May 30, 2012
Found only in Georgia, Cherokee Darter is on Endangered Species List
While constructing an electric transmission line in Paulding County, Georgia Transmission Corporation is making a significant investment to protect a federally threatened species of fish that is native to the area.
The Cherokee Darter is a small fish, roughly one to two inches long, that is found only in the Etowah River basin and nowhere else in the world. Preferring small, shallow, fast-flowing streams, the fish is found throughout the basin, from Lumpkin County to Paulding County. The Cherokee Darter has been on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services’ (USFWS) Endangered Species List since 1994.
“Cherokee Darters live in clear streams and are very sensitive to sedimentation and pollution,” said Chris Smith, an environmental and regulatory coordinator with Georgia Transmission’s Environmental Services. “In many ways, the darters are to our North Georgia streams as canaries are to coal mines. Their existence indicates a healthy water system, and their protection helps ensure clean water.”
Georgia Transmission consulted with the USFWS to identify the best management practices to minimize significant impact on the Cherokee Darter’s habitat in three streams. The collaboration led to a series of steps designed to ensure the project’s construction would not interfere with the habitat:
- Create 100-foot stream buffers for known or potential habitats
- Install 50-foot stream buffers for tributaries of known or potential habitats
- Avoid placing culvert and rock crossings in habitat streams, though, if necessary, use bottomless culverts and bridges
- If temporary bridges are required in habitat streams, they must fully span the stream, restore banks and avoid spawning season (April-June)
- Maintain stream buffers with native plants
- Avoid herbicide use except on isolated stumps in Cherokee Darter stream buffers
In addition, GTC used helicopters to lift timber out of steep, sloped areas within habitat stream buffers. This minimized disturbance in the buffer areas and removed the risk of timber falling or washing into darter streams.
“Georgia Transmission’s construction inspectors ensured these steps were adhered to and that no violations to the Endangered Species Act occurred,” Smith said. “This project is a testament to Georgia Transmission’s dedication to the environment and being a good steward of Georgia’s resources.”
For additional information about darters and conservation efforts in the Etowah River Basin, please visit www.etowahhcp.org.
About Georgia Transmission
Georgia Transmission, a not-for-profit cooperative owned by 38 Electric Membership Corporations (EMCs), owns more than 3000 miles of high-voltage transmission lines and more than 650 substations. These facilities deliver power to Georgia’s EMCs who serve nearly 50 percent of Georgia’s population (4.1 million).
Georgia Transmission Corporation