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RALEIGH, N.C. (Dec. 13) – Progress Energy on Dec. 5 awarded a $20,000 grant to the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission to help fund a collaborative research project with N.C. State University to identify the habitat requirements of spawning robust redhorse.

The robust redhorse, a very rare freshwater fish, was once common in the Yadkin-Pee Dee River. This large fish of the sucker family can exceed 20 pounds in weight and was thought to have become extinct until it was rediscovered in the 1980s in several southeastern U.S. rivers. It is now a priority species for the agency’s Wildlife Diversity Program as well as a good indicator of the health of the Pee Dee River and biologists hope that the project will aid the fish's recovery.

Using capture data and by tracking radio-tagged fish, biologists have learned that some adult robust redhorse make spawning migrations from as far away as Cheraw South Carolina upstream to the vicinity of Progress Energy’s Blewett Falls Dam in Anson/Richmond County. They have located three spawning areas in the rocky shoals and side channels in a 12-mile reach below the dam.

Under a new operating license, Progress Energy is expected to begin releasing water from Blewett Falls dam in 2009 even when they are not generating electricity. The project, which is primarily funded through the State Wildlife Grants Program, will focus on how the new water releases change the habitat and affect robust redhorse spawning below the dam.

A graduate student from the N.C. Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit at NCSU will be working for the next several years to chart changes in the amount and suitability of shallow water spawning habitat in the study area and to observe any changes in the habitat use by the redhorse as minimum flows increase from 2008 to 2009.

“The response of the robust redhorse to the new flow regime is critical information for managing the fish and its habitat,” said Ryan Heise, aquatic wildlife diversity coordinator with the Commission. “Learning more about the life history of the robust redhorse is consistent with the goals of the Robust Redhorse Conservation Committee, a cooperative, voluntary partnership between state and federal resource agencies, private industry, and the conservation community.”

“Progress Energy is pleased to support this research effort and this funding, along with our licensing minimum flow agreement, shows the company's environmental commitment to the natural resources of the Pee Dee River below our hydroelectric plant,” said Brenda Brickhouse, director of Progress Energy's Environmental Health and Safety Services Section.

Progress Energy, headquartered in Raleigh, N.C., is a Fortune 250 energy company with more than 21,000 megawatts of generation capacity and $10 billion in annual revenues. The company includes two major utilities that serve more than 3.1 million customers in the Carolinas and Florida. Progress Energy is the 2006 recipient of the Edison Electric Institute's Edison Award, the industry's highest honor, in recognition of its operational excellence. The company also is the first utility to receive the prestigious J.D. Power and Associates Founder's Award for customer service. Progress Energy serves two fast-growing areas of the country, and the company is pursuing a balanced approach to meeting the future energy needs of the region. That balance includes increased energy efficiency programs, investments in renewable energy technologies and a state-of-the-art electricity system. For more information about Progress Energy, visit the company’s Web site at Progress Energy.

For more information on the robust redhorse, visit the Commission’s Web site, Welcome to N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission
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