Boy Scout dam debris reused as fish habitat in Claytor Lake Mar 8, 2021 23:23:10 GMT
Post by GhostComanche©® on Mar 8, 2021 23:23:10 GMT
Boy Scout dam debris reused as fish habitat in Claytor Lake
By Robby Korth at The Roanoke Times | September 2, 2015
CLAYTOR LAKE — With a crash and splash, scaly residents of the lake got a new home out of a repurposed Boy Scout camp dam.
This week, a team of public and private entities is working together to create new fish habitat in the waters of Claytor Lake out of concrete waste from a partially demolished dam at Camp Powhatan.
The effort is the combined work of the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, Friends of Claytor Lake, the Boy Scouts, Appalachian Power and Pulaski County.
A barge equipped with a backhoe took concrete off the shore of Harry DeHaven Park in Pulaski County and put it on a barge. The barge then went out to several sites around the lake, each between 12 and 14 feet deep, to dump in concrete and make new fish habitat.
When the concrete smashed into the bed of the lake it sent up muck and bubbles, but once it rested on the bottom in piles, the concrete is set to become the perfect spot for fish to hide from the open waters and predators that roam the 4,500-acre lake.
The group put more than 400 tons of concrete in several spots around the lake in an effort to supplement other fish habitat projects that are undertaken by AEP, said Friends of Claytor Lake President Laura Walters.
John Copeland, a fisheries biologist with the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, said he’s out a couple times a year putting in rock and other types of fish habitat. Every spring, he takes part in a project to put Christmas trees in the lake for fish habitat once the holiday season ends.
With AEP, he’s also helped put other trees into the lake and other rock, he said. Part of the hydroelectric project at Claytor Lake requires the power company to build $5,000 worth of fish habitat a year, Copeland said. But there’s never been anything quite to this scale undertaken on the lake because of the high cost that comes with purchasing and moving hundreds of tons of rock.
“It’s historic work, certainly for Claytor Lake,” Copeland said. “But, regionally as well. We haven’t had a project of this magnitude for a number of years in Virginia.”
The artificial habitat is helpful for anglers who are trying to catch bass, Copeland said.
Once the concrete settles on the bottom of the lake, prey fish like perch and minnows will move into the cracks and crevices. That in turn will attract predatory fish like bass looking for a meal, Copeland said.
“It concentrates fish rather than having them spread out all over the lake,” Copeland said.
And those concentrations can then attract the tens of thousands of anglers who use Claytor Lake annually, Copeland said.
Copeland strategically selected deep-water spots so fish could thrive in cooler water rather than shallow water near the shore.
The depth also keeps the concrete piles from affecting boaters in the area, Walters said.
Beyond the boaters, though, the habitat should help fish species thrive and in turn, make fishing better. And that’s a necessary step, Walters said. Some fishermen have complained to her that when FOCL put together an effort to rid the lake of hydrilla — an invasive plant — the group destroyed fish habitat. Now, the organization is trying to work with anglers to try and make the fish population strong again, she said.
“A big part of our mission is environmental,” Walters said. “But we also want to help our image out with the anglers.”
The concrete is waste from the demolished spillway of a dam on Macks Creek used to create a small lake at Camp Powhatan owned by the Boy Scouts Blue Ridge Mountains Council.
Earlier this year, the scouts were required by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation to build the dam 4 feet higher and construct a new spillway to replace the old one, which had been deteriorating, said Dan Johnson, a Scout executive with the Blue Ridge Council.
About 75 percent of the concrete — which Johnson estimated was about 30 years old — in the spillway was taken out, Johnson said. And the worst-case scenario would’ve been that the concrete would simply sit somewhere continuing to fall apart. So when FOCL approached with a project that could give a new use for the concrete debris the Scouts jumped at the chance.
“Sustainability is certainly something that Boy Scouts are very much interested in,” Johnson said.
Beyond helping the environment, it was also a bonus that the project could help fishermen — many of whom might have at one point been part of the Scouts.
“Every Boy Scout and every Cub Scout learns how to fish,” Johnson said.