PICKENS COUNTY — The excessive rain over the past several months has begun to take its toll on Lake Hartwell wildlife.
Officials with the Army Corps of Engineers at Lake Hartwell said about 500 bass have been found dead in the lake after rising lake levels have caused their habitat to deteriorate.
“Throughout the summer, Hartwell reservoir has been in the flood stage,so we’ve had to release increased amounts of water into through the dam,” Army Corps of Engineers Spokesman Billy Birdwell said. “There was a time we even had to open our spillway gate to let some water out because it was rising so much.”
This led to problems for striped bass in the lake, according to Birdwell.
“The striped bass are very sensitive to their environment,” Birdwell said. “The water where they like to swim needs to be cool and filled with oxygen.”
Birdwell said as the summer heats up, the water at the surface becomes warmer, pushing the striped bass down further in search of cooler temperatures and more oxygen.
“There’s a narrow band that’s safe for them to live in the water, but that band also happens to be at the same level where we draw water out to release through the dam,” Birdwell said. “So, when we release the water, we’re pulling their habitat out through the dam at the same time they are trying to find some good water.”
“It gets smaller and smaller and eventually they run out of space,” he said.
Birdwell said water levels are not often this high at Hartwell Lake, but said it is not uncommon for levels to be this high at other reservoirs in the Southeast.
Birdwell said they believe the worst is over for bass in the lake.
“We know about 500 have died,” Birdwell said. “We think it’s just about over. There may still be some fish floating to the surface that died previously, but the major portion of this has already passed.”