The Slackwater Darter is a tiny freshwater fish found in shallow streams from the southern bend of the Tennessee Rivers in northern Alabama and southwestern Tennessee. The species has three localities in Swan Creek in Limestone County, Alabama.
Darters normally live in large streams, however, during breeding season, they move to shallow seepage water in open fields or woods to spawn. In order to make it to their breeding grounds, darters must wait for stream water to rise, as it does during heavy rains, so they can travel up shallow banks to the fields. The survival of this endangered species depends on them finding suitable habitats to spawn and live.
These rare fish face challenges to survival from human activity. The main threats to darters are pesticide runoff, urbanization and sediment runoff that obstruct streams and trap darters from traveling to their normal habitat. Sometimes development and construction projects can obstruct streams that once flowed freely, preventing fish from traveling to their normal habitats.
The Alabama’s Mountains, Rivers, and Valleys Resource Conservation and Development Council (AMRV RC&D) has partnered with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to find a solution to this problem. Thanks to the support of private landowners, the AMRV and U.S. Fish and Wildlife were able to investigate the habitat to determine threats to the Slackwater darter population found in small tributary streams to Swan Creek.
Surveyors noticed that existing culverts in the area were barriers to upstream migration for the darters. To solve this problem, old culverts were replaced with pre-cast box culverts that allow water to flow more freely and allow aquatic species to migrate more easily through the culvert.
As you can see, water now flows more freely through the culvert with less build up of sediment and debris, allowing these elusive fish and other aquatic species to travel freely through the stream.