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Perryville submits plan to protect fish

Sunday, April 21, 2013

(Photo)
The grotto sculpin is a cave dwelling fish believed to be found only in Perry County, Mo. It is under consideration to be added to the endangered species list.
PERRYVILLE, Mo. -- After six months of study and community meetings involving hundreds of residents, Perryville and Perry County officials last week delivered a Community Conservation Plan to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to demonstrate the area's commitment to protecting the habitat of the tiny Grotto sculpin, in the hope of avoiding heavy environmental regulation.

The Grotto sculpin is a 2 1/2-inch fish believed to live only in caves under Perryville. In a settlement agreement reached in September with the environmental group Wild Earth Guardians, the Fish and Wildlife Service evaluated 400 species, including the Grotto sculpin, for possible addition to the endangered list, which community leaders fear could increase environmental mandates and potentially hurt economic development and growth. Creating the plan cost an estimated $350,000, according to Celeste Vanderbrugen, Southeast Region community development specialist for the University of Missouri Extension, who assisted Perryville in the process.

Perry County Economic Development Authority Director Scott Sattler said the plan includes the actions the community has taken during the past 20 to 30 years to protect the environment, and what current and future protection measures will be. The Fish and Wildlife Service "will monitor the community to see if we do what we say we will do," Sattler said.

The city already manages 400 sinkholes -- many of which had been used in the past as trash dumps -- to prevent contamination and sediment from hurting the underground ecosystem.

Fish and Wildlife Service biologists documented two mass die-offs in the cave systems in the past decade because of pollution from a single source entering groundwater.

Perryville Mayor Debbie Gahan said the city "faced a compressed timeline for submittal due in part to sequestration and its burdens placed on several agencies. We had a very good working relationship with [the Fish and Wildlife Service] throughout the process, but that required faith on both sides. We initially felt that we would have no or very little say. I think they initially felt that we had no experience in stewardship, keeping and maintaining a healthy environment. As we began and worked through the process we developed a great deal of respect for them and they for us."

Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Shauna Marquardt said the service has been "really impressed" with the efforts that went into the plan.

"It's been a pleasure to work with the community so far," Marquardt said. "I think we are all going to benefit based on this partnership that's been developing."

Marquardt said by the end of April, the community plan, a draft of an economic impact analysis and the original federal proposal, will be made available for public review and comment. Industrial Economics, Inc. of Cambridge, Mass., is creating the economic analysis, though a contract with the Fish and Wildlife Service.

About 89 percent of the proposed protected Grotto sculpin habitat area property is privately owned, which includes land containing the Perryville Industrial Park. The other 11 percent is owned by local government.

A decision on whether the Grotto sculpin will be placed on the endangered list will be made in September, Marquardt said.

salderman@semissiourian.com

388-3646

Pertinent address:

Perryville, MO


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