Tom Chart: Collaboration on nonnative fish issues

To the editor:To the editor:

To the editor:

The Upper Colorado Endangered Fish Recovery Program is keenly aware that actions to recover endangered fish can impact local communities. The Recovery Program is a partnership, which includes federal and state agencies, power customers, water users, and environmental organizations working to accomplish two goals — bring the fish of the Colorado River basin back from the brink of extinction AND allow water development to continue under applicable laws. These are not actions dictated by the federal government; they are approved by all the partners. Progress towards recovery allows water development to continue without lengthy ESA consultations or litigation. So every time a farm is irrigated, a power plant is cooled, or a city provides water, the Recovery Program is there to offset the environmental impacts of those water depletions.

Nonnative fish make recovering the endangered fish very difficult. Three species have the biggest impact — northern pike, walleye and smallmouth bass. These species are highly predatory and reproduce prolifically. They present too much risk to the river ecosystem and therefore could jeopardize water projects that rely on a successful recovery program. We are removing smallmouth bass, northern pike and walleye from four rivers, but fish escaping from Elkhead, Starvation and Red Fleet reservoirs fill in behind the ones we have removed.

We focus our control efforts on these most problematic nonnative species. However, that leaves many desirable sport fish that are compatible with endangered fish recovery, such as largemouth bass, black crappie, yellow perch, bluegill and trout.

The Elkhead net project represents a compromise with the local communities. We initially wanted to eradicate all fish from Elkhead Reservoir and re-stock the reservoir with desirable species. However, we listened to community concerns about a rotenone treatment and decided the impact to the community would be too great. So the recovery program and its partners stepped up, to the tune of $1.2 million dollars, to fund a net to allow more time to remove smallmouth bass and northern pike. The net is not there to allow smallmouth bass and northern pike to remain, but rather to allow us more time to remove these species. If the net does not work, we will have to reconsider rotenone treatment. We need your help. Please catch and keep as many of these fish from Elkhead as you can. Take them home and enjoy a nice meal. Please don’t return them to the Reservoir.

We are implementing similar control actions in southeastern Colorado, eastern Utah and southern Wyoming.

Some have suggested that the electrofishing we use to remove nonnative fish is affecting the native fish. The Recovery Program has enlisted national experts to investigate our electrofishing efforts and develop world recognized electrofishing standards. We are confident that we are not impacting native fish populations through electrofishing.

The humpback chub, bonytail, Colorado pikeminnow, and razorback sucker are amazing animals that live up to 40 years, some grow 3 to 6 feet long, and travel hundreds of river miles to reproduce. These fish exist nowhere else in the world, and are a part of our western heritage.

Recovering endangered species and developing water are complex, difficult topics. We appreciate your patience and assistance with our efforts.

Tom ChartTom Chart

Tom Chart



Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery ProgramUpper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery ProgramUpper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program

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