Shoreline permits halted at Gantt, Point APublished 12:02am Friday, January 18, 2013
PowerSouth has suspended all shoreline permitting activities on Gantt and Point A lakes after eight species of mussels were listed as threatened or endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in November.
“When-ever we were issued that ruling, we did have to stop all (construction) activity on the lake,” PowerSouth corporate communication manager Mark Ingram said last week. “There are no permits for pier or shore work to be done until further studies are done.”
According to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s final rule, the Alabama pearlshell, round ebonyshell, southern kidneyshell and Choctaw bean are listed as endangered species, and the tapered pigtoe, narrow pigtoe, southern sandshell and fuzzy pigtoe are listed as threatened species. The final rule also designates critical habitat for the eight species. According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Gantt and Point A lakes have been designated as critical habitat for the narrow pigtoe.
“The numerous questions this listing raises will have to be answered over time and in coordination with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Endangered Species Act prohibits a ‘take’ of a listed species, and that can include habitat modification in some instances. For now, our goal is to make sure that we and our neighbors avoid violations of this federal law and do not take actions, such as building piers and sea walls, that could inadvertently raise compliance issues,” said Keith Stephens, PowerSouth’s Manager of Environmental Services.
The mussels live in the Escambia, Yellow, Choctawhatchee and Mobile river watersheds, where they’re threatened by pollution and habitat degradation, according to the Center for Biological Diversity. The local habitats are included in 1,494 miles of stream in Alabama and Florida where they are now protected. Freshwater mussels are particularly sensitive to pollution; they filter water, making it cleaner for humans, the Center for Biological Diversity said in a press release on the protection.
More species of freshwater mussels are found in the American Southeast than anywhere else in the world, but 75 percent of the region’s freshwater mussels are now at risk of extinction, according to the Center for Biological Diversity. Once widely used to make buttons and jewelry, mussel shells, like trees, accumulate growth rings that can be used to determine their age. Freshwater mussels can live for centuries, making them among the longest-lived invertebrates.
PowerSouth, which currently handles permitting for Gantt and Point A, has been involved in meetings with Fish and Wildlife to determine if they will continue to issue permits or if that responsibility will be turned over to the Corp. of Engineers, Ingram said.
Violations of the Endangered Species Act carry civil and criminal penalties up to and including imprisonment. More information about the listing and critical habitat can be found in the Federal Register publication at http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2012-10-10/pdf/2012-24161.pdf.