Lone Mountain NRDAR Fresh Water Mussel Restoration

Background information.—Historically, the Powell River supported abundant and diverse populations of freshwater mussels. In recent decades, mussel density and species richness have declined and many freshwater mussel species are listed as either State or Federally threatened or endangered species. Environmental degradation from coal mining has been identified as one of the drivers of this decline. An example is the 1996 Lone Mountain slurry spill that directly affected mussel populations, as well as their host fish species. Freshwater mussels feed by filtering small particles from water, thereby improving water quality and providing an essential ecosystem service in rivers and streams. Mussels also serve as a food source for fish, ... Show More

Background information.—Historically, the Powell River supported abundant and diverse populations of freshwater mussels. In recent decades, mussel density and species richness have declined and many freshwater mussel species are listed as either State or Federally threatened or endangered species. Environmental degradation from coal mining has been identified as one of the drivers of this decline. An example is the 1996 Lone Mountain slurry spill that directly affected mussel populations, as well as their host fish species.

Freshwater mussels feed by filtering small particles from water, thereby improving water quality and providing an essential ecosystem service in rivers and streams. Mussels also serve as a food source for fish, reptiles, birds, and mammals, and mussel shells provide nesting sites for small fish. Mussel filtering helps clean water, but this filtering makes mussels vulnerable to environmental contamination. Mussels typically have average lifespans of 20 to 100 years depending on the species; because of this long lifespan, mussel populations injured by contaminants may take many years to recover (Freshwater Mollusk Conservation Center, 2015).
Utilizing funds from the Lone Mountain Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration (NRDAR) settlement, scientists with the Virginia Tech Freshwater Mollusk Conservation Center, Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service worked collaboratively to propagate, restore, and monitor endangered mussels in the Powell River watershed.

The recovery team used both hatchery-reared mussels and translocated adult mussels to augment populations of endangered mussel species in the river. Freshwater mussels require the use of a host fish to complete their life cycle. To propagate mussels in captivity, scientists collect suitable host fish and pregnant female mussels from the river. In the laboratory, larvae from female mussels are introduced to host fish and attach to the gills of the fish where they grow and transform into juveniles. Once the juveniles drop from their host fish, they are collected and fed cultured algae and pond water until they achieve the desired size for release to the wild, usually at 20 millimeters long and 1–2 years of age. The mussel hatcheries operated by the Virginia Tech Freshwater Mollusk Conservation Center and the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries annually produce and release 10,000 to 20,000 or more juvenile mussels of 6–10 different species. By releasing propagated mussels biannually from 2004 to 2012, the program has restored populations of several endangered species. Ongoing monitoring efforts, funded through other sources, will determine the success of these releases.
Background information on freshwater mussel restoration for the Lone Mountain NRDAR settlement was obtained from Jess Jones, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Gloucester Field Office, written commun., 2015; the Virginia Tech Freshwater Mollusk Conservation Center Website at http://www.fishwild.vt.edu/mussel/; and from Lone Mountain NRDAR case documents at http://www.cerc.usgs.gov/orda_docs/CaseDetails?ID=914.
 
Economic impacts.—The Powell River mussel propagation program began in 2004 and ran through 2012. The Lone Mountain NRDAR settlement supported $697,000 (2014 dollars) in program costs, but additional funding from other NRDAR settlements, State programs, and in-kind contributions were necessary to successfully execute the program and enable the restoration to continue for an extended period of time. This analysis is focused on the mussel propagation funding obtained from the Lone Mountain NRDAR settlement and does not include economic impacts of additional funds.

Lone Mountain NRDAR funds directly supported research scientists, university students, State biologists and the mussel propagation facilities and program. Most of these expenditures were spent within the State of Virginia but outside of the local area surrounding the project site, so the project had only a small local economic impact. Expanding to include both local and nonlocal project expenditures, the Lone Mountain NRDAR Powell River mussel propagation program supported an estimated total of 21.2 job-years; $962,000 in labor income; $1,191,000 in value added; and $1,948,000 in economic output in the national economy. The program has also advanced scientific knowledge and understanding of freshwater mussels, improving the likelihood of successful mussel conservation in the future.

References Cited

Freshwater Mollusk Conservation Center, 2015, Mussel life history & fish hosts: Virginia Tech, Freshwater Mollusk Conservation Center, accessed May 1, 2015, at http://www.fishwild.vt.edu/mussel/research/life_history.html.
 

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Contact(s): Catherine M Cullinane Thomas, Christopher C Huber.

Overview

Project Period: 2004-2012

Location: Virginia

Restoration Type: Aquatic species propagation

Lead Agency: Virginia Tech Freshwater Mollusk Conservation Center,U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Economic Impacts
National Economic Impacts (2014 dollars):

Total Project Expenditures: $697,000


Job-Years: 21.2 (30.4 per $1M)

Labor Income: $962,000 ($1.4M per $1M)

Value Added: $1,191,000 ($1.7M per $1M)

Economic Output: $1,948,000 ($2.8M per $1M)

Local Economic Impacts (2014 dollars):

Local Project Expenditures: $30,000

Percent of Project Expenditures Spent Locally: 4%

Local Job-Years: 0

Local Labor Income: $0

Local Value Added: $0

Local Economic Output: $30,000

Big Picture
Main Project: Lone Mountain NRDAR Settlement in the Powell River Watershed

In October 1996, a coal slurry impoundment associated with a coal processing plant owned by Lone Mountain Processing, Inc., in Lee County, Virginia, failed and released six million gallons of coal slurry into the Powell River watershed. “Blackwater,” a mixture of water, coal fines, clay, and associated contaminants, extended more than 20 miles downstream from the spill site. The Powell River watershed is part of the Upper Tennessee River Basin, which comprises one of the nation’s most biologically diverse aquatic ecosystems (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2003). The coal slurry spill affected fish, endangered freshwater mussels, other stream organisms, and supporting aquatic habitat, including designated critical habitat for two Federally ... Show More

In October 1996, a coal slurry impoundment associated with a coal processing plant owned by Lone Mountain Processing, Inc., in Lee County, Virginia, failed and released six million gallons of coal slurry into the Powell River watershed. “Blackwater,” a mixture of water, coal fines, clay, and associated contaminants, extended more than 20 miles downstream from the spill site. The Powell River watershed is part of the Upper Tennessee River Basin, which comprises one of the nation’s most biologically diverse aquatic ecosystems (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2003). The coal slurry spill affected fish, endangered freshwater mussels, other stream organisms, and supporting aquatic habitat, including designated critical habitat for two Federally listed fish—the yellowfin madtom ( Noturus flavipinnis) and the slender chub ( Erimystax cahni). A Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration (NRDAR) settlement required that Lone Mountain Processing, Inc., pay $2,450,000 in damages for the natural resource injuries caused by the slurry spill to restore fish, mussels, and the habitats that support them. As part of this settlement, more than 500 acres of riparian land in southwestern Virginia have been preserved in partnership with The Nature Conservancy to protect habitat for aquatic organisms and other species, such as bats and songbirds.
This case study tells the story of five restoration projects in the Upper Tennessee River Basin that were supported by the Lone Mountain NRDAR settlement and the economic activity generated through expenditures on these projects. The highlighted restoration projects include: two mussel and fish propagation and reintroduction projects that are working to replace freshwater mussels and fish species killed during the spill, two instream and riparian restoration projects designed to provide fish and mussel habitat and to provide recreation and education opportunities in Lee County, and one acid mine drainage abatement project designed to improve water quality in the watershed. Figure 1-1 shows a map of the spill site and the five highlighted restoration projects. The U.S. Geological Survey collected data on restoration activities and expenditures to estimate the economic activity supported by these restoration projects.
Background information on the Lone Mountain NRDAR settlement was obtained from Anne Condon, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Virginia Field Office, written commun., 2015; and from Lone Mountain NRDAR case documents at http://www.cerc.usgs.gov/orda_docs/CaseDetails?ID=914. Show Less

Realted Case Studies:
Map
Images
Release of Propogated Mussels at Bales Ford, Powell, TN.jpg
Tagged Mussels Ready to be Released into the River.jpg
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