The species is believed to be found exclusively in Perry County, Mo. The fish can be found in five caves and one stream. They have small eyes, a pale color and other features adapted to cave living.
With this decision, the department will decide whether the area is considered to be a critical habitat. The cost of protecting the finned underground cave-dweller still is unclear, with a formerly reported range of $140,000 to $4 million over the next 18 years.
Cost will depend on the extent of the existing protection measures taken by the community, whether the species is considered endangered and whether the area is classified as a critical habitat.
The lead biologist on the species in Missouri, Shauna Marquardt, said the proposal was submitted last September and the department will publish its decision in the federal register one year from that time. The final ruling can be expected in mid- to late September.
The Fish and Wildlife Service took public comments until June 6 on the proposal, an economic analysis and the conservation plan submitted by community members. The economic analysis evaluates the potential economic impact of classifying the area as a critical habitat.
Marquardt said while regulators didn't receive an abundant amount of comments, all were addressed in the final rule. When it is published, the department will work with its other departments and residents of Perry County to develop a recovery plan.
Perry County economic development director Scott Sattler said he doesn't anticipate the area becoming classified as a critical habitat. According to Sattler, residents, businesses and the agricultural community have been very conscientious over the last several years when it comes to the environment, and efforts to protect the environment will continue.