Groups’ drought-year fish efforts praised

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is praising the voluntary efforts of several private water organizations in the area for their efforts in helping endangered fish during a year of drought.

The agency has sent letters of acknowledgement to entities that have assisted in the efforts of the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program.

On the Colorado River, three private organizations helped boost flows to support endangered Colorado pikeminnow, razorback sucker, bonytail and humpback chub in 15 miles of critical habitat from Palisade to the confluence of the Colorado and Gunnison rivers, Fish and Wildlife said in a news release.

The Orchard Mesa Irrigation District operated a check structure in the Grand Valley Power Plant discharge canal to make water available for the Grand Valley Irrigation Company, an action that preserved stored water in the upstream Green Mountain Reservoir for future use.

The Orchard Mesa district also continued work to implement an automation project that will help conserve water when completed in 2015.

Fish and Wildlife also recognized the Grand Valley Irrigation Company for taking advantage of low flows to remove a cobble bar that was deposited in the river during last year’s high flows. The cobble bar prevented operation of a screen that keeps fish from becoming trapped in the irrigation canal.

Fish and Wildlife credited the Grand Valley Water Users Association for managing to intermittently operate a fish screen on its canal despite low flows. In addition, the association operated the Grand Valley Water Management Project, a collaborative project with the Recovery Program that improves the efficiency of the canal system to conserve water.

While Fish and Wildlife wasn’t able to meet its recommended dry-year flow target for endangered fish of 810 cubic feet per second at Palisade this year, Grand Valley and upstream water managers worked cooperatively to maintain an average flow of 500 cfs this summer. That compares with just 171 cfs on the same stretch of river during the drought of 2002.

Fish and Wildlife also credited the Palisade Irrigation District for taking advantage of low flows to repair extensive 2011 high-water damage to the fish passage at the Price-Stubb Diversion Dam.

In addition, it recognized the Redlands Water and Power Co. for operating its fish passage and fish screen from April through September, with the help of the Bureau of Reclamation’s operations of upstream dams on the Gunnison River. As of early August, more than 9,000 fish had used the passage, Fish and Wildlife Service said. Of those, 90 percent were native fish, including 10 Colorado pikeminnow.


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