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The Mountain-Prairie Region


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

Aug. 4, 1997
Contact: Bob Burdick (970) 245-9319, ext. 12
or Henry Maddux (303) 236-2985, ext. 223


More Endangered Fish Use "Ladder" on Gunnison River


(Grand Junction, Colo.)--U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists have discovered that 10 more endangered Colorado squawfish have made their way up the Redlands fish ladder since Friday (Aug. 1) on the Gunnison River near Grand Junction, Colo. That brings to 15 the total number of endangered fish that have used the ladder to date, along with 15,000 other native fish.

The squawfish have ranged in size from 15 to 30 inches.

The man-made structure was built last year by the Bureau of Reclamation to allow the rare fish to migrate around a 12-foot high diversion dam. Giving the fish the ability to reach upstream spawning areas in the Gunnison River is expected to speed their recovery.

"These are just the kind of results we have been looking for", said Service biologist Bob Burdick.

These results are giving biologists more information about the potential success of other fish passageways under consideration on the Colorado and Gunnison rivers.

"I'm very encouraged by the results at the Redlands fish ladder and am eager to proceed with additional passageways that will re-open more Colorado squawfish habitat", said Henry Maddux, acting director of the Upper Colorado River Recovery Program.

In related news, Service biologists found an 18-pound, 36-inch female Colorado squawfish in post-spawning condition in the Gunnison River about 30 miles upstream of the Redlands fish ladder on Wednesday (Aug. 30).

When this and other squawfish spawn in the upper Gunnison River, their young are carried downstream by the current and may spill over the Redlands Diversion Dam. Previously, the fish then were blocked from returning back "home" to upstream spawning sites. With the ladder in place, the fish now can move freely up and down the river, re-creating a more natural river system that benefits the environment as a whole, biologists say.

The Upper Colorado River Recovery Program is a coalition of public and private organizations working to recover endangered Colorado squawfish, razorback sucker, bonytail and humpback chub while allowing for development of water resources for human uses.

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