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The Mountain-Prairie Region


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

June 19, 1998

Duane Monk (719) 486-0189
Diane Katzenberger (303) 236-7905

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Proposes to Continue Current Hatchery Program at Leadville Using Lined Earthen Rearing Units to Help Prevent the Spread of Whirling Disease

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the availability of a draft environmental assessment that evaluates the use and operation of Leadville National Fish Hatchery in light of the discovery of whirling disease at the hatchery in May 1995. Public comment on the draft assessment is encouraged. Requests for a copy of the environmental assessment and written responses should be postmarked by July 20, 1998, and addressed to John Hamill, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, P.O. Box 25486, Denver, CO 80225.

The Service’s preferred alternative would continue the current hatchery program that produces trout for stocking in ponds and reservoirs in the Leadville area, military bases near Denver and Colorado Springs, and the Grand Valley area near Grand Junction. In addition, earthen ponds, which are used to rear trout to a catchable size at the hatchery, would be lined to combat whirling disease. Research on whirling disease indicates that earthen ponds that are not lined are significant sources of whirling disease. By lining these ponds, the tubifax worms, which serves as the host of whirling disease, would be greatly reduced.

"The Leadville hatchery has been important in providing trout for stocking fishing in Colorado," said John Hamill, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Associated manager for Colorado. "We believe that lining the rearing ponds at the hatchery will significantly reduce the incidence of whirling disease at the facility and allow current stocking programs to continue without threatening wild fish populations," Hamill added.

Using input from the general public, environmental organizations, and resource agencies, nine alternatives for the future of Leadville National Fish Hatchery were developed. Each alternative was evaluated, considering Service operations and fish health policies, Colorado Division of Wildlife regulations, cost effectiveness, historical value of the hatchery, and the potential for the spreading of whirling disease and other fish disease.

Leadville National Fish Hatchery produces about 85,000 pounds of trout annually for migration for Federal water development projects, compensation for lost recreational fishing opportunities on the Colorado River due to endangered fish recovery activities, fishery management of military lands in Colorado, and public fishing ponds on the hatchery.

In Colorado, whirling disease was first detected in 1987 and affects 13 major river basins, 16 State fish hatcheries, and Leadville National Fish Hatchery. Reports that whirling disease was responsible for decreases in wild rainbow trout recruitment in the upper Colorado River in Colorado during 1994 and 1995 and population declines of wild rainbow trout in Montana caused significant concern over the disease’s effects on wild trout populations in Colorado. Colorado Division of Wildlife responded to this concern by adopting new policies and regulation in January 1997, which severely restrict the stocking location of fish produced at hatcheries where whirling disease is detected.

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