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In this segment of KSMU's Sense of Community series, Michele Skalicky reports on a project underway at Table Rock Lake and its watershed that aims to enhance the fish population in the lake and Lake Taneycomo.
It's a cool day out on the lake, temperatures are in the 50s, and I'm headed out on the Fish Habitat Barge with three Missouri Conservation Department employees. This barge was designed and built by Bass Pro Shops specifically for the department to use for lake cover augmentation.
It's part of the National Fish Habitat Action Plan, a project of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, federal and state agencies and conservation and angling organizations as well as corporate sponsors to help restore abundant and healthy populations of fish and aquatic species in our nation's waters.
Table Rock Lake and its watershed were chosen as the first pilot project.
Today, fisheries biologist Shane Bush and two other Conservation Department employees were out on the lake to cut down trees, weight them down and drop them in the lake for use as fish habitat.
According to Bush, the Department of Conservation is currently working on a contract with area developers to use trees they cut down for development.
For now, though, the Conservation Department has received permission from the US Army Corps of Engineers to take a few trees to get the project started.
Shane Bush explains how adding brush and stumps to the lake will make a difference in the fish population.
Bush says the fish population in Table Rock is in good shape. But he says the lake is old enough where adding new structure to it should benefit fish into the future.
The Missouri Department of Conservation is GPSing all of the brush piles so anglers will be able to find them. They also plan to post signs on the shoreline letting the public know where the habitat structures are.
The project will run for five years—it got underway over the summer. Besides lake cover augmentation, it also involves a Septic Pumpout Program run by the James River Basin Partnership and Table Rock Lake Water Quality, Inc. is underway, too.
Anyone interested should contact James River Basin Partnership or Table Rock Lake Water Quality, Inc. to find out if they're eligible for the septic pumpout program.
The Conservation Department is also trying to get landowners involved. If they have an eroding stream bank and live in the Table Rock Lake watershed they can get help by contacting their local Conservation Department office.
The Fish Habitat Project isn't just focusing on Table Rock Lake. Bush says they're also looking at the entire Table Rock Lake Watershed and the tail waters.
In years two and three of the habitat project they plan to evaluate the effectiveness of the steps they've taken by using scuba divers, angler surveys and standard shoreline fish sampling methods.
For now, they're working hard to get as many brush piles and stump fields into the lake as they can. Once the trees are cut, they're loaded onto the barge and weighted down with concrete. The barge is outfitted with a special lift that dumps the brush piles into the lake.
The total cost of the project is 4 and a half million dollars, which is being provided by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Bass Pro Shops, the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the Arkansas Fish and Game Commission.
For KSMU News, I'm Michele Skalicky.