Biologists give Darby good report card

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COLUMBUS – Biologists indicate the health of the Big Darby Creek is improving, based on freshwater mussels found during monitoring efforts last year.

Biologists with ODNR’s Division of Natural Areas & Preserves examined three Big Darby sites, including one downstream of Hellbranch Run in western Franklin County. Overall, the division documented more than 23 species of mussels.

“Because freshwater mussels spend most of their lives, up to 20 30 years, embedded in streams and impoundments, they are excellent indicators of water and habitat quality,” said ODNR Division of Natural Areas & Preserves Chief Stu Lewis.

Lewis said finding a variety of healthy mussels in Big Darby Creek, downstream of Hellbranch Run, indicates that the Hellbranch is providing a measure of protection to the Big Darby Scenic River.

ODNR’s Division of Wildlife also conducted a mussel survey last year, through its endangered species tax checkoff grant program. They recorded 27 mussel species living in the creek.

“Rooftops, roads, parking lots, driveways and sidewalks that replace natural forests, meadows and farmland lead to sediment being carried by runoff into the Big Darby watershed,” said Bob Gable, ODNR scenic rivers administrator.

“Such runoff into river tributaries, such as the Hellbranch Run, can cause negative changes to the stream’s habitat, water quality and biodiversity. Also, increased storm water runoff increases water levels, the speed of water flow, erosion, flooding and property damage.”

Eighty-two miles of the Big Darby Creek and its major tributary were designated as state scenic rivers in 1984 and as a national scenic river in 1994.

The Darby Creek watershed covers an area of 556 square miles and is home to more than 80 species of fish and more than 33 species of freshwater mollusks.

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