Working hard to prevent an invasion

Tellico Village Fishing Club President David Berger, left, and Chris Dix fish on Fort Loudoun Lake.

Tellico Village homeowners in partnership with local fishery and government officials are continuing to push solutions that will protect Loudon County waters from a potential Asian carp invasion.

Rollen “Buddy” Bradshaw, Loudon County mayor, has teamed with U.S. Rep. Tim Burchett, R-Tenn., to draw up ideas of defense against the destructive species.

“We usually get an update and we talk about it a lot with our representatives at the state level — myself and Congressman (Tim) Burchett,” Bradshaw said. “We’re trying to look at some federal help. We’d love to see (Tennessee Valley Authority) step up and look at these electric gates. I’m also keeping with up them, and I also saw some new technology coming up that may be a little bit less intrusive than shutting the lock down and still will be effective in deterring the spread of these carp.”

Asian carp were first introduced to the United States more than 40 years ago and have evolved into a destructive species in the Southeast. Asian carp can live 20 or more years and can grow to over 4 feet in length and weigh 75 pounds.

The Tellico Village Fishing Club has partnered with Watts Bar Ecology and Fishery Chairman Timothy Joseph to discuss viable steps of prevention.

“He has been working with the TVA and a number of other organizations to try and get appropriate barriers installed to prevent upstream migration of the carp, both the silver, which are the jumpers, and big head carp,” Joe McCaul, club member, said. “The silver are the ones who are a danger to anyone on a boat. The shocker was that we had previously heard there were no Asian carp in East Tennessee, however, apparently on Jan. 10, TWRA had announced one had been caught on Chickamauga.”

Asian carp have been known to harm boaters and anglers by jumping out of the water while moving. They also negatively impact the water ecosystem.

“I’ve talked to some guys over on Kentucky Lake, and they say it’s really hurt the bass fishing,” David Berger, Tellico Village Fishing Club president, said. “But I hear Bill Baxter with TVA and he said they’ve had some of the best crappie spawns here last year than they have in a long time. It’s not hurting it as much like it is the bass fishing.”

Berger said an invasion could also impact property values.

“If they reach Watts Bar, Melton Hill, Fort Loudoun and it’s as bad as Kentucky, I think our property values go down, not just only on the water but also everyone across the street,” Berger said. “I’ve heard people say, ‘Well, it’s only an issue for people on the water.’ No, if our value on the water goes down, yours is going down with us, so please pay attention to this issue.”

Officials are continuing to push for the installation of electric or acoustic barriers, but McCaul believes time is running out.

He strongly suggests TVA should at least close down the locks until barriers can be implemented.

“The problem with any type of deterrence is it takes a long time to get it done, and the time issues revolve around environmental assessments, which take anywhere from 12 to 18 months or longer,” he said. “The other is once you’ve got that done, you actually have to do something and get it implemented, and who knows how long that can take. ... If the fish are in Chickamauga, time’s up, you have no time. If they’re in Chickamauga last year, they could very well be in Watts Bar this year.”

McCaul created the Facebook group page Stop Silver Carp in TN to help spread awareness.

Berger is encouraging more people in the county to step up and help take action as soon as possible.

“The COVID-19 has got everybody’s attention more than the Asian carp, and I feel like it’s just sort of gone silent — it’s not gone away,” Berger said. “Let’s also get a note out on sending the letters, even if you’re sending a repeat letter. Send them because we need to get everybody’s attention on this and keep focused on it.”