Nation: Fishy Reprieve

The snail darter wins—for now

Work on the $116 million Tellico Dam across the Little Tennessee River was nearly finished in 1973 when an ichthyologist discovered the snail darter, a three-inch species of perch whose only known natural habitat is the 17 miles of water behind the dam. Completing the project would create a stagnant lake, killing the 10,000 tiny fish; the snail darter became a protected species under the federal Endangered Species Act in 1975, and construction was halted last year. Lawyers for the Tennessee Valley Authority went to court, arguing that no fish was more important than the dam.

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