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The Mountain-Prairie Region


U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
134 Union Boulevard
Lakewood, Colorado 80228


March 9, 2006 


Adam Mendoza 970-872-3170
Barb Perkins 303-236-4588

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Partners with North Fork River Improvement Association to Remove Dam on the North Fork of the Gunnison near Hotchkiss, Colorado

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently removed the obsolete Chipeta Dam on the North Fork of the Gunnison near Hotchkiss, Colorado, to provide fish passage for native fishes, and to rehabilitate the riparian habitat immediately above and below the dam.  Removal of the dam also contributes to the safety of recreational users by opening the waterway.

The Chipeta Dam was built in the1950s to divert water into the Chipeta unit of the Hotchkiss National Fish Hatchery.  The Chipeta unit was destroyed by a massive landslide in 1981, but the 175-foot concrete dam was not removed at that time.

Elsie Winne, Development Director for the North Fork River Improvement Association, will accept an award from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Washington, D.C. this week.  The award recognizes the Associations’ partnership contributions in the successful removal of the Chipeta Dam.   The Association coordinated partnership efforts with the Colorado Water Protection Fund, Wildlife Forever, Trout Unlimited, the Conservation Alliance, the Paonia Kayak Club, and local landowners and businesses.  The Scenic Mesa Ranch donated large boulders and willow and cottonwood plantings, and local groups volunteered project design and tree plantings.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, which encompasses 545 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resources offices and 81 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign and Native American tribal governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Assistance program, which distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.

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