Curtis Tate Published

Freshwater Mussel Habitat To Get Federal Grant For Protection

Mussels bind to surfaces using byssus threads. Understanding how these threads work may help researchers address water contamination.

West Virginia will receive a grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for restoration of the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

The West Virginia Land Trust will receive $500,000 to help the endangered James spinymussel. It has been listed as endangered since 1988.

The grant will help protect its habitat on Potts Creek near the Virginia border.

Mike Slattery, landscape partnership coordinator with the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Northeast Region, said the spinymussel is a critical indicator of the health of the watershed.

“Native freshwater mussels, over the course of several decades, have been canaries in an aquatic coal mine,” he said.

The West Virginia project, which has nearly $300,000 in matching funds, will protect 40 acres of the mussels’ habitat. Though it is remote and far upstream from the bay, Slattery said the spinymussel helps maintain the balance of nutrients and sediments in the water that flows there.

West Virginia Land Trust is an underwriter of West Virginia Public Broadcasting.