Long Draw Reservoir: Decision on reservoir’s future and greenback habitat restoration due January 2010

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

Sitting between [Rocky Mountain National Park] and the [Roosevelt] national forest, Long Draw Reservoir, built in 1929 and enlarged in 1974, was up for a land-use permit renewal from the Forest Service in the early 1990s. After the agency issued the permit in 1994, Colorado Trout Unlimited sued because it included a plan that would keep La Poudre Pass Creek below the reservoir dry during the winter, damaging trout habitat. A decade later, a court sided with Trout Unlimited and threw out the permit, forcing the Forest Service to start the permitting process over again and to come up with a plan that would protect trout habitat.

Long Draw Reservoir, which sits below the Continental Divide on the northwest boundary of Rocky Mountain National Park, stores spring runoff and releases it during the summer and fall. The dam does not operate in the winter, drying up the stream below it. Forest Service officials said during a public involvement phase of planning for the project in 2008 that releasing water from the reservoir into La Poudre Pass Creek during the winter would be dangerous for workers having to operate the icy dam in the winter and might cause the dam to fail.

The new plan requires a compromise: Keep La Poudre Pass Creek dry during the winter, but restore more than 43 miles of trout habitat in the Poudre River Watershed, mostly in Rocky Mountain National Park. “It’s something scientists have been pushing for, for a long time,” said David Nickum, director of Colorado Trout Unlimited. “The chance to try to put that science in action and do what would be the largest native cutthroat trout restoration project ever in Colorado – we’re excited about that prospect.”

The restoration project, he said, would take more than a decade and requires poisoning existing brook trout fisheries and restocking them with cutthroats. Instead of restoring La Poudre Pass Creek, which has no trout habitat, “we’ll do something different with greater biological benefit,” Nickum said…

Rocky Mountain National Park is allowing public comment on the proposal through Dec. 31, with a decision expected to follow in early 2010.

More Long Draw Reservoir coverage here

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