1. Q: What is being done about Asian Silver carp in the Tennessee River? (USFWS, TWRA and States)
A: A: State, regional and Federal agencies and partners are working together to implement commercial harvesting and improved capture methods; test new technologies; conduct extensive surveys, studies, environmental assessment, and monitoring to determine Silver carp populations and migration; compare and evaluate available barrier technologies for potential placement at sites in the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers; advocate funding and resources; and lead outreach and education to raise awareness and promote actions to help prevent the spread of Silver carp.
The joint effort resulted in the harvest of over six million pounds of Asian carp at KentuckyLake in 2019 and testing of an experimental barrier at Barkley Lock. Tennessee River locks and dams also are being scheduled as potential harvest test sites. TVA is conducting a Programmatic Environmental Assessment (PEA) to analyze the impacts of installing barriers. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is leading the national effort, working with the U.S. Geological Survey, the states, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, TVA and others.
2. Q: Who all is involved in this effort? (MICRA)
- Lead Agency: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS)
- Mississippi Interstate Cooperative Resource Association (MICRA) – Partnership of 28 state agencies with fisheries management jurisdiction in the Mississippi River Basin
- The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) – Research Science Partner
- Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks – States’ fisheries management
- Tennessee Valley Authority – Operates the dams, research partner
- The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) – Operates the locks
- Tennessee Wildlife Federation – Education, Lobbying for funding
- Tennessee Aquarium – Education, Outreach
3. Q: How bad is this problem in the Tennessee River? (TWRA, TVA, State reps answer specific questions for their state)
A: We understand the concerns being voiced and recognize the potential threat posed by Silver carp. However, neither TVA nor TWRA have found them after conducting numerous fish surveys in the upper Tennessee River (above Chattanooga). The leading edge of the silver carp population in the Tennessee River is at Pickwick reservoir. U.S. Geological Survey’s Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database tracks where silver carp and other invasive carp are found in North America. There have been rare or infrequent reports of sightings in other reservoirs, but they are usually undocumented and provide no evidence of a reproductively viable population.
4. Q: What does “leading edge” mean? (TVA, USGS)
A: The leading edge for Silver carp distribution has traditionally referred to those pools or areas where the carp are present in fairly stable densities, not hard to locate when desired. “Above the leading edge” typically refers to pools or waters where Silver carp are known to be present (documented and validated) but in very low numbers or rare in terms of sightings or agency annual collection efforts.
5. Q: How fast can these fish migrate and spread? (USFWS, USGS)
A: Because they are strong swimmers, can jump over some low head dams during flood events, and lay hundreds of thousands of eggs at a time, Silver carp populations have potential to spread quickly. Factors influencing rate of migration include high water, flooding, water velocity, and human activities. High water can create an “open river” condition as dams open their gates, which may allow invasive carp to move past what is otherwise a barrier. Flooding can connect water bodies that aren’t normally connected and allow the fish to spread. While adult carp prefer slow moving water, they look for high, fast moving water when laying eggs (spawning). The release of live bait containing young carp has introduced these fish to other water bodies. Barge and boats moving through locks may also permit invasive carp to move through as well.
6. Q: Why don’t we just close the locks? (USACE, TVA)
A: TVA does not have the operational authority to cease operation of TVA locks unless a dam safety issue is identified that threatens the safety of the structure or the public. The operational responsibility of TVA locks resides with the US Army Corps of Engineers, who have authority to close the locks only in the event of imminent safety concerns. Closure of locks or installing barriers on the Tennessee River requires significant environmental review of all impacts, including the ecosystem, lake property owners, commercial shippers, recreational lake users, consumers, and more. That review is currently being conducted.
7. Q: How long will it take to put up barriers? (USGS, USFWS, TVA)
A: Timing of installation will depend on what technology is chosen and how quickly contracts can be awarded to do installation work. Also, installing barriers and deterrent systems on the Tennessee River requires significant environmental review of all impacts, including the ecosystem, lake property owners, commercial shippers, recreational lake users, consumers and more. A Programmatic Environmental Assessment (PEA) is currently being conducted and should be final by June 2021.
8. Q: What is the purpose of the PEA? (TVA)
A: The PEA will assess where the barriers should be installed from all the available information collected for the PEA. The purpose of this PEA is to evaluate potential fish barrier options at 10 lock and dam sites in the Tennessee Valley and to consider potential environmental and economic impacts from the installation of Asian carp deterrent systems. Any recommendations for installing fish barrier technologies should fully consider broad-scale management considerations of other fish and mussel resources, and consider wildlife authorities management of the waters in the Tennessee River. Results from research from Asian carp fish barriers at locations on the Cumberland and Mississippi Rivers should be evaluated and used to determine which type of barrier is recommended per lock and dam location identified. Decisions to implement fish barriers should be made with caution after fully evaluating the potential environmental impacts to resources including, but not limited to potential impacts to recreation, water quality, aquatic and terrestrial ecology, threatened and endangered species, transportation, land use, botany, wetlands, visual resources, solid and hazardous waste, historic and archaeological resources, and health and safety along the Tennessee River and its tributaries. State, Federal and other stakeholders along with the public will have an opportunity to comment on the PEA.
9. Q: Will these experimental methods work? (USACE, Kentucky, USGS)
A: Strategies to harvest Silver carp, such as the Modified Unified Method, commercial fishing, and experimental barriers, such as the Bio-Acoustic Fish Fence (BAFF) which is being tested at Barkley Dam, have shown promise, including the harvest of over six million pounds of Silver carp at Kentucky Lake in 2019.
10. Q: Have silver carp already destroyed fishing in Kentucky and Barkley lakes? (Kentucky)
A: Surveys have shown native fish species such as bass, crappie, bluegill and others are healthy, strong and abundant in Kentucky, Barkley and other Cumberland and Tennessee River reservoirs. No adverse impacts or degradation of these species from Silver carp have been identified in scientific observations. However, the presence of carp may affect recreational users, such as boaters and anglers.
11. Q: If I see a silver carp in a lake nearby, what should I do? (TWRA, USFWS)
A: TWRA says: If you catch a small Asian carp (nine inches or less) anywhere in Tennessee other than the Mississippi River, or If you catch any Asian carp in East Tennessee or other water where Asian carp are not known to be established, TWRA asks that you put it on ice or freeze it and contact them immediately. If you are unable to keep the fish, the TWRA asks you to submit photos of the fish in hand and send it to them. For more information, please visit TWRA’s website at https://www.tn.gov/twra/wildlife/fish/asian-carp.html or USFWS’s website at https://www.fws.gov/southeast/faq/asian-carp-in-southeastern-waters/.”
12. Q: When is the decision going to be made about barrier locations? (TVA)
A: The Final PEA is scheduled to be completed June 2021.
13. Q: What agency will be funding the forthcoming barriers? (USFWS, TWF, USGS)
A: Appropriations would come from the Congress of the United States, and could also come from other sources including states.
14. Q: Who will be in charge of the construction of the barriers? (TVA)
A: TVA would be responsible for hiring a consulting contractor to install barriers.
15. Q: Has a method been developed for keeping the carp out of the locks until the barriers can be installed as the PEA will take roughly 12 months to complete? (Kentucky, TWRA, Mississippi and Alabama)
A: No, any proposed method would not be 100% effective, even barriers. TWRA’s eDNA proposed sampling will provide valuable data for presence or absence of Asian Carp. If Asian Carp are present, the resource agencies may use boats with electricity and/or noise to herd the fish away from the downstream lock entrance before the lock doors were opened for commercial vessels. This would be an enormous undertaking to protect all of the locks in this manner. The State of Kentucky and Murray State University will be working with a contractor and the USGS in 2020-2021 to test consistent removal efforts below Kentucky Lock and Dam as a method for deterring upstream movement of Asian carp.
16. Q: How much funding is already allocated to fight this? (USFSWS, TWF, MICRA)
Congress allocated $25 million to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for efforts to stop Asian carp across the country in FY2020. These funds are being used for work on reducing their numbers in Tennessee and Kentucky to keeping them out of the Great Lakes. That includes $2.5 million for contract fishing to remove invasive Asian carp from waters they already inhabit in Tennessee and Kentucky and $10.6 million for the U.S. Geological Survey to research ways to control and eradicate them.
17. Q: Who requested it? (USFWS, TWF, MICRA, States)
A: US Fish & Wildlife Service, with the states and other partners heavily involved.
18. Q: Who decides where and how it’s spent? (MICRA, USFWS, TWF)
A: MICRA in conjunction with USFWS.
19. Q: What type of deterrents will be put in place? (MICRA, USGS)
A: Electrical and acoustic barriers, harvesting methods, and other experimental technologies and deterrents are being studied to determine what the most effective deterrents and methods will be.
20. Q. How long will that take? Won’t the carp already be here by the time anything is in place? (MICRA, USGS, States)
A: The timing is still uncertain for completion of these silver carp deterrent barriers, systems and technologies. However, we are doing extensive surveys, monitoring and studies. Neither TVA nor TWRA have found them after conducting numerous fish surveys in the upper Tennessee River, and survey data show they are scarce above Pickwick.
Seven Silver Carp Key Messages
- State, Regional and Federal agencies and partners are teaming up in a joint-effort to control the spread of Silver carp in the Tennessee River
- We understand the concerns being voiced and recognize the potential threat posed by Silver carp. However, numerous aquatic surveys have shown that they are scarce in the Tennessee River system above Pickwick reservoir.
- Silver carp are present in Kentucky reservoir and the leading edge of schools is at Pickwick reservoir, but native fish species such as bass, crappie, bluegill and others are healthy, strong and abundant in these and other Tennessee River reservoirs. No adverse impacts or degradation of these species from Silver carp have been identified in scientific observations by TVA, state surveys, USGS and others.
- Recent joint efforts with the agencies have shown promise, including commercial fishing at Kentucky Lake, which led to harvest of nearly 6 million pounds of Asian carp in 2019, and testing of barriers at Barkley Lake.
- U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is testing several technologies while also working with other collaborators to compare and evaluate available barrier technologies for potential placement at candidate sites in the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers.
- TVA and the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers do not have authority to close the locks at its dams. Doing so would take months of environmental studies and congressional action. According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, this would cost industrial, municipal and commercial facilities an average of $9.3 million annually by cutting off movement of commodities by water at Watts Bar Lock alone.
- TVA and TWRA are conducting widespread Silver Carp surveys on the Tennessee River – from Nickajack to Fort Loudoun – and expect to complete this work by the end of September.