Originally created 08/25/02

Funds needed to complete lake



Georgia's Department of Natural Resources is preparing its annual plea to the General Assembly to complete a project it started almost a decade ago.

This time, according to Sen. Don Cheeks, D-Augusta, chances are good that the Legislature will ante up $2.1 million needed to complete the 110-acre Yuchi Public Fishing Area in Burke County.

"We've turned the request in again, and we've been promised," Cheeks said. "The good thing about this project is, we've gotten the preliminary work done, and that means it will get finished at some point."

The lake will be within Yuchi Wildlife Management Area along the Savannah River below Plant Vogtle, where 7,800 acres of hardwoods, pines and swamp are available for public hunting.

More than eight years have elapsed since surveyors marked boundaries for the planned lake - and forests are regenerating where timber was cut long ago.

"The main holdup is the funding, but we're very optimistic we'll eventually be able to construct the lake," said Bubba Mauldin, DNR's Region III Fisheries Supervisor.

Once built, the fishing area will include piers, boat ramps, fertilizer and equipment storage buildings, hiking trails, parking lots and an office with two full-time employees.

And there would be plenty of fishing for pond species such as largemouth bass, bream and catfish. Mauldin believes the lake would attract many visitors to Burke County and offer the public an alternative to larger reservoirs such as Thurmond Lake.

The Yuchi lake would have a maximum depth of 27 feet and an average depth of 10 feet. According to DNR's funding proposal, it would generate 15,000 fishing trips per year once open, including many visitors from Augusta.

CELEBRITIES WITH GUNS: Don't be surprised if you run into pro quarterbacks, actors or race car drivers around Augusta the weekend of Sept. 6-7. They'll be in town for Quail Unlimited's annual Celebrity Dove Shoot.

"Dove hunting marks the beginning of most hunting seasons and the guests are coming to Augusta to enjoy the opening weekend," said Rocky Evans, executive vice president of the conservation group based in Edgefield, S.C.

The guest list includes Washington Redskins lineman Dave Butz, comedian Andy Andrews, Heisman Trophy runner-up Heath Shuler, former New Orleans Saints quarterback Bobby Hebert and race car driver Andy Hillenberg.

The VIPs will mingle with patrons during dove shoots in South Carolina, but the public is welcome at events Friday and Saturday (Sept. 6-7) at the Radisson Riverfront Hotel Augusta.

Tickets to Friday's 7:30 p.m. dinner and auction are $50; and tickets to Saturday's dinner - with entertainment by The Drifters - are $60 and can be reserved through QU at (803) 637-5731, Ext. 23.

Proceeds from the event will benefit conservation efforts by the Dove Sportsman's Society, a wing of QU.

LOST BIRD? Observers of the endangered wood stocks that visit the Audubon Society's Silver Sanctuary near Jackson, S.C., each summer found an unexpected visitor mingling with the rare storks.

"It was a big pink bird; it really stood out," said Mark Komoroski, an Audubon Society member. The bird, a roseate spoonbill, normally lives in south Florida and only occasionally appears on Georgia's coast.

"This was only the second time one was recorded at Silver Bluff," he said.

The 3,100-acre sanctuary includes specially built ponds managed to produce plenty of small fish for storks that nest in other areas, but fly into Silver Bluff to feed.

An adult pair of wood storks can eat 440 pounds of fish during the March to August breeding season.

Reach Robert Pavey at (706) 868-1222, Ext. 119 or rpavey@augustachronicle.com.