@USBR Announces Public Scoping Meetings for the Platte River Recovery Implementation Program, Proposed First Increment Extension, Environmental Assessment

Here’s the release from the US Bureau of Reclamation (Brock Merrill):

The Bureau of Reclamation is preparing an environmental assessment (EA) for the Platte River Recovery Implementation Program, Proposed First Increment Extension. Reclamation, working with the states of Wyoming, Colorado, and Nebraska, water users, and environmental and conservation organizations, proposes to extend the First Increment of the basin-wide, cooperative Recovery Implementation Program by 13 years. Reclamation is doing this to meet its obligations under the Endangered Species Act.

The purpose of this action is to continue implementing projects that provide additional water, in order to accomplish the following:

  • Reduce flow shortages in the Platte River aimed at conforming with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service target flows
  • Continue land management activities necessary to provide habitat for target threatened and endangered species
  • Continue integrated monitoring, research, and adaptive management, in order to assess the progress of the program and inform future management decisions
  • Reclamation will hold four public scoping meetings during the 45-day scoping period to gather information from other agencies, interested parties, and the public on the scope of alternatives for the EA. The public is encouraged to attend the open house EA scoping meetings, to learn more about the proposal and to assist Reclamation in identifying issues.

    The public scoping meetings on the EA are scheduled as follows (All meetings will be held 6:00 – 8:00 p.m.):

  • October 4, 2017, at Goshen County Fair Grounds, 7078 Fairgrounds Road, Torrington, Wyoming
  • October 5, 2017, at The Ranch Events Complex, 5280 Arena Circle, Loveland, Colorado (Located in the Larimer County Conference Center; park in Lot B)
  • October 11, 2017, at Hotel Grand, 2503 S. Locust Street, Grand Island, Nebraska
  • October 12, 2017, at Platte River Recovery Implementation Program Executive Director’s Office, 4111 4th Avenue, Suite 6, Kearney, Nebraska
  • At each meeting, the public will have the opportunity to provide written input on resources to be evaluated, significant issues or concerns, and potential alternatives.

    Written comments are due by close of business November 2, 2017. Members of the public may submit written comments at the public scoping meetings, via email to platteriver@usbr.gov, or by mail to:

    Bureau of Reclamation
    Attention: Brock Merrill
    P.O. Box 950
    Torrington, WY 82240

    For additional information, please visit the project website at http://www.usbr.gov/gp/nepa/platte_river/index.html.

    @USBR grant ($965,000) to Orchard Mesa Irrigation District and Grand Valley Water Users Association for hydro plant

    Photo credit: The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel.

    From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

    Construction could begin this year on upgrading the hydroelectric plant on the Colorado River near Palisade with a $965,000 federal grant.

    The Bureau of Reclamation on Tuesday awarded the grant to the Orchard Mesa Irrigation District and Grand Valley Water Users Association.

    The grant is one of 43 WaterSmart grants made to agencies around the country and will help fund a $5.2 million project to replace and upgrade the turbines at the plant.

    The turbines now in the plant are the original equipment installed in 1932, Orchard Mesa Irrigation District General Manager Max Schmidt said.

    He decided to seek the grant last year after the plant was shut down and he inspected the turbines…

    Better turbines will make it possible for the plant to generate 4.1 megawatts, or an expansion of 1.35 megawatts.

    It also will allow for the plant to generate an additional 6,000 megawatt-hours.

    The improvement and new power generation will maintain and protect the plant’s existing water right and help assure that there will be enough water in the Colorado River’s 15-mile reach for endangered fish, in particular the Colorado pike minnow, razorback sucker and humpback chub, the Colorado River District noted.

    Bicycling the Colorado National Monument, Grand Valley in the distance via Colorado.com

    @CPW and @JSandersonCO find ~8 week old bluehead sucker fry in Dolores River

    August 16, 2017: Colorado ParksWildlife and John Sanderson found imperiled bluehead sucker fry on Dolores River — a hopeful sign.
    Blue head sucker
    Dolores River watershed

    “#Wyoming will continue to rely on science and scientists to manage,” the Greater Sage-Grouse — Gov. Matt Mead

    Greater sage grouse via Idaho Fish and Game

    Here’s the release from Governor Mead’s office:

    Wyoming Governor Matt Mead released the following statement on today’s announcement from the US Department of the Interior (DOI) regarding Greater Sage-Grouse management:

    “Secretary Zinke and the Department of the Interior made an earnest effort to collaborate with the states during the sage-grouse management review,” said Governor Mead. “The states have primacy over sage-grouse management and Wyoming’s plan is solid and should be allowed to work. The Wyoming approach balances energy, agriculture, conservation and recreation. The federal plans do not fully implement the Wyoming approach. While DOI identifies numerous ways to improve federal plans, I am concerned that the recommendations place more focus on population targets and captive breeding. Industry needs predictability, but the report does not explain fully how population targets provide that certainty. Wyoming will continue to rely on science and scientists to manage the species. I will continue to work with Secretary Zinke, state and local stakeholders on this issue.”

    San Juan River: Scientists find yearling #Colorado Pikeminnow

    From The Farmington Daily Times (Hannah Grover):

    A fish that federal officials say was once widely known as the “salmon of the southwest” shows signs of recovering its diminished population in the San Juan River basin, according to data collected last year.

    Scientists say they have found evidence that the Colorado pikeminnow is reproducing in the San Juan River, and the offspring are surviving.

    This conclusion is based on data gathered last year following the spring peak release from Navajo Dam. Scientists found more Colorado pikeminnow in the San Juan River than in previous years, according to a press release from the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife Services. They also found 23 yearling fish. Prior to last year, only one juvenile fish had been caught by scientists since work began in the 1990s to restore habitat.

    In a press release, Tom Wesche, a University of Wyoming professor emeritus and a member of the San Juan River Recovery Implementation Program’s biology committee, said finding the young fish that had been born in the river and survived the winter is great news. He said it “hopefully represents important progress along the road to species recovery.”

    More than 540 Colorado pikeminnow were counted in the San Juan River last year, according to a press release from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service…

    The San Juan River Recovery Implementation Program — which includes participation by several entities, including the state of New Mexico, that are working to improve habitat in the San Juan River — is credited with helping the endangered Colorado pikeminnow recover. The program’s goal is to eventually get the Colorado pikeminnow removed from the endangered species list.

    One of 23 yearling endangered Colorado pikeminnow captured in 2016 in the San Juan River by the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish biologists is measured. This is only the second time that yearling fish have been captured in the San Juan River. (Photo: Courtesy of New Mexico Department Game and Fish) via The Farmington Daily Times.

    Whitmore said finding the juvenile fish was a step toward reaching that goal. There are still other milestones that need to be met before the fish can be removed from the list.

    There must be more than 800 adult Colorado pikeminnow and more than 1,000 juveniles in the San Juan River basin before the species can be delisted. Other criteria that must be met are listed on the program’s website.

    Whitmore said the Colorado pikeminnow’s decline was likely caused by human development along the river, including dams, diversions and depletion of water for agricultural uses…

    Snow melt, which increases the flow of the river, triggers the fish to spawn, but the dam at Navajo Lake has prevented large spring runoffs. When there is enough moisture, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation increases the flow in the San Juan River to 5,000 cubic feet per second. The bureau has able to conduct the spring peak release for the past two years.

    Danielle Tremblay of Colorado Parks and Wildlife holding a Colorado pikeminnow collected on the Colorado River in Grand Junction. An apex predator in the Colorado, pikeminnows used to be found up to six feet long and weighing 100 pounds.

    CPW: Native cutthroat trout reintroduction program continues in Southwest Colorado

    Colorado Parks and Wildlife staffers prepare native Colorado River cutthroat trout for stocking north of Durango on July 27, 2017.

    Here’s the release from Colorado Parks and Wildlife:

    Restoration of native trout reached another milestone on July 27 when 3,000 Colorado River cutthroat trout were stocked in streams about 30 miles north of Durango by Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

    The restoration project is being done in the Hermosa Creek drainage and is a joint project of CPW and the San Juan National Forest, with assistance from Trout Unlimited. So far, restoration work has been completed on three phases of the project which includes sections of the main stem of Hermosa Creek and East Hermosa Creek. One more phase remains that will take two more years to complete.

    Last week about 50 volunteers helped to distribute the five-inch fish in about three miles of water in East Hermosa Creek, Relay Creek and Sig Creek.

    “Restoring native species is a high priority for Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the Hermosa Creek drainage is an ideal location for pure Colorado River cutthroat trout,” said Jim White, CPW aquatic biologist in Durango who has coordinated the projects. “There are numerous tributaries streams that provide a variety of habitats and safe havens for populations in case of catastrophic events, such as fire, drought or disease.”

    To restore native fish, the U.S. Forest Service has built two barriers on the creeks which block the passage of non-native rainbow and brook trout. Native cutthroats cannot compete with those fish in a stream. Following construction of the barriers, CPW treated the water to kill all fish in the stream. Generally, it takes two years for biologists to confirm that all fish have been eliminated. After that, native fish can be restocked.

    Besides building the barriers, the Forest Service has also made improvements along the streams to improve fish habitat.

    Fish are doing well on the section completed five years ago on Hermosa Creek, White said. A recent survey showed that more than 400 fish per mile now inhabit the creek.

    “We know the fish are reproducing in that section and we are very pleased with what we’re seeing,” White said.

    The last phase of the project will connect East Hermosa Creek with the main stem. The Forest Service is currently building another barrier just below the confluence of the two streams; treating the water to eliminate all fish will be done in 2018 and 2019. By 2020, if all goes as planned, nearly 25 miles of stream in the Hermosa Creek drainage will be home to the native trout.

    Hermosa Creek is an excellent spot for anglers to get off the beaten path for catch-and-release-fishing. Anglers are reminded that fishing in this area is by fly and lure only, and that all cutthroat trout caught in the area must be returned to the water immediately.

    To learn more about CPW’s work to restore native trout throughout the state, go to: http://cpw.state.co.us/learn/Pages/ResearchCutthroatTrout.aspx.

    CPW: Native trout return to Woods Lake

    Woods Lake photo credit Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

    Here’s the release from Colorado Parks and Wildlife:

    Native cutthroat trout are returning to a corner of the San Juan Mountains as part of a conservation project by Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

    On Sept. 20, Parks and Wildlife biologists stocked more than 250 native cutthroat trout in Woods Lake southwest of Telluride. This location was selected because it will provide excellent quality cutthroat habitat: the area is isolated, the water is pristine and barriers protect the lake from non-native fish that live downstream. Once the population is established, the lake will provide the broodstock which will eventually assist in cutthroat conservation efforts throughout the Dolores and Gunnison river basins.

    “This area was populated with native trout before settlers arrived in Colorado, but the fish haven’t been present in, probably, over a half a century,” said Dan Kowalski, an aquatic researcher with Parks and Wildlife in Montrose. “This is one of the few spots in southwest Colorado suitable for this type of restoration project and it will provide a great refuge for this important native fish. This project will help give the cutthroat a long-term foothold in the area, expand their numbers and range, and benefit native trout conservation throughout southwest Colorado.”

    The reintroduced trout were captured from a small stream on the Uncompahgre Plateau earlier in the day and transported by horseback and then by truck to the lake. Wild fish from the small stream will also be spawned in the spring of 2013 so that larger numbers of fish can be introduced to Woods Lake and tributaries, Muddy Creek and Fall Creek, next summer.

    “We’ll do that to give us multiple age classes of fish and to provide good genetic diversity,” Kowalski said.

    Anglers can expect to start catching some cutthroat trout in the summer of 2018 but it will be a couple of years before there are large numbers of older-age fish to catch. Anglers are encouraged to release all fish they catch for the next couple of years to allow the population to grow. Fishing in the lake and streams above is restricted to artificial flies and lures only.

    Cutthroat trout have been eliminated from many rivers and streams in western Colorado due to habitat loss, water quality impacts and the introduction of non-native. The native fish, which has been petitioned for listing as an endangered species, can now be found in only about 14 percent of its historic range in the Rocky Mountain West. This reintroduction project is an effort to restore the native trout to its former habitat, expand the fish’s range and prevent the need for an endangered species listing.

    “Restoring these native fish should be important to all citizens and water users in the basin that depend on our rivers for irrigation and drinking water because a federal listing could affect the state’s management of the species and water use in the basin,” Kowalski said.

    Colorado Parks and Wildlife worked cooperatively with the U.S. Forest Service during the last two summers to remove the non-native fish from Woods Lake and the tributaries.

    Elsewhere in southwest Colorado — and only about 20 miles as the crow flies southeast of Woods Lake — another cutthroat restoration project is ongoing in the upper Hermosa Creek drainage near the Purgatory ski resort in San Juan County. When that project is completed in about five years, more than 20 miles of Hermosa Creek and feeder streams will be home to native cutthroats.

    “Colorado Parks and Wildlife has been working on native trout restoration throughout the state for nearly 30 years and our work will continue,” said John Alves, senior aquatic biologist for the southwest region. “This is truly a long-term effort.”

    To learn more about efforts by Colorado Parks and Wildlife to restore native trout, see:http://wildlife.state.co.us/Research/Aquatic/CutthroatTrout/Pages/CutthroatTrout.aspx.

    Cutthroat trout historic range via Western Trout