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Corps assists in mussel rescue on Green River

Published Feb. 15, 2017

During November, Lock and Dam No. 6 on the Green River, Kentucky, developed a breach that subsequently began lowering the upstream pool putting many mussel beds at risk of exposure.

Due to the combination of lowering of the pool and reduced discharges from Nolin and Green River Lake dams, approximately eight shoals or islands were exposed that were home to mussel species. Mussel beds, in this circumstance, became exposed due to the decrease in water level due to drought and the dam deterioration.

A collaborative effort was then set in motion, to help relocate the mussels. Mussels need to be underwater to survive. It was led by the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Service.

The Green River Pool 6 mussel salvage was organized by Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR) and Mammoth Cave National Park, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Army Corps of Engineers.

Four planning biologists Mike Turner, Todd Hagman, Drew Russell and Lynn Jarrett along with Nolin Lake Park rangers Jonathan Fillingham and Libby Watt assisted with the relocation of approximately 2,000 mussels on a 3.5-mile stretch of the Green River. The mussels were moved to an area of the river where the water levels are not likely to fall.

"I felt really fortunate to be able to help participate in the recovery efforts on this emergency situation," said Hagman. "As an Aquatic Biologist who conducted my Master’s thesis research on federally endangered freshwater mussels, it was very rewarding to finally get my hands wet and work with mussels again in a professional capacity," said Hagman. "This group of animals are some of the most highly imperiled in the world and the general public has little understanding of them. The Green River is an ancient river that predates the Ohio River. It has several species of fish, mussels and crayfish and others that are endemic and only found within the Green River and nowhere else in the world."

USACE personnel, supported by KDFWR and park service boats and equipment, assisted to collect, inventory and relate the mussels, some of which were federally-listed endangered species. A 100 plus year-old washboard mussel was identified. The rescue took place between the Green River Ferry downstream to Lock and Dam No. 6.

KDFWR retained several rare species to return to the Center for Mollusk Conservation in Frankfort for propagation and restorative efforts.