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The Mountain-Prairie Region


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


February 27, 2001
CONTACT: Frank Pfeifer, 970-245-9319 or
                    Debbie Felker, 303-969-7322, ext. 227

Mechanical Failure Results in Loss of
Endangered Colorado River Fish

LAKEWOOD, Colo.- Simultaneous failure of three mechanical systems at the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program’s 24 Road Hatchery near Grand Junction, Colo., on Feb. 24 resulted in the loss of 30,000 1-year-old razorback suckers, an endangered fish. More than 51,000 razorback suckers at the hatchery remain unaffected.

"This is a very serious and unfortunate loss," said Frank Pfeifer of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, who supervises the hatchery.

When a pump ceased to recirculate water properly in fish tanks, a pressure-sensing device did not activate an emergency backup oxygen system, Pfeifer said. In addition, an alarm to alert hatchery staff failed. Without oxygen, the fish perished.

"We took immediate action to investigate and correct the cause of this accident," Pfeifer said. "Although we couldn’t duplicate the equipment failure when we tested it, we have corrected the pump problem, replaced the pressure-sensing device and reprogrammed the alarm system."

Located about three miles north of Grand Junction, the hatchery produces fish to stock in Colorado and Utah to help establish self-sustaining populations. The hatchery uses two separate water systems to protect against losing all fish in the unlikely event that one system fails. Last week’s system failure is the first in the hatchery’s history.

Since it opened in 1996, the hatchery has raised more than 200,000 razorback suckers to support efforts to recover this species, one of four endangered fish species in the Colorado River Basin.

The Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program is a cooperative program involving federal and state agencies, environmental groups and water and power user organizations in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming. Its purpose is to recover endangered fish while allowing for development of water resources for human uses.

Fish of the Mountain-Prairie Region
Colorado River Recovery Program

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