ROME, Georgia--Much of the Etowah darter's habitat has been wiped away by
dams, timbering, mining and the degradation of water quality.
According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the fish may be
imperiled further by Georgia's plan on sharing water from the
Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa river basin with Alabama.
Georgia's formal water allocation plan, as it stands now, would not
satisfy new federal guidelines that were established to protect endangered
species found in the Etowah River, said Gail Carmody, project leader for the
Fish and Wildlife Service.
The Etowah and Oostanaula rivers, which form the upper reaches of the
Coosa River Basin, are believed by the federal agency to hold more imperiled
fish and invertebrates than any other rivers in the Southeast, the Rome [GA]
In addition to the Etowah darter, a federally endangered species, the
Etowah River is also home to its cousin the Cherokee darter, which also is
Other aquatic species found only in northwest Georgia, including the
endangered triangular kidneyshell mussel, also live in the river.
Officials from Georgia and Alabama were meeting today to continue
discussions on how to divide river water flowing through Georgia and into
Alabama. In 1990, Alabama filed a lawsuit over Georgia's plan to dam the
Tallapoosa River near the state line.
Different plans for sharing the river basin, which stretches from
Tennessee to Mobile Bay, have been proposed.
Sticking points have included how much water each state needs to store
and whether new reservoirs will need to be built. [Ed. remark--!!!no, don't
Proposed plans on how to control water flow could also affect aquatic
If the stream flow is extremely high or low, creatures that inhabit the
water could be harmed, officials with the Fish and Wildlife Service said.
This is a classic freshwater organism-in-danger scenario in this country,
with habitat caught in a bureaucratic tug of war. Drainage basins here in
Alabama usually include a swath of Mississippi, Tennessee or Georgia; it
seems like a race over which state can most seriously threaten North
America's most diverse freshwater fish and invertebrate assemblage centered
in these four states.
I think Chris Scharpf was right on the money with his parable, if Americans
saw our own fascinating and beautiful fishes they might be moved to help
better protect them (and at least to appreciate them!).
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