Feds: Whitewater park still possible; Palisade officials say time running out

WORK ON THE Price-Stubb fish ladder on the Colorado River near Palisade is seen from above Interstate 70. Palisade officials hoped a similiar design for a proposed whitewater park would be approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Fish and Wildlife officials have to be satisfied that any objects placed in the river would be no obstacle to the free movement of fish.

The fate of Palisade’s whitewater park is yet to be decided as far as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is concerned.

Palisade officials, however, remain skeptical the project can be rescued.

Fish and Wildlife officials have met with engineers working on the whitewater park for the town.

“We’re still trying to get some issues squared away,” said Al Pfister, supervisor for the western Colorado field office of the service in Grand Junction.

Palisade, in order to move forward with the project, needs an opinion from the service that its proposed whitewater park wouldn’t affect the endangered fish species of the Colorado River.

To minimize the possibility their project would prevent the endangered Colorado pikeminnow and other species from migrating upstream, Palisade officials incorporated a design similar to one used just upstream at the
Price-Stubb fish passage at the mouth of De Beque Canyon for their project.

By setting boulders in chevron arrays similar to the way concrete baffles were placed in the river at Price-Stubb,

Palisade officials hoped to win approval from the agency and eventually from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which has jurisdiction over development of the river.

The chevron design was implemented at Price-Stubb by the Fish and Wildlife Service, which said it would give the fish the best opportunity to clearly navigate the river as far upstream as Rifle for the first time in a century.

“We need a demonstration, given the information we have, that they’re likely to pass there” through the whitewater park, Pfister said.

Palisade completed a two-dimensional model of the proposed park before the designers used the chevron design for the park’s drop structures, which are intended to give kayakers the opportunity to maneuver through riffles and eddies.

While the designs are similar, there are differences between the locations that demand additional study of the whitewater park, Pfister said.

Any structure placed in the river should not impede passage of the fish, he said.

Palisade Administrator Tim Sarmo said he hoped the service would relent on the requirement for additional study and noted the service commended the town for employing the chevron design.

Even if he agrees to run the model with the new boulder settings, “how soon can I get a response?” Sarmo said.

Several other federal agencies would have to agree to the project once the fish and wildlife service clears it, he said.

Construction can take place in the river only between Oct. 1 and March 1, so time is running out, he said.

“My funding runs out Dec. 31, so from my perspective, it looks like this project is dead,” Sarmo said.


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