Clams removed in advance of Clintonville construction project

Clams found in the Pigeon River in Clintonville

CLINTONVILLE - It was moving day for hundreds of clams in Clintonville.

The freshwater mussels need to be relocated to make way for a construction project on a downtown bridge.

It's a project that balances transportation and conservation.

They have names like mucket, pigtoe, and heelsplitter. And in the murky waters of the Pigeon River in Clintonville, DNR crews tried to grab them all.

"You go down to the bottom, and you look for them and you physically actually grub for mussels, and then bag them up and then bring them up to a place where they can be moved out of harm's way," said Lisie Kitchel, DNR Conservation Biologist.

The DNR discovered 94 clams in a survey two years ago. There were ten different species in all.

"We had no threatened or endangered species that were found at the time the last survey was done. There were some special concern species. The round pigtoe was one of them," said Kitchel.

Wednesday's effort is in advance of a construction project above the river. The Department of Transportation plans to replace the Highway 22 bridge and roadway. The $4.5 million project is scheduled to begin next year.

"When we do a transportation review, we're looking for endangered resources, we're looking for fish reproduction, and making sure the projects are timed according to that. So it's just another part of the review process," said Bobbi Jo Fischer, DNR Environmental Analysis and Review Specialist.

The DNR says the clams would normally be released upstream, but there is a dam, a couple hundred yards away. They say the rushing water would force the mussels right back downstream.

"In this case, we'll likely move them downstream to an area far enough downstream, that way if something does happen, they wouldn't be impacted by that," said Kitchel.

Kitchel says the clams play an important role in the underwater ecology.

"They'll filter anywhere up to a gallon of water per hour," said Kitchel.

Keeping the river clean below the surface.

Crews moved 679 clams Wednesday. 14 species were identified, including one on the state's list of "special concern."