Expired pipe from Columbia Gas, other utilities makes cozy home for fish
A natural gas home is the best home. And apparently, even fish are smart enough to know that.
A recent donation of expired natural gas pipe from natural gas utilities is being turned into cozy Kentucky fish habitats, part of a four-year project aimed at improving bass, trout, crappie and bluegill populations.
Cave Run, an 8,270-acre lake in Daniel Boone National Forest in northeastern Kentucky, is a popular destination for boating, camping, fishing, hiking, hunting and wildlife viewing.
The project included submerging trees, stumps, pallets and other wooden structures into the coves of the lake to create habitat for fish to find food, reproduce and hide from predators, said Tom Timmermann, a fishery biologist with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife, who is leading the effort. About 4,100 Christmas and cedar trees, 2,200 wooden pallets, 100 large cable spools, 800 large tree stumps and 50 concrete culverts and other materials were used since the project began in 2014.
The new habitat is giving the lake’s ecosystem an environmentally friendly boost. The structures attract small fish that gorge on the algae and aquatic insects that bore into the structures and in turn draw larger predatory fish that feed on the smaller fish.
"The lake was impounded back in the 1960s as a flood control reservoir, and over time, as the underwater brush began rotting away, so did all the benefits a fish habitat provides," Timmermann said.
Project leaders started adding structures made of expired natural gas pipe for the same reasons natural gas companies use the yellow pipe - it's more durable and flexible than wooden or metal structures that rot and rust. The pipe, ranging in diameter from a half inch to one foot, would otherwise go to landfills.
"This partnership, and the impact it's having, is great for our industry and the environment," said Herb Miller, president of Columbia Gas of Kentucky. "We hope that others - in Kentucky and across the country - use this as an example and put similar programs in place."
The pipe is bent into what Timmermann calls "Dr. Seuss trees" because it resembles trees seen in the 2012 movie "The Lorax." So far, about 63 gas pipe structures have been placed in the lake and there are plans to add more.
"There are companies that make and sell artificial attractors made of similar materials, but they can be expensive and not feasible at a time when state budgets are tight," he said. "Thanks to companies like Columbia Gas of Kentucky donating the pipe, we can create the same attractors at a fraction of the cost."