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June 6, 2008

Russell shoreline project needs volunteers on June 21

The S.C. Department of Natural Resources and its partner organizations were recently awarded a two-year grant totaling $34,476 to enhance fish habitat on Savannah River reservoirs. Members of the public are being asked to assist in this habitat development effort. Volunteers will work with government agency personnel in planting 2,500 water willow plants at pre-selected sites on Lake Russell on Saturday, June 21.

Volunteers should meet at the Elbert County Boat Ramp off Hwy 72 on the Georgia side of Lake Russell at 8:30 a.m. Take SC Highway 72 out of Calhoun Falls, Abbeville County, SC into Georgia. Watch for the boat landing signs about one mile on the right.

Call S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) fisheries biologist Gene Hayes at (864) 223-1307 or Jamie Sykes with Corps of Engineers at 1-800-944-7207 before June 18 for more information on the project or how you can volunteer. Volunteers should bring a shovel, a personal flotation device (PFD) and be prepared with waders or otherwise to get wet. Sunscreen, water and sunglasses are also highly recommended.

"An insufficient native aquatic plant seed bed in Lake Russell is considered the primary reason for the lack of abundant aquatic plants," says biologist Hayes.

The Russell sites have been selected based on topography, soil type, and identified lack of established emergent aquatic shoreline vegetation. A project goal is to attain at least a 450 square feet coverage area at each site. Twenty-five planting sites have been identified on both the South Carolina and Georgia side of Lake Russell.

Water willow (Justicia americana) is a native emergent wetland plant that grows in shallow, shoreline areas of lakes and rivers. It has been successfully established in other South Carolina reservoirs including, Lakes Marion and Moultrie, where it has expanded significantly beyond the initial colonies. Such vegetation provides habitat for a host of organisms both aquatic and terrestrial, as well as protection against shoreline erosion due to wave action. A number of sportfish, such as largemouth bass, bluegill and redear sunfish, benefit from vegetation providing cover and harboring food items. 

This is particularly important for spawning and recruitment, because water willow provides excellent nursery habitat where juvenile fish can grow to sizes that allow them to compete for food in the more open water environments that are typical of Lake Russell.

A follow-up evaluation is planned during fall 2008 to assess plant survival and degree of area coverage over the life of the project.

Grant partners include Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Georgia and South Carolina Bass Anglers Sportsman’s Society (B.A.S.S.) Federations, Lake Hartwell Association, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

DNR protects and manages South Carolina's natural resources by making wise and balanced decisions for the benefit of the state's natural resources and its people.

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