Long Draw Reservoir: USFS to stock cutthroat

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The U.S. Forest Service is proposing a plan to kill non-native fish species and replace them with cutthroats in Long Draw Reservoir, according to a report from Trevor Hughes writing for the Fort Collins Coloradoan. From the article:

Trout Unlimited in 2004 sued the U.S. Forest Service, which permits the reservoir, to force changes. Trout Unlimited argued the reservoir was harming fish and other wildlife downstream. In response, the Forest Service is proposing mitigation efforts known as Alternative 3 that include killing all fish in sections of area streams and creeks, then replacing them with the threatened greenback cutthroat trout. The Forest Service released a draft environmental impact statement about a year ago and has now issued a final statement, with a formal decision expected within the next few months. “This alternative does not change the physical damage that occurs from the ongoing operations but rather Alternative 3 changes the residents of the area stream from a non-native trout species to a listed native trout species and applies conservation biology concepts to connect habitat in a manner that makes the physical damage irrelevant.”

The proposal lacks a request made by Trout Unlimited: Release water from the reservoir during the winter to improve trout habitat downstream. Forest Service scientists are recommending against releasing water from the dam in winter, largely because it would require major changes to the dam. It’s a nearly 10-mile trip from Colorado Highway 14 to the dam, according to the Forest Service. Further, the Forest Service concluded that “unnatural” flows of water released from the reservoir during the summer make La Poudre Pass Creek below the dam a poor habitat for native fish. “High energy requirements for small trout to move, rest or feed in these flows would reduce the condition of any trout that reside in La Poudre Pass Creek,” the statement says. “Use of the habitat in La Poudre Pass Creek by fish would be incidental during high summer flows and non-existent during zero-winter flows…

Long Draw was completed in 1929. The reservoir was later enlarged, and the dam rebuilt in 1974. The reservoir stores water imported from the Colorado River Basin by the Grand Ditch. It also stores water from La Poudre Pass Creek, a tributary of the Cache la Poudre River. The Forest Service issued a special permit for Long Draw in 1978. The permit expired in 1991 but was extended to 1994.

In 1994, following an environmental impact study, the Forest Service issued a plan that allowed Water Supply and Storage to operate Long Draw without providing bypass flows to La Poudre Pass Creek below the dam. Under the 1994 plan, the Greeley-owned Barnes Meadow reservoir releases water to the Poudre in the winter. Trout Unlimited sued, claiming the Forest Service should have required a bypass flow from Long Draw as a condition of use and that not requiring one would harm fish and wildlife in the Poudre basin. A judge in April 2004 reversed the Forest Service’s decision and told the agency to rewrite the permit.

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