Georgia Ecological Services Field Offices
Southeast Region
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Etowah Aquatic Habitat Conservation Plan

Local communities and citizens are working to plan future growth within northwest Georgia’s Etowah River watershed. With financial and technical assistance from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the University of Georgia, Kennesaw State University and the Georgia Conservancy are working with local interests to develop a regional Habitat Conservation Plan.

Working together are persons from the Nature Conservancy, the Lake Altoona Preservation Authority, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, the Upper Etowah River Alliance, seven county commissions and multiple city councils. In total, two dozen groups and government entities are working in partnership to develop a plan that protects the Etowah's water quality and helps conserve imperiled aquatic species. Together they could develop a region-wide habitat conservation plan that would be unique for the southeastern United States.


Etowah HCP. Credit: USFWS

A relatively small watershed, the Etowah supports a diversity of life comparable to much larger river systems. Extending through ten counties, the Etowah’s amazing variety of aquatic species includes an estimate at one time of 91 native fish species.

Unfortunately, there are concerns for the Etowah River's future health. Several native aquatic species are no longer found there. Two fish species, the amber darter and Etowah darter, are listed as federally endangered. A third, the Cherokee darter, is a federally threatened fish species. Most native mussels have been extirpated.

The quality of life for humans, along with all wildlife, faces growing threats as urbanization continues to spread. In response, communities along the Etowah and its tributaries are working to foster sustainable development of homes, roads and commercial development, while making wise use of available land and water resources.

The goal is not to stop growth, but to ensure the least possible impact on water quality and aquatic habitat. To do so, scientists, policy analysts, and educators are working with community leaders to develop a recommended set of plans, ordinances and policies.

The final plan will be tailored to meet the needs of different county and city governments within the Etowah basin. Once implemented, the permitting process should become more efficient for construction projects, imperiled species will be provided better conservation and taxpayers may save money over the long term.

Public Comment Period

The Etowah Aquatic Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) and the Environmental Assessment (EA) was advertised in the Federal Register and available for public comment from June 30- August 31. During this time, the Service held two public meeting (08/04/2009 in Cartersville and 08/11/2009 in Canton) to discuss the plan and answer questions from the public. During the public comment period, the Service received more than 500 comments on the HCP and Environmental Assessment. We have summarized comments received in the following spreadsheet. If you would like to view specific comments, click on the link below.

Summary of Comments

Link to Specifc Comments

For further information:

Etowah Regional Habitat Conservation Plan website

Etowah Regional HCP fact sheet.

For a list of current and future partners working on the Etowah Habitat Conservation Plan, please go to Etowah Partners.


Related Links:

The Etowah Initiative: Institute of Ecology Office of Public Service & Outreach, The University of Georgia

Etowah Watershed: 1974 Landcover

Last updated: March 30, 2015