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Corps lakes offer Christmas trees a second chance

tree recycling at Thurmond lake

U. S. Army Corps of Engineers J. Strom Thurmond Project Park Ranger David Quebedeaux drops recycled Christmas trees into the reservoir Jan. 25, 2019. The trees are usually placed between January and March, just before the start of the spring fishing season. Once in the lakes, the trees become fish attractors or habitats. (Courtesy photo)

recycling trees at Hartwell lake

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Hartwell Lake Project Ranger Asher Alexander (center) along with project contractors Gary Driver and John Moore load fish attractor trees onto a boat for distribution around the reservoir. Most trees are placed between January and March, just before the start of the spring fishing season. (Courtesy photo)

Evergreen trees aren’t typically considered aquatic vegetation, but if they’re used as Christmas trees in the Savannah River Basin, chances are they’ll continue “bearing fruit” under water.

Rather than have old Christmas trees go to the landfill, rangers with the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers reservoirs at Hartwell and J. Strom Thurmond lakes collect the trees in December and January each year to make fish habitats in the reservoirs.

“The idea is that the fish will seek shelter in the structure,” said Rebecca Downey, Thurmond Project natural resource specialist. “Christmas trees seem to work the best, yielding more fish throughout the year, for both spawning and hiding. The trees usually last for three to four years before needing to be replaced, at which point we sink more trees on-top of the old ones that have decayed.”

In addition to providing shelter, the decaying trees also provide nutrients and food for very young fish.

Artificial trees aren’t accepted because they don’t decompose or provide nutrients for the fish.

The trees are typically placed in water deep enough not to be a hazard, which is out of the navigable channels at a depth of 15 to 30 feet.

In addition to the trees the Corps places, the community is welcome to take trees placed at Corps managed boat ramps around the reservoirs.

“Having exact areas for public pickup prevents trees being placed at random and mass consolidation of the trees would be hard,” said Jess Fleming, Thurmond Project acting chief ranger. “We try to have at least one drop off location in each county that is part of the lake.”

For more information about the Christmas tree recycling contact the Hartwell Lake Project office or the Thurmond Lake Project office.