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Public comment meetings address endangered fish

Conservation plan could deter local development

POSTED: August 5, 2009 4:00 a.m.

Officials with the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service are asking animal lovers to help save several endangered or threatened species, including three that can be found in Dawson County.

  

The second of two meetings is set for Aug. 11 in Canton to seek public comment on the department’s Habitat Conservation Plan and a five-year status review of the Southeast’s threatened and endangered species.

  

In the works since 2002, the plan would incorporate measures into new building and redevelopment projects  to limit stormwater runoff, which, according to fish and wildlife officials, threatens aquatic species in the Etowah River basin.

  

Local species include the Amber, Cherokee and Etowah Darter, all small fish, between 1.6 and 3 inches long.

  

The Amber Darter has been on the endangered species list since 1985. In 1994, the Etowah Darter was added to the endangered list and the Cherokee Darter was placed on the threatened list. 

  

Fish and Wildlife officials say the greatest threat to the survival of the darters in the Etowah basin is non-point source pollution washing into streams and rivers.

  

Local builders said they plan to offer comment, but possibly not the comments fish and wildlife is hoping to gather.

  

Under the plan, development in Dawson County would stop, said Rory Cunningham, president of the Dawson County Home Builders Association.

  

“Over 85 percent of Dawson County would be affected. No one would be able to build here,” he said.

  

Thirteen local governments submitted the conservation plan to fish and wildlife and are in the process of adopting accompanying ordinances.

  

Dawson County is not on that list, and if District 1 Commissioner Gary Pichon has his way, the county will not adopt the plan.

  

“I’ve sent each of the commissioners a letter with my views on this. I don’t think we should do it. My concern is to do what we can to bring development to sustain this county and our citizens,” he said.

  

Robin Goodloe, lead fish and wildlife biologist on the conservation plan, said: “By protecting these fish, we are helping protect water quality and drinking water.”

  

Next week’s meeting, at the R.T. Jones Memorial Library in Canton, starts at 5 p.m. with a 1-hour poster session where attendees can learn more about the plan and ask questions.

  

Fish and wildlife will then give a presentation on the plan and provide an opportunity for attendees to make comments.

  

For more information on the Etowah HCP, go to www.etowahhcp.org.

Comments on the HCP may be mailed to the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Regional Office at 1875 Century Blvd., Atlanta, GA 30345, or e-mailed to david_dell@fws.gov.

 

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