Low Water Good for Some Wildlife, Bad for Others

Posted on: 10:52 am, December 19, 2012, by

MISSISSIPPI RIVER LEVELS

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (AP) _ Low water levels on the Mississippi
River are presenting challenges for some fish while benefiting
other wildlife, experts say.
The drought has left the middle Mississippi River near record
lows, prompting grave concerns about river commerce. The impact on
wildlife varies greatly, driving some fish out of normally safe
areas but allowing some animals to thrive along sandbars and side
channels exposed by the low water level.
Missouri Department of Conservation natural history biologist
Bob Gillespie told the Southeast Missourian (http://bit.ly/UM7lhF )
that with low water, juvenile fish lack hiding places.
“Organisms that use shallow-water areas will not have as much
habitat available to them as they would if the river was at a
higher stage,” said Gillespie, who works out of Cape Girardeau.
Fish, including the pallid sturgeon, use shallow water for spawning
and seek refuge there to get out of the current of the deeper
water.
On the other hand, birds like the interior least turn benefit
because they nest on sandbar islands. With the water so low, they
have more nesting areas. When water is high the birds, rare to this
region, can be forced to nest inland and become more susceptible to
predators.
The Army Corps of Engineers has begun removing rock pinnacles
from a six-mile stretch of the river near Thebes, Ill., just a few
miles south of Cape Girardeau, as part of an effort to keep
commerce flowing during the low-water period. Missouri conservation
officials and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are both on hand
to monitor the rock removal that is expected to eventually involve
the use of explosives. For now, the ocks are being removed through
excavation.
Fish within the shock wave of the explosives could be harmed or
killed. “When we do end up blasting, we will use the smallest
charge necessary to get the job done,” corps spokesman Mike
Petersen said.
Contractors will employ a loud underwater noise to spook fish
out of the blasting area.
“If we have folks downriver who see we get fish coming up to
the surface and start to see impacts, we can immediately adjust
what we are doing,” Petersen said.
___
Information from: Southeast Missourian,
http://www.semissourian.com

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)