Etheostoma vulneratum, Wounded Darter
On January 25, 2005, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued an Order Approving Settlement and Issuing a New License for the Tapoco Hydroelectric Project (FERC No. 2169). The Tapoco Project Relicensing Settlement Agreement (RSA), filed with FERC in May 2004, established two funds, the Tallassee Fund and the North Carolina Resource Management and Enhancement Fund (now Cheoah Fund) to support restoration, recovery, and conservation efforts in Tennessee and North Carolina, respectively. In accordance with the RSA, for the next 40 years seasonal and base flow regimens are being regulated in the Cheoah River, along with gravel augmentations and efforts to restore indigenous fish and other fauna that were extirpated when the river was bypassed by a hydroelectric diversion flume. CFI was contracted to develop captive propagation techniques for several species which are too difficult to translocate in significant numbers. These include the stonecat (Noturus flavus), the sicklefin redhorse (Moxostoma sp.), and the wounded darter (Etheostoma vulneratum).
Wounded darter propagation protocols, as expected, were found to be essentially identical to those we have developed and refined since 1995 for a close relative, the boulder darter. A total of 494 wounded darter juveniles survived for release to the Cheoah River in fall 2008 and spring 2009; and ultimately, 388 juveniles survived for a fall 2009 release to the Cheoah River. 2010 and 2011 propagation efforts produced 284 and 308 juvenile wounded darters respectively for release. We will continue with snorkel monitoring to determine survivorship and status of the reintroduced population, with an emphasis later in the year to detect evidence of wild reproduction.