Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Georgia
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Georgia Project

Science support for the upper Coosa Basin, Phase I

March 2006 - December 2009


Participating Agencies

  • Science Support Partnership

Watersheds in the Upper Coosa currently face increased threats due to increased development associated with the rapidly expanding Atlanta and Chattanooga metropolitan areas. Agricultural lands and forests are being converted to subdivisions, industrial parks, recreational facilities, and other developments at an accelerated rate. Riparian vegetation that stabilizes stream banks and moderates water quality is being cleared, runoff from upland areas converted to hardscapes has increased and is of poorer quality, and stream geomorphology is being altered by fill, piping, channelization, flashy stream flows, and other modifications. These changes in land use frequently cause accelerated erosion that silts in stream bottoms and reduces foraging and spawning success and/or increases point source and nonpoint source pollution in streams. In order to assist decision makers, managers and partners to better protect and recover the six listed fish, 6 listed mussels, and other rare species in the Upper Coosa Basin, the following objectives are proposed: Objectives: 1. Develop, evaluate, and model nonbiased stream-fish sampling methods 2. Develop a prioritized GIS inventory of manmade culverts, dams, and other structures impeding fish passage in priority sub-watersheds of the Upper Coosa Basin. The first project objective will evaluate three stream-fish sampling methods --backpack electrofisher, minnow seine, and snorkeling in the varied physiographic regions of the Upper Coosa (Piedmont, Ridge and Valley, Blue Ridge) over various channel substrates to (1) investigate the effect of species and physical habitat characteristics on capture efficiency, (2) synthesize capture efficiency models, and (3) estimate sample size requirements for detecting rare fish species. These data will be essential to - Evaluate both the success of localized habitat restoration projects (such as dam or culvert removals, channel restoration projects, or riparian restoration efforts) and watershed protection efforts (such as the basin-wide Etowah HCP guidelines). - Evaluate impacts of different development types to improve Service recommendations provided during Endangered Species Act or Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act consultation. - Collect adequate monitoring data to improve adaptive management efforts, particularly in the Etowah Basin when the HCP guidelines are implemented. The second project objective will inventory dams and road crossings with respect to fish passability within the sub-watersheds in the Upper Coosa Basin that are highest priority for protected fishes. Data will be entered into a GIS database and will include barrier location, hydraulic and geomorphic data (baseflow velocities, culvert elevation relative to stream bed, degree of bed scour), and an estimate of the length of stream habitat that would be reconnected by barrier removal. This database would allow identification of reaches where barrier removal could achieve the greatest habitat restoration for rare fish and would complement ongoing protection efforts in the Basin.