Dam removal to boost native species

A recent dam removal on Santeetlah Creek in the Nantahala National Forest is allowing native fish to return to high-quality habitat found in the waterway.

Flowing from the Snowbird Mountains and Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest, Santeetlah Creek was once home to several important native aquatic species. However, biologists noticed that the fish community had become less diverse than that of other streams in the area — due to poor management techniques in the past. A concrete fish barrier was built in the mid-1960s to prevent native fish from swimming upstream, and the creek was then poisoned upstream of the barrier to remove the native fish before being restocked with non-native rainbow and brown trout. The treatment was intended to help the introduced trout thrive, but monitoring showed no long-term benefits to the trout fishery.

The dam was removed following U.S. Forest Service consultation with the N.C. Wildlife Resource Commission and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Before removal, biologists snorkeled the site to make sure no hellbender salamanders would be harmed during demolition. The removal project was conducted in May.

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