and thus expanding the thermal refuge, providing better habitat for future spawning.

Georgia Department of Natural Resources personnel will renovate springs in the Flint River to enhance flow and physical habitat for striped bass by utilizing a large-capacity trash pump to remove accumulated sand, sediment and debris.

The action plan

Thanks to the combined actions of concerned community groups, non-profit organizations, local watershed groups, Native American tribes and state and federal agencies, these waters are being improved by planting stream-side vegetation, removing structures blocking fish from habitat and protecting bodies of water from the effects of industrial processes, agriculture and livestock.

The 10 “Waters to Watch” are representative of freshwater to marine waters across the country including lakes and reservoirs that are improving through the conservation efforts of the National Fish Habitat Action Plan, an initiative to reverse persistent declines in aquatic habitat.

The Action Plan’s 10 “Waters to Watch” Initiative was first unveiled in 2007 through its Fish Habitat Partnerships. Since 2006, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has provided $5.8 million to support 136 on-the-ground projects in 35 states, leveraging $15.1 million in partner match, to address the priorities of the Fish Habitat Partnerships, along with funding from several other state and federal agencies and other organizations.

“Our approach—teaming federal, state and local partners—is helping to bring these waters back to life in most cases … in a faster, more strategic way,” said Kelly Hepler, chairman of the National Fish Habitat Board. “By watching these 10 models of our nation’s aquatic conservation efforts, we can see real progress in treating the causes of fish habitat decline, not just the symptoms. These specific projects display on the ground work that can be held high as a vision of what quality habitat should be, which affects all people throughout the United States.”

The other water bodies on the list include Agulowak River in Alaska, Jockey’s Ridge State Park in North Carolina, Lake Houston in Texas, Maggie Creek in Nevada, Meramec Watershed Basin in Missouri, Pine Creek in Wisconsin, South Fork Little Conemaugh River in Pennsylvania, Teton Creek in Idaho and Whitethorn Creek in West Virginia.

The National Fish Habitat Action Plan is built on a framework of National Fish Habitat Partnerships.

The plan calls for the creation of at least 12 Fish Habitat Partnerships by 2010 to help identify the causes of habitat declines and implement corrective initiatives for aquatic conservation and restoration.

Since its launch three years ago, nearly 1,000 partners have pledged their support including a range of organizations interested in the health of the nation’s fisheries such as fishing clubs, international conservation organizations, federal agencies, angling industries and academia. Complete information on the scope of the plan is available at www.fishhabitat.org.

The Action Plan is complemented by the “More Fish” campaign administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, which is taking the lead in raising funds for these and other projects under the Action Plan. Information about the campaign can be found at www.morefish.org.