US Army Corps of Engineers
Fort Worth District Website

Army Corps of Engineers and Texas Parks and Wildlife Team Up to Conserve Aquatic Resources

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Fort Worth District
Published March 2, 2021

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Fort Worth District performed maintenance on the Bardwell Lake emergency spillway. This dewater is done every 10 years to be able to inspect the basin, spillway chute, and baffle blocks for cracks or damage and clean out the basin below the spillway. Due to the nature of maintenance being done on the lake’s emergency spillway, aquatic wildlife would be stranded and in danger. USACE and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department took measures to locate, identify and safely move these species of freshwater mussels and fish to another part of the lake. Video by Trevor Welsh.

ENNIS, Texas – In an effort to preserve the natural resources at U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Fort Worth District’s Bardwell Lake, USACE partnered with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to relocate aquatic wildlife as part of the lake’s emergency spillway dewater and maintenance.

Due to the nature of maintenance being done on the lake’s emergency spillway, aquatic wildlife would be stranded and in danger. USACE and TPWD took measures to locate, identify and safely move these species of freshwater mussels and fish to another part of the lake.

“Flood risk management is our primary mission, but the environmental stewardship mission is just as important in regard to the dewater,” said Marty Underwood, USACE Fort Worth, Trinity Region Environmental Stewardship Business Line Manager. “We are obliged to relocate the treasured aquatic resources in the state of Texas when we dewater these stilling basins. The FRM team is in charge of removing all the water and cleaning up the still basin. When they do that, freshwater mussels and fish are stranded, so our job is to relocate the freshwater mussels and the fish back to the lake.”

TPWD steps in as the state’s stewards of aquatic resources to ensure this process is done properly.

“My role is to help with the permitting process, and I am here on site today to help with the freshwater mussel relocation,” said Bregan Brown, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Kills and Spills Coordinator for Region 2 out of Tyler, Texas. “It’s my job to help protect aquatic resources in the state. That job is twofold; I am responsible for helping people obtain the permitting they need to relocate aquatic resources that are in danger from the work they are doing, and the other half of my job is to record incidents where we do have injuries and damages to fish and wildlife.”

As the FRM team uses industrial pumps to remove the water from the stilling basin, the shoreline recedes, and the freshwater mussels and fish are exposed. As they are exposed, the Environmental Stewardship team locates and collects the wildlife.

“There were five species of mussels: giant floater, paper pondshell, yellow sandshell, lilliput, and southern mapleleaf,” Marty said. “There were 13 species of fish removed; some were quite large; most of them were game fish. I have done eight of these dewaters in the past seven years and this one had the worst conditions for us to get in there. It was mostly mud; there wasn’t much water.”

This wildlife plays an important part of the lake’s ecosystem.

“For one, freshwater mussels are really good indicators of stream and lake health,” Marty said. “If they are in good condition, the water is usually in good condition as well.”

Even though the emergency spillway at Bardwell has only been activated once in the dam’s 57-year life, this 10-year periodic maintenance is required and necessary.

“We are removing the layer of basin water that is down below the concrete structure of the emergency spillway,” said Jeremy Spencer, Bardwell Lake Manager. “We’re doing that in order to inspect the basin walls, spillway chute, and baffle blocks for cracks or damage, and clean out the basin below the spillway.”

A total of 25 people took seven days to complete this dewater event and wildlife relocation. The inspection revealed that the spillway structure was fully intact and free of any damage.

“I would like to thank Texas Parks and Wildlife,” said Marty. “Over the years we have built a really good relationship with them, they trust us, and we work cooperatively to get the job done.”

To learn more about Bardwell Lake, visit: https://www.swf-wc.usace.army.mil/bardwell/

To learn more about the TPWD Kills and Spills Team, visit: https://tpwd.texas.gov/landwater/water/environconcerns/kills_and_spills/

USACE Fort Worth District was established in 1950. The District is responsible for water resources development in two-thirds of Texas, and design and construction at military installations in Texas and parts of Louisiana and New Mexico. Visit the Fort Worth District Web site at: www.swf.usace.army.mil and social media at: https://about.me/usacefortworth