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NEWS RELEASE #03-204 September 29, 2003 DNR News (803) 734-3950

WALHALLA FISH HATCHERY BUILDING TO BE NAMED IN HONOR OF BIOLOGIST

The fish culture house at the Walhalla State Fish Hatchery will be named in honor of the late Randy Geddings, an Upstate fisheries biologist who was the driving force behind the proper classification and protection of pristine mountain trout streams.

The dedication of the Walhalla State Fish Hatchery Fish Culture House honoring Randy Geddings will be 1:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 2. The Walhalla State Fish Hatchery, a trout hatchery operated by the S.C. Department of Natural Resources, is on SC 107 in northern Oconee County, about 20 miles north of Walhalla.

Geddings, who was named the South Carolina Wildlife Federation Water Conservationist of the Year in 1998, died June 26, 2003. He was a district fisheries biologist with the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for nearly 30 years and was based in Clemson for most of his career.

"Randy was persistent in his pursuit of proper classification of Upstate streams," said Val Nash, DNR chief of freshwater fisheries based in Columbia. "Randy spent many hours and led a relentless effort to define trout habitat in South Carolina. Since the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control's stream classification system is largely 'fish based,' Randy's aquatic resource sampling and monitoring efforts were the driving force to facilitate proper classification of pristine mountain streams."

The early days of Geddings' stream reclassification attempts were contentious. Geddings attended and supported proper classification of streams while hostile groups of misinformed people verbally and sometimes physically attacked proponents of stream reclassification.

Despite hard times and many disappointments, Geddings never lost sight of what was right for the natural resources. He continued to build the DNR database that further supported the reclassification of many mountain streams. Also, Geddings was able to convince opponents of stream classification that South Carolina's natural resources would suffer if they were not protected. Through public meetings, presentations to area schools, fishing clubs and other public forums and through fish management programs, Geddings emphasized the importance of protecting Upstate streams.

In 1997, Geddings once again organized a compilation of all Upstate streams that continued to be improperly classified. The list was compiled using DNR sampling data (gathered under Geddings' direction over 25 years) as a road map. In 1998, Geddings submitted a request to the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) to reclassify more than 40 trout streams and one reservoir. Public forums were held by DHEC on the proposed action, and as a testament to Geddings' career spent educating the public, the proposed action received unanimous support in 1998. Ten of these streams received the "Outstanding Resource Waters" (ORW) classification, the highest and most protective classification given a water body in South Carolina. Because of Geddings' actions, the state now has the mechanism in place to assure that pristine, clear, cold mountain streams will be around for the enjoyment of generations to come.

In 1983, Geddings used a cooperative approach to persuade a private utility, Duke Power, to donate Eastatoee Creek Heritage Preserve to the state. This preserve maintains Eastatoee Creek, one of the state's most pristine wild trout streams, in addition to a botanical garden of rare and unique native plants, including one fern new to science and another found nowhere else in North America. This preserve served as a focal point for the state's 1997 purchase of the 33,000-acre Jocassee Gorges tract.

Geddings' cooperative working relationship with Duke Power over the past quarter-century was a significant consideration that led to the relationship that spawned the Jocassee Gorges land acquisition. Geddings consistently urged Duke Power to refrain from developing the shoreline of Lake Jocassee. This cooperative input was always built into Duke's land management plans prior to the Jocassee Gorges project. Also, Geddings played a major role in the 1990s in assuring that a cooperative mitigation plan or memorandum of agreement was developed between DNR and Duke to protect the aquatic resources of the Keowee-Toxaway drainage. This agreement included issues such as maintaining trout habitat in Lake Jocassee and implementing erosion control measures in the project watershed. One item in this agreement includes an annual payment of $60,000 to DNR for producing trout for Lake Jocassee. This agreement mitigates the impacts of Bad Creek Hydroelectric facility.

The Upstate fisheries biologist continued to support sound watershed stewardship in his efforts and input on the Jocassee Gorges project. In 1997 and 1998, he had a major input into the development of an overall conceptual management plan that emphasizes maintenance and improvement of watershed integrity. Geddings also helped develop a road maintenance plan to control the effects of non-point source pollution in the streams of Jocassee Gorges.

Geddings was thinking about stream-bank restoration and improving in-stream habitat back in the 1970s, long before these concepts and approaches had become common buzzwords. He started a program cooperatively with the U.S. Forest Service on Sumter National Forest streams. The majority of the more than 100 habitat structures installed under Geddings' guidance still function today.

He was heavily involved in securing outside funding sources that are now used to operate Walhalla State Fish Hatchery. He also helped secure more than $100,000 from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to produce larger trout for the stocking program as mitigation for the loss of trout habitat and fishery in the Hartwell Tailwater (Savannah River) when Lake Russell was constructed. His foresight to go after funds to support Walhalla Hatchery has proven invaluable during the transition from federal management to state management. During the current budget crisis, Geddings' cooperative efforts to secure funding for the Walhalla State Fish Hatchery have helped keep the facility open and operating now and into the future.

- Written by Greg Lucas -

 

 

 

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