on Aug 16, 2013 04:42 PM • Views 6170

Volunteers and staff plant groups of native aquatic vegetation in fenced-in areas to provide habitat for fish and to help reduce impacts from waves caused by wind and boats.

Media Contact: Jodie B. Owen

WILKESBORO, N.C. (Aug. 16, 2013) —The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission recently partnered with the Friends of W. Kerr Scott Lake, Inc., the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the N.C. Forest Service B.R.I.D.G.E. Crew on a pilot project to stabilize the shoreline and enhance aquatic habitat in W. Kerr Scott Reservoir.

The Friends of W. Kerr Scott Lake, a non-profit organization dedicated to the protection and beautification of the lake, hired a local contractor earlier this spring to reshape approximately 150 linear feet of shoreline adjacent to the Visitor Assistance/Environmental Education Center to create a more stable slope.

To help the shoreline hold its new shape, personnel with the Wildlife Commission, Corps and Forest Service installed a brush mattress, a 4- to 6-inch layer of willows and other woody vegetation, and planted native trees, shrubs and herbaceous ground cover along the shoreline, creating a riparian buffer to filter sediment and pollutants from surface runoff and provide habitat for birds and other wildlife.

They also installed coconut fiber matting, which holds the soil in place while the trees and shrubs grow. The matting will rot eventually, adding organic material to the soil.

The shoreline stabilization was the first phase of the project to improve aquatic habitat and water quality in the 1,475-acre lake.The second phase occurred in July when volunteers, with help from staff, planted groups of native aquatic vegetation, such as water willow, soft-stem bulrush, pickerelweed and lilies, in fenced-in protected areas located in shallow areas near the shore to provide habitat for fish and other aquatic species and to help reduce impacts from waves caused by wind and boats.

Mark Fowlkes, an aquatic habitat coordinator for the Commission, hopes the groups of plants, known as “founder colonies,” will spread to other parts of the lake, enhancing the lake’s overall aquatic habitat and increasing users’ enjoyment of the lake. He anticipates that this is the first year of a multi-year project to establish submerged aquatic vegetation, which ultimately will benefit all users of the lake, in particular anglers.

“Fishing is one of the more popular recreational uses of the lake,” Fowlkes said. “By adding aquatic vegetation in the lake and along the shoreline, we are providing much-needed habitat for fish such as largemouth bass and crappie — two species that need cover for growth and reproduction.”

W. Kerr Scott Dam and Reservoir, which is owned and managed by the Corps, is located in the northwestern portion of North Carolina on the Yadkin River, approximately 5½ miles upstream from Wilkesboro. Although the lake’s water quality is good, like many reservoirs in the Southeast, W. Kerr Scott is a relatively young ecosystem and has eroding shorelines with little aquatic vegetation, which can make the lake muddy and degrade water quality over time. 

“By stabilizing the shoreline and establishing founder colonies of aquatic vegetation, we are reducing threats to water quality, creating habitat, protecting property and improving aesthetics,” said Brad Carey, a natural resource specialist with the Corps. “When practical, the use of vegetation to stabilize eroding shorelines provides greater benefits than hardening with rocks and walls.”

Carey and Fowlkes encourage landowners to visit the project site to get ideas on how they can keep the lake healthy by creating buffers and establishing aquatic vegetation on their own lakefront properties. However, the fenced enclosures containing the aquatic vegetation should not be disturbed.

This fall the Corps and Friends of W. Kerr Scott Lake are reaching out to landowners to teach them how to maintain a healthy shoreline by keeping their properties, as well as feeder streams, free of litter and toxic runoff.

Members also will conduct a “Take a Kid Fishing Day” on Sept. 14, and a “Friends of the Lake” clean-up event on Sept. 28, designated “National Public Lands Day,” to spread the word on importance of clean water not only for wildlife but also for the people who depend on the lake for drinking water and recreation.

The project was funded in part through the Sport Fish Restoration Program and a grant from the Reservoir Fisheries Habitat Partnership. The Sport Fish Restoration Program utilizes state fishing license money and federal grant funds derived from federal excise taxes on fishing equipment and motorboat fuels.

The RFHP (www.reservoirpartnership.org)is a national partnership established to promote and facilitate the conservation of habitat for fish and other aquatic species in reservoirs and reservoir systems through collaborative actions that contribute to the ecological health of reservoirs, enhancement of reservoir fisheries and public awareness of the conservation challenges of reservoir management.

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