State: Indiana

County: Harrison and/or Crawford

Water Bodies Affected: Blue River

The freshwater mussel augmentation project in the Blue River, Indiana is intended to evaluate the assumption that water quality is improving in the Blue River and demonstrate that mussel augmentation from laboratory reared animals is a viable method for mussel recovery in Indiana.

Since the beginning of the Nature Conservancy’s Blue River Project in 1994, there have been a number of watershed improvements designed to improve water quality and stream habitat. These improvements include planting 640 acres of forested riparian buffer, limiting livestock access along 11,365 feet of river frontage, installing a UV disinfection system at the Salem wastewater treatment facility, partnering with watershed groups, sewer districts, water utilities and health departments to educate homeowners about the importance of septic system maintenance, participating in sub-watershed planning efforts, managing 1,600 acres in the watershed for rare and natural communities, and assisting partners with the protection of over 500 acres. These watershed improvements were intended to enhance the Blue River’s aquatic community, including freshwater mussels. It is now time to test the assumption that water quality is improving by augmenting a threatened mussel population to learn if it can thrive.

A mussel bed will be selected for augmentation by repeating a study on the Blue River’s macroinvertebrate and fish community. The project outcome will be monitored by tagging juvenile mussels before release into Blue River and then following up on their survival by revisiting the release sites, which will be recorded with a GPS unit. A one month, six month and twelve month follow-up monitoring effort will occur at the release sites with annual monitoring thereafter for a minimum of three years.

Individual mussels will be grown in a laboratory setting for release into the Blue River and a subset of juvenile mussels will be reared within the Blue River to allow for a controlled measure of survival based upon water quality alone. The Blue River is dynamic and young mussels can be relocated in flood events so re-capture could be difficult if flooded river conditions exist near release dates. This project will address mussel species listed as State Endangered or Special Concern in Indiana’s State Wildlife Action Plan and of particular interest is the wavyrayed lampmussel Lampsilis fasciola.