Office of External Affairs
Mountain-Prairie Region

NEWS RELEASE

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Mountain-Prairie Region
134 Union Boulevard
Lakewood, Colorado 80228

July 13, 2009

Contact: Adam Mendoza (970) 872-3170   
Contact: Sharon Rose (303) 236-4580

Hotchkiss National Fish Hatchery Begins Stocking Fish
for Animas-LaPlata Project

 

The Hotchkiss National Fish Hatchery located in western Colorado stocked 34,000 whirling disease resistant rainbow trout into the Animas River in Durango, Colorado in late June 2009, initiating the fisheries mitigation segment of the Animas-La Plata Water Development Project.  The hatchery, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service facility, entered into a Memorandum of Agreement with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation last year for the production of trout to offset impacts of the ALP project and whirling disease on fisheries in the river system.   Under the agreement the Hotchkiss NFH will annually provide 100,000 five-inch whirling disease resistant strain rainbow trout to be stocked into the Animas River in the Durango area and Southern Ute Indian Reservation to provide recreational fishing benefits.  These fish should grow to catchable size by next summer, and many will survive to grow larger in future years.  Eggs to produce these trout were initially spawned at the Colorado Division of Wildlife Research facility in Ft Collins, Colorado and the eggs delivered to the Hotchkiss NFH for hatching and rearing.

 

The ALP Project, located in La Plata and Montezuma Counties in southwestern Colorado and in San Juan County in northwestern New Mexico, was authorized by the Colorado River Basin Project Act of September 30, 1968 (Public Law 84-485). The legislation originally provided for a multi-purpose project to provide water for irrigation, municipal and industrial uses.  Although scheduled for construction, in the early 1980s the project was eventually modified to help settle water rights claims of the Southern Ute and Ute Mountain Ute Tribes in southwest Colorado and to avoid jeopardizing the Colorado pikeminnow, an endangered species.  The scaled-down version of the project, which no longer includes irrigation as a purpose, consists of Ridges Dam creating Lake Nighthorse, the Durango Pumping Plant, the Ridges Basin Inlet conduit, and a pipeline to deliver water for domestic use on the Navajo Nation at Shiprock, New Mexico.

 

Since 1994, when the devastating effects of whirling disease hit Colorado, particularly in the Colorado, Gunnison and Animas River drainages, biologists have been working diligently to address the disease’s impacts to the rainbow trout fisheries and cutthroat trout populations in these basins.  In recent years some experimental populations of rainbow trout have shown excellent resistance to the disease, and these hybrid trout are being used to help restore the recreationally-important trout fisheries in these river systems. 

 

The fingerling trout initially stocked by the Hotchkiss NFH into the Animas River for the ALP Project arrived in excellent shape.  They were greeted by onlookers, photographers,  reporters and partners.  The fingerlings were spread along a 15-mile stretch of the Animas River beginning in Durango’s Santa Rita Park and culminating on a river stretch in the Southern Ute Indian Reservation.  These trout will reach catchable size by next spring and bring the Animas River trout fisheries back to prominence.  The ALP stocking program, which will continue for many years to come, is a testament to the cooperation and partnership with the Bureau of Reclamation, Colorado Division of Wildlife, Southern Ute Indian Reservation and the Service.

 

Hotchkiss NFH is a federal fish hatchery, part of the National Fish Hatchery System, established in 1967 under the Colorado River Storage Project Act.  The hatchery is located on 58 acres of forest surroundings on the North Fork of the Gunnison River near the town of Hotchkiss, Colorado.  The hatchery’s primary missions are to rear and stock rainbow trout for recreational fishing in Colorado and New Mexico reservoirs to help mitigate the impacts of federal water development projects.  In recent years the hatchery has typically produced and stocked about 1.5-2 million trout annually in approximately 80 different water areas in the two states, providing over 400,000 angler days of recreational fishing per year, generating approximately 500 jobs and a total economic output of over $50 million

 

The National Fish Hatchery System is comprised of 70 fish hatcheries, 7 Fish Technology Centers, and 9 Fish Health Centers nationwide.  The System, operated by the Fish and Wildlife Service, has a unique responsibility in helping restore native aquatic populations, mitigate for fisheries lost as a result of federal water projects, provide fish to benefit Native American Tribal areas and National Wildlife Refuges, and to recover species listed under the Endangered Species Act.  The National Fish Hatchery System works closely with other programs in the Fish and Wildlife Service and with states, tribes, and the private sector to complement habitat restoration and other resource management strategies for maintaining healthy ecosystems that support healthy fisheries.

 

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people.  We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov.

 

 

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