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#07-166 June 18, 2007

Volunteers improve fish habitat with plantings at Lake Hartwell

Seventeen volunteers helped plant shoreline vegetation on Lake Hartwell recently as part of a program to enhance fish habitat on the reservoir.

On June 2, 17 volunteers from Lake Hartwell Association, South Carolina BASS Federation, the Tri-County Technical College nursing department and other interested citizens helped to plant maidencane and water willow at shoreline locations along Lake Hartwell in Pickens County.
The planting project was part of a $34,476 grant received by the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and its partner organizations to enhance fish habitat in Lakes Hartwell and Russell.

The grant is from Bass Anglers Sportsman’s Society (BASS) and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and grant partners include Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Georgia and South Carolina Bass Anglers Sportsman’s Society (BASS) Federations, Lake Hartwell Association and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Volunteers are needed for the next planting date on Wednesday, June 27. The group will assemble at 10 a.m. at the Clemson DNR office at 153 Hopewell Road (Cherry Farm) near Clemson University and will disperse to pre-chosen sites, selected based on soil type and in areas of low wave action.

Volunteers will plant maidencane along the water’s edge and water willow several inches in the water. To volunteer, call Gene Hayes with (DNR) at (864) 223-1307 by Monday, June 25. A third volunteer planting date will be held on Lake Russell sometime after July 4. The Lake Russell plantings will be water willow exclusively, since some natural colonies of maidencane are already expanding there.
Volunteers coming to the Clemson DNR office on June 27 may also arrive by boat. Since transportation to the planting sites will be by boat, volunteers are asked to bring a PFD, sunscreen and possibly a shovel or post-hole digger. Tools will also be provided. Volunteers need not be affiliated with an organization—anyone interested in fish habitat shoreline restoration is welcomed to participate.

“Shoreline aquatic vegetation is not nearly what it should be on either Hartwell or Russell,” said Hayes, a DNR fisheries biologist. “Annual water level fluctuations on Lake Hartwell and the lack of a native aquatic plant seed bed in Lake Russell are considered the primary reasons for the lack of abundant native aquatic plants, especially shoreline-oriented species.”

The project will demonstrate first hand how to use native aquatic vegetation to improve fisheries habitat. BASS and Lake Hartwell Association volunteers and others will work with government agency personnel in planting 5,000 water willow and 2,000 maidencane plants at pre-selected sites on the two reservoirs over a two-year period. Three thousand water willow plants will be allocated for Lake Russell, and the remainder of the vegetation will be planted on Lake Hartwell.

Forty sites on Lake Hartwell and 30 sites on Lake Russell have been selected for planting. The plantings will stabilize shorelines and provide structural habitat for shoreline spawning fish species, such as largemouth bass, redear sunfish and bluegill. Plantings will also provide a stable, protective nursery area for juvenile fish. A project goal is to attain at least a 450 square feet coverage area at each site.

A follow-up evaluation is planned during Fall 2007 to assess plant survival and degree of area coverage in the initial year. Subsequent annual evaluations will be conducted over a three-year period.
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