Southeastern Fishes Council
Dedicated to the Conservation of Southeastern Fishes

1998 Report of Region 5 - Northwest
The White River Navigation Project which was re-authorized by the Water Resources Development Act of 1996, and which proposes to construct and maintain a 200 foot wide by nine foot deep navigation channel from the mouth upstream to Batesville, AR (approximately 255 river miles), continues to lurk in the shadows. Proponents of the project, primarily the Arkansas Waterways Commission and allies, have been to Washington seeking funding and touting the transportation benefits to be derived from the project. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, White River National Wildlife Refuge personnel have been monitoring development of the project as it would impact fish and wildlife resources within their jurisdiction. Preliminary discussions among Memphis District Corps, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, and Corps Waterways Experiment Station personnel were held in mid-March 1998 to determine what biological data were needed to assess impacts of the proposed project to wildlife resources.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service is preparing an Ozark - Ouachita Highlands Assessment, which is essentially an inventory of resources in the region served by the Ouachita, Ozark-St. Francis, and Mark Twain National Forests. The assessment covers aquatic resources of the interior highlands in portions of Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Kansas. Publication is slated for late 1998. Henry Robison reports that a fish records database has been completed for localities sampled within the Ouachita and Ozark - St. Francis National Forests in Arkansas.

Henry Robison has completed a status survey report for the Strawberry River orangethroat darter, Etheostoma fragi.

The zebra mussel (Dreissena polymorpha), which is found in the Arkansas River, AR, in considerable numbers, suffered population declines this past summer, presumably as a result of low dissolved oxygen associated with a week of 100+ F temperatures. Apparently most adult zebra mussels suffered mortality in the Dardanelle and Ozark Pools, but by fall, young were beginning to reestablish in most parts of these pools. Tremendous changes in water clarity have been observed in Dardanelle Pool during the past two years, and changes to fish community composition are being evaluated by biologists from Arkansas Tech University and the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.

Missouri Department of Conservation personnel report concerns of water quality degradation resulting from the construction and operation of chip mills (producing wood chips for particle board, paper products, etc.) and the emergence confined animal feeding operations, especially in the northern portion of the state.

The Topeka shiner (Notropis topeka) has been proposed for listing as a federally protected endangered species. In Missouri, the species range has been significantly reduced and is very rare at sites where it still occurs.

The Corps of Engineers is studying a proposed New Madrid Floodway project to reduce flooding in Mississippi River tributaries in the bootheel of Missouri. The project has two components to reduce the magnitude and duration of floodwaters behind the levees: 1) construction of pumping stations, and 2) dredging of Mississippi River tributaries such as St. John's Bayou. Surveys to assess impacts rediscovered the golden topminnow (Fundulus chrysotus) which was thought to be extirpated in Missouri. Corps Waterways Experiment Station biologists are involved with assessing potential impact of the proposed project to aquatic resources.

Recent aquatic resource surveys (fish and mussels) conducted by Missouri Department of Conservation personnel in the Meramec River have shown species richness remains similar to earlier surveys. However, abundance for many species appears to be down, and many land use changes have occurred in the upper portions of the drainage basin. Especially prominent have been the proliferation of gravel mines in the headwaters of the Meramec.

Surveys to assess population trends of the "big river" chubs Macrhybopsis gelida (sturgeon chub), Macrhybopis meeki (sicklefin chub), and Platygobio gracilis (flathead chub) were conducted in the Missouri River during the past year. Relative abundance for gelida and meeki were down, but numbers for the flathead chub were higher than in the early 90's.

David Galat reports that the Missouri River "benthic fishes" project has completed two years of field work with one more to go. This cooperative research project involving six U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service coop units and numerous other state and federal cooperators includes surveys for benthic fishes and analysis of age/growth and population structures along 2300 miles of the Missouri River. Five doctoral candidates are involved with the project, and annual reports are available by request from Galat at David_Galat@muccmail.missouri.ed

John L. Harris