By Dave Ongie
The Tennessee Valley Authority and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency joined forces with the Boone Lake Association and a local chapter of the Boy Scouts to pave the way for a healthy fish population.
As a result of the collaboration, concrete “reef balls” have been placed on the lakebed to provide a habitat for a wide variety of aquatic life in the future.
The partnership began a year ago when the BLA used grant money from the TVA to clean 1,600 old tires out of Boone Lake. The tires had served as fish attractors, but the rubber had degraded to the point that the tires had lost their usefulness.
“The tires had lost much of their function as a fish attractor due to filling with sediment or breaking apart,” said TVA Watershed Representative Randy Short. “Removing the tires makes the drawdown areas more visually pleasing to the public and replacing with reef balls will provide better fishing opportunities in a more environmentally sensitive way.”
In addition to providing a worthwhile service, the grant money from the TVA provided much-needed funding for the BLA’s cleaning crew.
“The Boone Lake Association appreciates the support from TVA in carrying out our mission of keeping Boone Lake clean,” BLA president Val Kosmider said in a statement. “This tire removal project accomplished that, and the installation of reef balls will benefit future generations of fishermen and women on the lake.”
Boy Scout Troop 387 of Kingsport also worked with Short to remove 200 tires from Boone Lake. The tires have been replaced by concrete reef balls, which are more environmentally friendly than rubber tires. Largemouth bass, bluegill and other sport fish will be able to utilize the reef balls for cover, and the concrete structures will also attract invertebrates, a good food source for smaller fish.
The TWRA has been placing reef balls in other reservoirs in our area, but John Hammonds said the task of putting 14 reef balls on the exposed lakebed of Boone Lake was much easier than installing them in reservoirs that are full.
“Placing these structures during the drawdown period is more efficient than when the reservoir is at full pool because we are able to use a tractor,” he said. “We have placed them in Norris, Patrick Henry, Cherokee, and Boone, and plan to eventually put them in all reservoirs in the region. TVA provided much of the needed funds to buy materials and equipment for the Reef Ball operation.”
The plan is to place another 20 reef balls in Boone Lake in order to compensate for the removal of tires. The Boone Lake Project is on track to wrap up in 2022.