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The Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources in partnership with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is undertaking a project to restore stream and wetland habitat in a stream known as “Hatchery Creek.” This project is being funded entirely by the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources through the Kentucky Wetland and Stream Mitigation Program. This program receives funds to offset stream and wetland habitat losses that have occurred from development activities in the same river basin pursuant to requirements of the federal Clean Water Act. No state general funds or Department fishing and hunting license dollars are being used for the project.
Lake Cumberland and the Cumberland River below Wolf Creek Dam attract thousands of visitors and anglers each year. The river provides world class trout fishing and attracts tourists, campers, and anglers of all ages. The Department and others have had an interest in restoring Hatchery Creek for a number of years. The Department began seriously investigating the feasibility of a project on Hatchery Creek when funds became available in 2009 and by 2010 had developed a conceptual plan. Since that time a tremendous amount of hard work from the Dept. and its design team, as well as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has taken place. The project will begin construction on August 8, 2014. The project is expected to take around six months to complete.
In describing the project it is best to start with the existing situation and why a habitat restoration project was needed. Water flowing from the hatchery has over time eroded a gully that funnels undesirable fine sediments into the Cumberland River. Fine sediments and siltation are among the leading sources of impairment to Kentucky waterways and pose a threat to downstream fisheries and aquatic wildlife. The plume of fine sediments entering the Cumberland River from the current mouth of Hatchery Creek and clouding the river downstream could be seen easily from aerial photographs. The gully that was created from this erosion also threatened safety of visitors and campers using the nearby campground. The project will change this undesirable situation and create in its place a stream that provides high quality stream and wetland habitat for fish and wildlife.
The project plan calls for the grouted channel now carrying the flow from the hatchery for approximately 380 feet to be reworked into a more natural stream setting. After construction, this new channel will remain open to the public.
Water leaving this section currently flows into the deeply incised and eroding gully. This gully will be partially filled in, diverting water into the newly created stream.
The new stream will flow down the valley more than a mile through created riffles, runs, glides and pools that have been carefully designed to offer attractive habitat for aquatic wildlife. It will at times split into multiple channels and flow through sections surrounded by wetlands. This is all intended to provide a variety of stream flow velocities, depths, substrate type, habitat diversity, and temperature gradients for fish and wildlife. Specific details were incorporated into the project design to create stream conditions favorable for trout spawning and nursery habitat to encourage natural reproduction of trout.
The final piece of the new stream slopes through a series of step pools for about 400 feet before emptying into the Cumberland River, allowing trout to move between the river and the newly created stream.
With Lake Cumberland back to normal lake levels, visitation is again increasing in the region. The restored Hatchery Creek will provide another destination point for visitors. Not only will this project improve water quality in Hatchery Creek and the Cumberland River, it will minimize a very serious and costly erosion problem affecting the Corps’ Kendall Campground and provide additional recreational opportunities for all visitors including those campers using the campground, tourists, wildlife enthusiasts, and trout anglers. New fishing regulations requiring catch-and-release only will apply to the restored Hatchery Creek.