Horsethief Canyon Native Fish Facility Construction Completed


Here’s the release from the Bureau of Reclamation:

The Bureau of Reclamation in cooperation with the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service have completed construction of a complex of grow-out ponds at the Horsethief Canyon Native Fish facility located just outside of Fruita, Colo. The ponds were constructed as part of the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program and the San Juan River Basin Recovery Program, to hold and rear endangered Colorado River fish.

A total of 22 ponds were constructed by Kissner General Contractors Inc., of Cedaredge, Colo., at a total cost of $5.3 million which was funded by the recovery programs to rear endangered razorback sucker, and Colorado pikeminnow, as well as bonytail and humpback chub in the future.

The ponds range in size from 0.1 to 0.5 acres with a combined total of approximately 6.2 acres of ponds each between five and six feet deep and lined with a geo-membrane fabric to reduce seepage. This will allow the ponds to be drained, maintain water levels during operation, and provide an area for the fish to be concentrated when the time comes to be relocated. All design work on the ponds was completed by Reclamation’s Western Colorado Area Office. In the coming months, Reclamation will complete mitigation and re-vegetation of the site.

The need for the grow-out ponds was initially identified as an essential component of the recovery programs to ensure the successful reproduction of the endangered Colorado River fish and genetic monitoring efforts. Without the grow-out ponds, production of endangered fishes of optimal size and numbers for stocking cannot be ensured and certain research in the area of genetics and propagation will be hampered.

The FWS currently produces approximately 28,000 razorbacks suckers annually at the Ouray National Fish Hatchery, Grand Valley Unit in Grand Junction, Colo. Approximately 75 percent of these fish are taken to private ponds leased by the Service and the remainder of the fish are kept at the hatchery. The Service has an annual goal of releasing a minimum of 15,000 fish, at an approximate length of 300 millimeters (11.8 inches), back to the rivers.

The Horsethief Canyon Native Fish Facility will reduce, if not eliminate, the need for leasing private ponds. Also, since the facility will be operated and maintained by the Service, the facility will provide greater numbers of fish to be returned to the river.

The configuration of the ponds is shown on Figure 1. The ponds were constructed at an elevation that will prevent overtopping up to the 100-year flood event. The facility will be fenced to prevent river otters from entering the ponds and to preclude entry by the public.

Meanwhile, here’s a report about the current state of the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Program from Bob Berwyn writing for the Summit County Citizens Voice. From the article:

Issuing a “sufficient progress” memo, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said this week that, “with continued cooperation by all Recovery Program participants, the Recovery Program will continue to make significant strides toward recovery of the four endangered fishes.”

But flows are a significant concern, especially in dry years.

“The Recovery Program still struggles to meet flow recommendations in drought years. The Service emphasizes the importance of meeting the flow recommendation,” according to the memo, which also says that the Colorado Water Conservation Board has not yet provided a required depletion accounting report.

Specifically, the CWCB is behind on accounting for depletions in the Yampa River, and needs to “address projected future depletions and whether or not additional instream flow filings or other flow protections mechanisms should be considered.”

More endangered/threatened species coverage here.

Pure Cycle is divesting itself of 10% of the farms purchased from High Plains A & M — ‘… won’t affect farm operations’ — Mark Harding


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“We’re selling a small percentage of our portfolio, but it won’t affect our farm operations,” said Mark Harding, Pure Cycle president.

Pure Cycle bought 65 farms on the Fort Lyon Canal from High Plains A&M in 2006 after High Plains had acquired about 22 percent of the shares on the Arkansas Valley’s largest canal.

High Plains lost a water court challenge, which was upheld by the state Supreme Court, to converting the shares to municipal use because it was speculative.

More Arkansas River Basin coverage here.

High Park Fire: The NRCS, et al., have started restoration efforts above Horsetooth Reservoir


From the Longmont Times-Call (Pamela Dickman):

All told Thursday and Friday, the team planted 1,120 pounds of grass seed across 40 acres and covered it with 105 bales of agricultural straw and wood chips — a layered approach to protecting the nearby glistening waters from the ash and debris of the High Park Fire…

The ash and debris have already blackened much of the Poudre River, so Fort Collins, Greeley and the Tri-Districts (North Weld County, Fort Collins-Loveland and East Larimer County water districts) have instead been pulling water for their customers from Horsetooth Reservoir. The waters of Horsetooth remain clean, but the threat of fire pollution is real. When rains fall, the now barren Soldier Canyon could mirror a slip-and-slide, sending debris from the fire right into Horsetooth Reservoir — and the water supplies for Fort Collins, Greeley and the Tri-Districts.

From The Denver Post (Erin Udall):

By dropping a mix of seed and straw mulch on the area, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) officials hope to trigger plant growth and create a filter that will keep debris, erosion and sediment runoff from getting into the reservoir…

“Think of the Poudre (River) as the hose, and Horsetooth (Reservoir) as the bucket,” [NRCS district conservationist Todd Boldt] said, explaining that the river provides drinking water for more than 300,000 people in the area. “They rely on the hose, but when they can’t, they turn to the bucket. That’s why it’s crucial to maintain Horsetooth.”

Here’s the release from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (Todd Boldt):

Helicopters are hovering near Horsetooth Reservoir for a responsive, cooperative project to protect the reservoir’s water quality in the wake of the High Park Fire.

Helicopters are dropping an erosion control seed mix and straw mulching materials on about 40 acres that suffered the most soil burn severity within the 400-acre burn area in the Soldier Creek drainage, which sits in Lory State Park on the west side of Horsetooth Reservoir.

The helicopters, from contractor Western States Reclamation, will apply a seed mix of native species. The seeds are large, with the expectation that they will break through the fire-caused debris and establish roots without requiring much moisture. Helicopters will also drop straw mulch, then a layer of wood straw on top, to retain moisture, shelter the seed from the wind and provide soil erosion protection.

Experts expect the project to trigger plant growth in the Solider Creek area, creating a filter to prevent debris, erosion and sedimentation runoff into Horsetooth Reservoir, a key water source for area cities.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service is providing much of the technical and financial support for this $91,320 project, which is part of its Emergency Watershed Protection Program. Other sponsors are Northern Water, the cities of Greeley and Fort Collins, and the Tri-Districts (the North Weld County, Fort Collins-Loveland, and East Larimer County water districts).

The helicopters, which are staged within Lory State Park, first took off Thursday morning and will likely finish Saturday.

More restoration coverage here and here.

‘A water tour also can sharpen your math skills’ — Chris Woodka


Check out Chris Woodka’s recount of his recent tour with the Pueblo Board of Water Works. The article is running as part of The Pueblo Chieftain’s excellent Colorado Water 2012 series Written in Water. Here’s an excerpt:

In my roughly 25 years of covering water issues, I have been on several water tours, which are routinely sponsored by water providers in the summer months because you can drive to the sites where water development means the most at a time when those sites do not happen to be covered in several feet of snow…

But last week, I joined the Pueblo Board of Water Works mountain tour as a guest. I was happy to just ride the bus, chipping in with a question now and then, but fully participating in the tour. I’d never done this.

I didn’t take a single note, and this column will be all that I’m going to write about the tour.