Save the Poudre/Poudre Waterkeeper plans ‘Restore the Corridor’ effort to improve river ecological health through Fort Collins

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Kevin Duggan):

It plans to do that through a campaign called “Restore the Corridor” and dogged activism when reviewing development proposals, working to restore wildlife habitat and promoting recreational opportunities, said executive director Gary Wockner.

The group doesn’t expect to be the only “voice” for the river when it comes to determining what happens around it, said Mark Easter, Save the Poudre board of directors chairman. But somebody has to speak out when it comes to guarding the river’s health, he said, adding many community groups have an interest in what happens along the Poudre…

But critics worry the nonprofit will use its political muscle to sink all development projects along the river. Save the Poudre last month filed two appeals of projects that were approved through Fort Collins’ planning process…

“(Wockner) is saying ‘no’ to everything, across the board,” [Gino Campana, owner of Bellisimo Inc.] said. “I believe there is not a solution we can engineer to satisfy Save the Poudre.” Conceptual plans for the project call for restoring riparian forest along sections of the property closest to the river. It’s the type of work city officials and Save the Poudre say they support, Campana said.

“We should be on the same side of the table,” he said. “He wants to be on the other side.”

Wockner declined to comment on Campana’s project until its development plans are formally submitted. The only item being contested at the moment is the density issue and its potential impact on wildlife, he said…

The Save the Poudre Coalition formed about six years ago to battle the proposed Northern Integrated Supply Project, or NISP, and Glade Reservoir. Glade would be built north of Ted’s Place and draw water from the Poudre…

Save the Poudre has a right to express its opinion and take action on any topic, [Jim Reidhead, a longtime local businessman and community activist] said. It is skilled at following legal processes such as appeals in making its case. But it appears to be determined to obstruct any type of development or water-storage project on the river, especially if it might promote growth.

More Cache la Poudre watershed coverage here.

Windy Gap Firming Project: Grand County 1041 permitting process underway #coriver

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From the Sky-Hi Daily News (Kirk Klancke):

The county is negotiating enhancements to help the degradation that we are already experiencing in the Colorado River below the Windy Gap reservoir but without additional mitigation for the new project, the enhancements will not solve all of the issues facing the river. We need to make sure that our elected officials here in Grand County require all of the mitigation needed to protect the Upper Colorado River below Windy Gap from the new Windy Gap Firming project.

This is our best opportunity as individuals to influence the permit process. This influence can be exercised through letters or emails to the commissioners or by attending the public hearings in the commissioners’ board room on Aug. 1 and 2…

This is your chance to influence the future of the headwaters of the Colorado River. If you were wondering what you could do to help, this is your best opportunity. Please write your letter and come to the hearing to speak.

Update: Here’s the release from Trout Unlimited (Randy Scholfield):

Trout Unlimited today urged the Board of County Commissioners of Grand County (BOCC) to deny a permit for the Windy Gap Firming Project unless the BOCC is willing to include protective measures to keep the Upper Colorado River and its gold-medal trout fishery alive.

“The Upper Colorado River is under severe stress from multiple impacts, from drought to diversions,” said Kirk Klancke, president of Trout Unlimited’s Headwaters chapter. “This is the last best opportunity for Grand County officials to push for stronger protections to ensure that the Windy Gap project doesn’t destroy the health of our rivers.”

He added, “Without stronger protections, this river faces a long, slow decline—and so do our communities, ranches and recreation economy. That’s just not acceptable. I want my grandchildren to be able to fish here and enjoy this river, as I have. I want our local businesses to thrive. I know that many other Grand County citizens feel the same way.”

The BOCC will soon decide whether to issue a 1041 permit for Northern Colorado Water Conservation District’s Windy Gap Firming Project (WGFP) and, if so, under what conditions. The BOCC is currently accepting public, written comments and has scheduled a two-day hearing in Hot Sulphur Springs that will include public testimony on August 1-2.

At present, Northern’s Windy Gap diversion is taking about 60 percent of flows out of the Upper Colorado and pumping it through the Continental Divide to Front Range communities. The proposed expansion of the project would take another 15-20 percent of flows, putting the river at a dangerous tipping point for aquatic life and ecosystem health. State studies show that the Upper Colorado below Windy Gap Reservoir has suffered a sharp decline since the construction of the reservoir , including an almost total loss of once-plentiful stoneflies and mottled sculpin—key aquatic species that make up an important link in the food chain for trout and other fish. The studies point to the reservoir’s contribution of silt combined with a lack of healthy flows, which has caused a spike in water temperatures, algae, sediment and other negative impacts on river and fishery health.

“Under present plans, expanding Windy Gap would make a bad situation worse because it would increase periods of low flows and significantly reduce runoff, which is critical to clean the river of excess silt and sediment contributed by Windy Gap Reservoir,” said Mely Whiting, counsel for TU’s Colorado Water Project.

According to a recent Colorado Parks and Wildlife report, construction of a bypass around Windy Gap reservoir and maintenance of adequate runoff are essential. “Without a bypass, it’s hard to see how the river can remain healthy when even more flows will be taken out,” said Whiting. “Grand County must press Northern to build the bypass.”

TU called on the BOCC to include several requirements in the permit, including:

– Northern should stop Windy Gap pumping when stream temperatures approach State acute and chronic standards.
– Northern should be required to not only study a bypass channel around the Windy Gap Reservoir, but also build it if the study determines that a bypass is beneficial.
– Northern must work with Grand County to monitor spring river flows and provide an adequate flushing flow to prevent sediment from collecting in the river bed and smothering aquatic habitat.
– Northern must fund a robust stream monitoring program that can accurately track the health of the aquatic species in the river and react to any declines that can’t be explained by normal fluctuation.

Trout Unlimited will present testimony at the BOCC public hearings in Hot Sulphur Springs on Aug. 1-2.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.

Controlling pondweed in Dillon Reservoir

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From the Summit Daily News (Dr. Joanne Stolen):

Pondweeds are the subject of my current peeve. These submerged water plants can be both good and bad. They provide food and hiding places for young fish but, when overly abundant, allow too many of them to escape the larger predatory fish. Worst of all, in shallow waters, they rot under the ice in winter and may completely use up the oxygen, causing most fish to suffocate. The species that seems to be overly abundant along the shores of Dillon Reservoir currently is curly leaf pondweed. The scientific name is “potamogeton crispus.”[…]

Habitat manipulation such as draw-downs and dredging can also be used to manage curly leaf pondweed. Fall drawdown can kill the plants, exposing them to freezing temperatures and drying out. Dredging can be used as a control by increasing the water depth. In deep water, the plants will not receive enough light to survive. There are some chemical controls. There are a small number of aquatic herbicides that can be used to control curly leaf pondweed. Formulations of diquat (Reward) and endothall (Aquathall K) can be used in small areas and will usually knock down curly leaf pondweed within two weeks. The time for treatment is in spring or early summer when natives are still dormant and temperatures are low enough. Fluridone usually has to be applied to an entire lake and requires 30 days to knock down curly leaf pondweed. I doubt whether chemical controls would be appropriate for a reservoir. In any case if you are out and about in your boat on the reservoir, grab a few handfuls. It pulls out easily.

More invasive species coverage here and here.

Illegal Stocking Hits Miramonte Trout Fishery: Rotenone to the rescue

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Here’s the release from Colorado Parks and Wildlife:

Colorado Parks and Wildlife is planning to take action to eradicate smallmouth bass at Miramonte Reservoir where they’ve become established after being stocked illegally.

The agency will utilize an organic pesticide to kill all the fish in the reservoir and then rebuild this renowned trout fishery that attracts anglers from throughout the West. The operation is tentatively scheduled to occur in late summer or fall of 2013.

In the meantime, Parks and Wildlife is implementing an emergency order that removes all bag and possession limits on smallmouth bass at Miramonte Reservoir.

“Killing all the fish in the reservoir lake is something we wish we didn’t have to do, but we know we must,” said Renzo DelPiccolo, area wildlife manager in Montrose. “People who illegally move fish into lakes, ponds and rivers are not only committing a criminal act, they are endangering native species, stealing a resource and recreational opportunity from thousands of anglers and negatively impacting the local community.”

Miramonte Reservoir is located in San Miguel County about 10 miles south of Norwood in western Colorado. The reservoir is one of the most productive still-water trout fisheries in the state and people travel from throughout the West to catch the rainbow and brown trout that regularly grow to quality size. The lake is also a popular destination for crayfish enthusiasts. Miramonte accounts for about 20,000 angler days every year which contribute $1.5 million to the economy of San Miguel County.

Miramonte is a very productive reservoir, allowing Parks and Wildlife to stock thousands of fingerling trout every year. The trout grow quickly and reach quality size within two years.

“This reservoir is managed as a put and grow trout fishery and that management strategy will not change,” explained John Alves, senior aquatic biologist for the southwest region for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “Under this management strategy we can provide an excellent angling opportunity at a low cost to anglers.”

Smallmouth bass, which are a warm-water predator fish, were illegally stocked in the reservoir sometime before 2011 and reproduction has been documented. A recent survey showed that in one year smallmouth bass have increased in abundance from 5 percent to 44 percent of the fish in the reservoir.

“The bass are now a top predator in the lake. They compete with trout for food and space, and consume trout and crayfish,” Alves said. “If left alone, the bass could eventually devastate Miramonte as a trout fishery. Furthermore the habitat, prey base and water temperature will not support a quality bass fishery in the long term. So, once an illegally stocked fish population has become established, the only recourse is to start over by using a fish pesticide to kill all the fish in a lake.”

In addition to impacting a renowned sport fishery, the smallmouth bass also pose a threat to native fish downstream. An agreement between the state of Colorado, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and neighboring states restricts stocking of non-native warm water fish without a permit because of the danger they pose to native and endangered fish.

Miramonte Reservoir is located above the San Miguel and Dolores rivers which support important populations of three native fish species that biologists are working to protect: the roundtail chub, the bluehead sucker and the flannelmouth sucker. These native fish are found only in desert rivers of the western United States. Changes in the river system such as dams, pollution, water withdrawals and competition from non-native species have caused these fish to decline in range and numbers.

“Native species are needed to help maintain the natural health and balance of any ecosystem. If a species is lost, that affects the health of other plants and animals, and changes a natural ecosystem forever,” Alves said.

CPW aims to maintain healthy native fish populations not only for the benefit of native ecosystems and the people of Colorado, but also to prevent unwanted federal management of these species under the Endangered Species Act.

“Illegal stocking carries serious consequences that can have long-lasting negative effects on local communities,” DelPiccolo said.

Draining and treating a reservoir is also expensive and takes money away from other important aquatic habitat projects. The Miramonte operation will cost more than $100,000, not including staff time. The reservoir will be drawn down to a small pool and the chemical Rotenone will be applied to the remaining water and feeder streams to kill all the fish. Rotenone breaks down quickly in the environment and poses no threat to vegetation or non-aquatic species. Biologists will restock the lake with fish as soon as the pesticide has dissipated.

Anyone who has information about illegal fish stocking at Miramonte Reservoir or at any other water in Colorado should contact the Parks and Wildlife office in Montrose at 970-252-6000, or call Operation Game Thief at 1-877-265-6648. Tips can be made anonymously and cash rewards are possible.

For more information about fisheries management in Colorado and aquatic nuisance species, see: http://wildlife.state.co.us/FISHING/Pages/Fishing.aspx.

More restoration coverage here and here.