Press Releases

Mobile District partnerships enhance Fish Migration

Published May 22, 2014

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Mobile District has partnered with The Nature Conservancy (TNC), Georgia, Florida, and Alabama state fisheries to improve the opportunities for successful fish migration in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint (ACF) River and the Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa (ACT) River Basins. The fish passage efforts utilize the Corps navigation locks at these waterway projects during the spring spawning migration runs.

        In 2005, the Nature Conservancy contacted the Corps to discuss the possibility of opening navigation lock gates at Jim Woodruff Lock and Dam (JWLD) to allow safe passage for fish migrations as part of a five–year study. The JWLD is at the confluence of the Chattahoochee and Flint Rivers, and below the dam is the Apalachicola River.  The largest remaining populations of Alabama shad and Gulf striped bass live within the Apalachicola River system.

         “For decades the dam has impeded the access to more than 150 miles of historic river and spawning habitat for fish species who live in salt water and spawn in fresh water,” said Lisa Parker, Deputy Public Affairs Officer, Mobile District.  “Adult fish generally migrate and spawn from March through June and then return to the sea.  Downstream passage occurs through spillway gates, or coincidentally with ship lockages.”

        On the ACT the Corps will operate lock passages for the Claiborne Lock and Dam and Millers Ferry Lock and Dam at least four times a day. Water within the lock represents such a small fraction of the river, it does not significantly decrease or increase the amount of water available” Parker said.

        There are several key migratory fish species such as; paddlefish, blue sucker, Alabama shad, striped bass, mooneye, and blue catfish that would benefit from lock passages.

The primary objective of this effort is to facilitate movement between freshwater spawning habitat and the Gulf of Mexico within each of the basins.

          “Some of the species’ numbers have declined in past decades, due to a combination of natural and man-made factors, such as the physical barrier a dam presents to upstream fish migration.  Because fish serve as a host to the larval form of fresh water mussels, several mussel species have undergone population declines as well,” Parker said.

          The State of Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources has recently made experimental re-introductions of the Alabama Shad on the Alabama River.  That agency has tagged shad and is determining if successful passage is occurring using the scheduled lockages.

          Future plans are for the cooperating agencies to seek additional grant money for further studies. “We look forward to the continued work with TNC and the other agencies and University partners as we explore these options,” Parker said.


Lisa Parker

Release no. 14-016