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Endangered Etowah darter. Photo by USFWS.

Fish and Wildlife Service seeks comment on protecting darters in the Etowah River basin

More than a dozen cities and counties surrounding Lake Allatoona in northwest Georgia, working with federal and state partners, have created a development plan to protect threatened and endangered darter fish in the Etowah River and its tributaries.

The Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP), in the works since 2002, will streamline the planning process and provide consistent measures that will be incorporated into new building and redevelopment projects across the basin. The HCP allows builders and developers to comply with the Endangered Species Act of 1973 by working with local governments in lieu of case-by-case consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS).

FWS is accepting public comments through August 31, on the HCP, which encompasses 932,000 acres from the Etowah’s headwaters in the Chattahoochee National Forest to metro Atlanta’s northwestern edge.

At the same time, FWS plans to conduct the first five-year status review of the three fish species, known as the amber, Cherokee and Etowah darters. FWS placed the amber darter on the endangered species list in 1985, and in 1994 listed the Cherokee darter as threatened and the Etowah darter as endangered. More recent and extensive research on the small fish has been performed by the University of Georgia, Kennesaw State University, Reinhardt College and the U.S. Geological Survey.

FWS is seeking additional information on the status of the three darter species through September 4. The three species are among 23 threatened and endangered fish, amphibian, reptile, mussel, snail and plant species the FWS is reviewing in the Southeast.

The greatest threat to the survival of the darters in the Etowah basin is non-point source pollution. When it rains, dirt, fertilizer, oil and other pollutants wash into rivers and streams. The runoff also degrades water quality for people, plants and other animals.

Under the Etowah HCP, the main change would be a stormwater management ordinance. Builders will need to meet a “runoff limit” based on their location in the river basin. The highest priority area, primarily in the upper reaches of the Etowah, will require builders to prevent no more runoff from their developments during small storms than a forested area would produce.

Robin Goodloe, the FWS’ lead biologist on the conservation plan, said “By protecting these fish, we are helping protect water quality and drinking water, recreation in Lake Allatoona and the quality of life of the people who live up there.”

Thirteen local governments submitted the conservation plan to the FWS and are in the process of adopting accompanying ordinances. They are Bartow, Cherokee, Paulding and Pickens counties, and the cities of Acworth, Ball Ground, Canton, Dawsonville, Dallas, Holly Springs, Roswell, Waleska and Woodstock. Local governments may opt out of the HCP. In those cases, individual builders and developers should consult with FWS prior to construction.

For more information on the Etowah HCP, go to

Submit your Comments

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

Written comments and information for the amber darter, Etowah darter and Cherokee darter five-year review may mailed to Robin Goodloe, Athens Field Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, West Park Center Suite D, 105 West Park Drive, Athens, GA 30606, e-mailed to, or faxed to her attention at 706-613-6059.


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The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information on our work and the people who can make it happen, visit Connect with the Service on Facebook, follow our tweets, watch the YouTube Channel and download photos from Flickr.

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