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Jefferson County bridge project funded to protect hellbender species

Updated: Friday, August 15 2014, 06:57 PM EDT

WTOV9.com
JEFFERSON COUNTY, Ohio – Eastern hellbenders start off small, can grow to 2 feet, can ben found in creeks and streams around the Ohio Valley – and they’re disappearing.
The salamander has been around for more than 160 million years.
"They breathe through their skin, so water quality is really important,” says Jefferson Soil and Water Conversation District Water Quality Coordinator Brandon Andresen. “And they're water quality indicator that tells how good the water is in the streams and the creeks."
The ancient amphibians are endangered in Ohio and can only be found in swift-flowing, rocky rivers and streams. Andresen is working to protect the rare amphibians and their nesting site along Cedar Lick Creek by building a bridge. Wayne Township Road 166 goes right through the creek.
Cars drive through it causing sediment to flow downstream into the hellbenders’ nesting area.
"Sediment is an impact to water quality, and you get oil and other fluids that could come off the cars,” Andresen said. “That affects the water quality in the stream and affects the hellbenders," Andresen said.
Andresen said the bridge project is being funded through grants from the Ohio Division of Wildlife and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife services, the latter saying hellbender populations are declining because of water pollution and loss of habitat.
People are another threat as populations continue to decline. They catch them in the wild and sell them as pets.
A local engineer is designing the bridge project and putting together a bid package for Jefferson County commissioners to oversee.

Jefferson County bridge project funded to protect hellbender species


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