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May 25, 2021

Roanoke Logperch: How MVP will Affect It

by Brooke Cormons, Mountaintop Montessori School, Charlottesville

The Roanoke Logperch is an endangered fish that occurs in only five river systems throughout Virginia and North Carolina. It is very sensitive to pollution and sediment in the clear streams where it lives, which means that unnecessary projects like the Mountain Valley Pipeline cause major harm to the fish.

This little fish can grow up to about 6 inches in length, with a dark green back, with greenish to yellowish sides with dark, vertical markings. It has a whitish-yellowish underside and a snout-like nose. The fish typically lives about five to six years. 

They feed the most during warmer months of the year on bottom dwelling insects in the rivers that they inhabit. They hunt by flipping over stones with their snouts and eating the exposed prey that had been hiding under the rock.

The Roanoke Logperch does best in medium to large, warm, unpolluted streams. Although where they hang out in the river varies slightly depending on the river, most adults are found in pools, runs and riffles in the main part of the stream, preferring silt-free river bottoms. Young Roanoke Logperch typically live in slow runs in pools with clear sandy bottoms. 

They live in small, isolated populations far apart from each other throughout the upper Roanoke, Pig, Smith, Nottoway, and Meherrin rivers in Virginia and North Carolina. There is no genetic crossover between populations because they are so isolated from each other. The lack of genetic crossover between these populations makes them more vulnerable. 

Since they live in small, isolated populations, and because of their vulnerability to sedimentation and pollution, small populations of the Roanoke Logperch could be wiped to extinction, and because of their small numbers and little range, small populations being wiped out would be a major blow to the species. The sediments clog up their gills, rendering them unable to breathe, resulting in the death of the fish. 

So, how did they end up with isolated ranges and small populations? It appears that dams have limited their range and forced them into smaller populations, also the Dan River Spill has had a negative effect on their population, where approximately 39 tons of coal ash spilled into the Dan River and contaminated roughly 70 miles of the river. And while the current population appears to be increasing, unnecessary construction projects such as the Mountain Valley Pipeline would bring the Roanoke Logperch closer to extinction. 

MVP construction stirs up sedimentation, which flows into streams from storms and then gets into the gills of the fish, chokes them and eventually kills them. It is not just the construction that would be harmful, warned a researcher from the U.S. Geological Survey, Virginia Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit. Sediment-loading, he said, would also happen during MVP operations and maintenance. Construction, maintenance, and operation of the MVP would bring the Roanoke Logperch closer to extinction.

It is essential to protect the Roanoke Logperch by stopping the Mountain Valley Pipeline. Because of its current conservation status, and their vulnerability to sedimentation and pollution, the Mountain Valley Pipeline will cause major harm to the Roanoke Logperch. It is our job to protect it from the Mountain Valley Pipeline and ensure that it is no longer subjected to the danger of extinction.

To read more about the Roanoke Logperch, click here and here

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