AUGUSTA GA (AP) -- A government biologist says the city of Augusta's
failure to open a lock on the Savannah River will reduce the number of shad
four years from now because the fish could not reach spawning grounds in
"We've already blown it for this season. The last week in April to the
first week in May is the most important time," said Steve Gilbert of the
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
American shad return after four years at sea to the waters where they
hatched. Opening the lock downstream from Augusta allows the migrating fish
to swim 20 miles upstream to shoals where they spawn, Gilbert said.
A reduction in this year's spawn will likely reduce the number of shad
returning in four years, he said.
Under a lease with the Army Corps of Engineers, the city of Augusta is
supposed to follow instructions from the Fish and Wildlife Service on how
to operate the lock during the shad spawn, Gilbert said.
In a March 10 letter to officials, Gilbert recommended opening the
lock Monday through Friday from March 27 and June 2.
"Several weeks later we found out the lock had not been operated, and
nobody seemed to know where the letter was," Gilbert said.
After further discussions, the city agreed to open the lock three
times a day on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 7 a.m. to noon. That
was supposed to start Monday, but the city didn't open it after getting
complaints from fisherman who were enjoying the plentiful shad.
"Our interpretation of the lease agreement -- our understanding,
rather -- was somewhat different than the Fish and Wildlife folks'," said
Drew Goins, Augusta's assistant public works director.
Beginning Wednesday, the lock will be opened several times on those
three days through June 2, Goins said.
But that may be too late to help the shad, Gilbert said.
"A bad spawn this year will creat a bad year class," he said. "A bad
year class shows up years later in the form of reduced populations. The
fishermen who complain need to understand the reason we're doing this in
the first place is so their children and grandchildren will have a chance
to fish someday."
Steven A. Ellis
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