Horsethief Canyon Native Fish Facility Construction Completed

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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.

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