Runoff/drought news: Endangered fish program is short of water to operate some infrastructure this season

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From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

… in key tributaries like the Yampa, and the fish could take another hit because there won’t be enough water during parts of the summer to operate fish passages that enable species like the Colorado pikeminnow to reach spawning areas.

Biologists said suspending operation of the fish passages this summer will have a short-term impact on the endangered fish, but are more concerned about long-term impacts if the drought lasts another year.
The endangered species evolved over millennia to survive extreme high and extreme low flows, but human activities have hit hard at the low end of the range, resulting in conditions that can’t sustain populations without help — like the fish ladders. Overall, recovery program leaders say they’ll manage the little bit water they do have based on experience from the drought in the early 2000s. “We’ve been there before,” program director Tom Chart said in a previous interview, explaining that this year’s low flows will likely result in a temporary setback for recovery efforts, especially in tributaries like the Yampa River…

In a release, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service specifically identified the Grand Valley Irrigation Company Fish Passage, Grand Valley Project Fish Passage, and the Price-Stubb Fish Passage, all in western Colorado. The passages were built as part of the recovery program to give the fish access to important habitat extending from Lake Powell to Rifle on the Colorado River and from Grand Junction to Delta on the Gunnison River.

On the Colorado River, agricultural irrigators in the Grand Valley are operating fish screens on their canals when conditions permit. The screens serve a dual purpose of preventing fish from entering canals and benefiting canal operations by reducing debris loads in the canals. “We have a history of cooperation with the Recovery Program that helps our water users and the endangered fish,” said Richard Proctor, manager of the Grand Valley Water Users Association.

The Recovery Program is also coordinating with the Redlands Water and Power Company on operating procedures for the Redlands Fish Passage and Screen, located on the Gunnison River. The Recovery Program is working to minimize impacts to water deliveries to Redlands irrigators while continuing to operate the fish passage and fish screen, as conditions allow.

From Steamboat Today (Scott Franz):

“It’s a brutal year, and I don’t have anything good to say other than it is what it is,” [Pete Van De Carr] the owner of Backdoor Sports said Sunday as the river behind him ran at 111 cubic feet per second, well below its average flow of 1,810 cfs for June 17. According to a National Weather Service forecast, the Yampa River could slow to 85 cfs in Steamboat Springs as early as Wednesday. Once the river falls below that threshold, it essentially closes to recreation to protect wildlife and the river’s habitat.

More endangered/threatened species coverage here.

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