ANTIOCH, Tenn. (WATE) — Efforts by the Tennessee Valley Authority and its partners have reopened a pathway for Tennessee’s only native trout species to parts of their habitat in the Cherokee National Forest.

A bridge in the Wolf Creek area, which was built in the 70s, had been identified as an issue a decade ago according to TVA. Two culverts that had been installed to allow water to pass under the road were blocking the brook trout, among other species, from part of their natural habitat.

The age of the structure put it at risk of collapse, which would have sent thousands of pounds of sediment into the stream.

In 2019, a Cherokee National Forest team worked with including TVA, the U.S. Forest Service, and Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency to develop plans for a new bridge at Wolf Creek, which was constructed from May to November of 2022.

Since the bridge has been built, brook trout can now make their way upstream to miles of great habitat, the TVA says. The creek may seem small, but it stems from the French Broad river, eventually leading up to the Tennessee River.

TWRA says the brook trout is Tennessee’s only native trout species and around 150 streams support wild brook trout. The access to the smaller tributary stream may be just in time for spawning season, according to a research article published through the USDA.

Researchers said that brook trout have a tendency to move upstream throughout the summer into smaller tributaries to spawn in the fall. The Fish and Wildlife Service says the species usually spawns between September and October.