Tuesday, January 31, 2012

HABITAT RESTORATION

It's 9 AM and everybody's here at a cove on Cherokee Lake.
Every winter Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency replenishes and restores fish habitat on the lakes of East Tennessee.  I should say creates fish habitat because there isn't much habitat on these flood control lakes.  The water is drawn down in winter to allow space for additional water inflow due to flood emergencies.  This draw-down creates a situation where falling trees and tree limbs can not fall into the water.  Also water grasses such as mill foil can not survive because they would be located out of water high on a bank, dead, at the the shore line after draw-down.
Note the black plastic rope bundled on the trailer ramp
An effective measure taken to create fish habitat is the introduction of Christmas trees onto the now bare portions of the lake's shorelines during the low water situation.  Discarded Christmas trees are collected by businesses like Wall mart, Tractor Supply and other retail outlets that sell trees.  Certain state parks encourage folks to drop off their Christmas trees at drop points within park boundaries.  TWRA then dispatches teams to load the discarded trees on flat bed trucks and trailers and hauls them to predetermined sites around the lakes.   Our job today is to actually create the fish habitat on this peninsula using those collected trees.  This is only one small spot on one lake.  The trees are collected by the thousands and all are delivered to the huge reservoirs in East Tennessee for disposition.
Trailer used to haul trees to the habitat site
The trailer above is a simple affair that is capable of handling 15 to 20 trees.  After loading, an all wheel drive vehicle will pull them across the baron shoreline to the technicians waiting near the water.
There's about 200 trees in that pile upper left of the photo.  The little quad is heading for a narrow strip of shale dividing two bodies of water.  It is a natural bridge to the island we were working on.  It's also an interesting ride across it.
Richard drove across that narrow, soggy strip of shale over and over at personal risk to life and limb to deliver his precious cargo.  We pull the stops out for our fish down here.
A small group of workers unloads the trees and distributes them to positions on the shore line in preparation for the next operation.
The trees are placed 5 to a group, or "pod", with their trunk ends facing each other. 
After all the pods are set in place a two foot long pin with a cable loop at the top is driven into the soil at the juncture point where all the trunk ends come together.  Plastic rope is used to secure each tree to that peg to prevent the trees from washing away due to current and wave action.


Note the plastic line attaching the trees to the metal peg
These pods of trees will be under 20 to 30 feet of water in the spring when the water levels return to full pool (normal level.)  Fish will have a place to hide from predators and the trees will provide areas where fish can spawn.  Later on the trees will be prime haven for game fish and become destination points for anglers, if they can find them.  The addition of this artificial habitat is very necessary to the overall health of the fishery.
There now--you thought all I did was drive a 22 foot boat around in circles on the lake.
The habitat effort is huge and requires the efforts of many professionals to do it right.

The addition of those trees among the existing rocks and boulders has created a tremendous habitat for fish on that little island.  A job worth doing.  Reservoir Fisheries is our job.  It's our responsibility and it's not taken lightly.




This is called searching for arrow heads.

Above we can see two thoroughly worn out professional technicians catching their breath between loads of trees.  Actually they are two state workers doing what you usually see state workers doing.  Just kidding.

Today has been a delightful break from driving the boat all day.  I am not assigned to habitat restoration but it's great to be able to help out in the effort.  I hope you found this post interesting.  I will try to post more work activities in the future.  I need to show you what I do on a daily basis with the boat.  I'll work on that for you next time I'm on the lake.  I think you'll find it interesting.  I've got one more day of habitat duty and then back to cruising around in circles on the lake.  Keep a look out for the Scona Lodge piece.  I'm diligently working on it.  It's not an easy thing to write.  I might be making it harder than it really is.  See ya...