Ecological health conditions in Bear Creek Reservoir rated “poor” in 2017. Bear Creek has rated “poor” most years. The higher ratings (“fair”) for some years were due primarily to improved chlorophyll concentrations.
The ecological health of Bear Creek Reservoir has been monitored using the same methodology since 1994. Ecological health evaluations focus on five indicators: dissolved oxygen, chlorophyll, sediment quality, benthic macroinvertebrate community (bottom life), and the fish assemblage. TVA monitors one location on Bear Creek Reservoir, the forebay (Bear Creek River Mile 75.0), near the dam.
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>72 = Good
59-72 = Fair
<59 = Poor
As in previous years, dissolved oxygen rated “poor” in 2017. The lower water column had low dissolved oxygen concentrations during the summer months.
Chlorophyll rated “fair”. Chlorophyll typically rates “poor” for Bear Creek Reservoir, but “good” and “fair” ratings have been common in recent years.
As in most years prior to 2017, the fish community rated “good”. Fish abundance and diversity have been very consistent over the years. In 2017, a total of thirty-two fish species was collected during two fish community surveys. The most prevalent fish were bluegill, green sunfish, spotted sucker, and gizzard shad. Catch rates of intolerant species (species known to require good water quality conditions) also were at healthy levels.
Bottom life in 2017 rated “poor”. Bottom life typically scores in the mid-to-low “fair” range or “poor”. A freshwater mussel was encountered during the 2017 survey; however, the low ratings are due to the relatively sparse benthic invertebrate populations, which are predominantly composed of organisms capable of tolerating the low dissolved oxygen conditions during the summer months.
Sediment quality rated “good” because no PCBs or pesticides were detected and concentrations of metals were within suggested background concentrations. Sediment quality typically rates “good” for Bear Creek Reservoir, but low levels of PCBs were detected in 2011, resulting in a “fair” rating for this indicator.
TVA maintains a program to examine contaminants in fillets of fish collected from TVA reservoirs and their major tributary streams on a rotational basis. The data collected from this program are distributed to the state officials who are responsible for placing or removing fish tissue consumption advisories on those bodies of water. For information on advisories currently in effect for Bear Creek Reservoir, visit the Alabama Department of Public Health.