Fort Mill Times

This Side Up: We need to preserve the heelsplitter

Everything in our lives is an opportunity for learning.

Since development in our area and its impact on the Carolina heelsplitter has become such a big issue, I decided it was time to do some research.

The heelsplitter is a mollusk, more specifically a tiny mussel, named because of its sharp edge that protrudes from the substrate and could cut the foot of someone walking in the river or stream. This species is found only in North and South Carolina.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found a few heelsplitter mussels in Six Mile Creek in Indian Land at several places – back when Six Mile Creek’s water quality was conductive to supporting the mussels.

This is why the Fish and Wildlife Service imposed regulations to protect the water quality in the creek. There are 50-foot, 100-foot and 200-foot buffer areas.

Nothing can be disturbed within the 50-foot buffer. Within the 100- and the 200-foot buffers, a mitigation fee is required for impervious surfaces placed within the buffers. Impervious surfaces include rooftops, driveways or any surface that does not allow water to pass through the soil.

These fees are often quite substantial. The mitigation fees go to preserve other sensitive areas.

The Carolina heelsplitter is at high risk of going extinct. Its overall population is low and the number of individual animal in each area where heelsplitters are clustered is low.

Also, the population clusters are distant from one another, so much so that they have little opportunity to mingle genes. This may mean that there is not enough genetic material for them to be able to adapt to natural and manmade challenges.

Clean and unpolluted water is very important to the heelsplitter. We all need to take better care of our waterways. We do not want these heelsplitters to become extinct.

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