News from the DNR Office of Communications

DNR Advises Anglers Of Poor Savage River Conditions

Fisheries Service closely monitoring the situation

Annapolis, MD (February 8, 2010) — The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Fisheries Service is closely monitoring the fish population at the Savage River Reservoir during the repair of the outlet gates, which currently present a serious public safety concern. The US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) reported draining of the Reservoir on January 31, to give contractors for the Upper Potomac River Commission (UPRC) access to the large gates, which are urgently in need of repair.

“The drawdown of the reservoir and disruptions to the system were unavoidable,” said Assistant Fisheries Director Don Cosden. “The DNR Fisheries Service is committed to restoring over time the reservoir fishery and the excellent tailwater trout fishery that anglers have enjoyed in the Savage River system over the years.”

As anticipated, the draining process has substantially impaired river conditions with the flow of accumulated sediment from the dam. During the drawdown process, fisheries personnel observed accumulations of organic and inorganic materials downstream.

Fish kill surveys in the Savage River Tailwater area have revealed a handful of dead shiners, sculpin, yellow perch and blue gills from the reservoir. While no dead trout have been observed at this time, it is expected that the high turbidity conditions will impact the trout population and the aquatic insects that are the base of the trout food chain.

DNR biologists will continue to assess these impacts as the weather and water conditions allow. Restoration plans in coordination with UPRC will follow and will likely include the use of high flows from the reservoir to clear sediment from important gravel and cobble bottoms, where tout spawn and invertebrate food sources hide. The agency may also restock brook trout and invertebrates from un-impacted areas upstream and plans to restock the reservoir as the appropriate fish become available from the state hatcheries.

The requirement to repair the gates came as a result of inspections in 2007, which uncovered the problems with the ageing gates. A $3.92 million grant under President Barack Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was awarded for the project.

The removal of the old gates and installation of new ones will occur throughout February and early March. Refilling of the reservoir is expected to start by mid-March after repairs are inspected and approved.

While the impacts to the fisheries are extremely unfortunate, the broken gates presented a serious public safety concern. The Maryland Department of the Environment’s Dam Safety Program ensures all dams in Maryland are designed, constructed, operated and maintained safely to prevent dam failures and the consequences of failure.

In June 2009 the Environmental Protection Agency awarded the Maryland Department of the Environment a $121.6 million to fund Maryland water quality and drinking water projects under President Barack Obama's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). ARRA funding will enable construction of water infrastructure projects that are estimated to create hundreds of jobs, and that will protect public health, improve the environment, and help clean up the Chesapeake Bay and Maryland waterways.

   February 8, 2010

Contact: Josh Davidsburg
410-260-8002 office I 410-507-7526 cell

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR), which celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2009, is the state agency responsible for providing natural and living resource-related services to citizens and visitors. DNR manages more than 467,000 acres of public lands and 17,000 miles of waterways, along with Maryland's forests, fisheries, and wildlife for maximum environmental, economic and quality of life benefits. A national leader in land conservation, DNR-managed parks and natural, historic, and cultural resources attract 12 million visitors annually. DNR is the lead agency in Maryland's effort to restore the Chesapeake Bay, the state's number one environmental priority. Learn more at