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The Mountain-Prairie Region


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

May 2, 2002
Contact: Chuck McAda, 970-245-9319

Endangered Fish Recovery Program Suspends
Fish Ladder Operation Due to Drought

LAKEWOOD, Colo. – The Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program has temporarily suspended operation of the fish ladder at the Redlands Diversion Dam in an effort to help conserve water for other uses in the Gunnison River near Grand Junction, Colorado. The ladder began operation April 4 and was shut down April 22 in anticipation of a call on the river by the Redlands Water and Power Company. The ladder will remain closed until flows in the Gunnison River increase with spring runoff. About 600 fish of various species have already ascended the ladder this year.

The ladder enables endangered Colorado pikeminnow and razorback sucker to reach sections of the Gunnison River where they are historically known to spawn.

"Ordinarily we operate the ladder continuously from April through October," said Colorado Fisheries Assistant Project Leader Chuck McAda, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "This year’s severe drought has put a strain on the Colorado and Gunnison rivers for irrigation and other uses."

The ladder requires 100 cubic feet per second (cfs) to operate with an additional 200 cfs downstream to help the fish navigate their way through shallow areas downstream. Water stored in Blue Mesa Reservoir is identified for operation of the fish ladder.

"Rather than call for that water now, the Recovery Program opted to delay using storage water until late June or July when it is critically important for migrating Colorado pikeminnow to reach their spawning sites," McAda said. "We want to make the most efficient use of the limited water supply this year."

Historically called the "white salmon," Colorado pikeminnow are known to migrate up to 200 miles to spawn. Since the ladder’s completion in 1996, 52 Colorado pikeminnow and more than 45,000 other native fish have used it. Last summer, five razorback sucker used the ladder for the first time.

Biologists will continue to closely monitor the river conditions and the movement of the endangered fishes during the next several weeks.

"Ideally we would like to operate the fish ladder now," said Recovery Program Director Robert Muth. "However, our Program has taken the position that the drought has put a strain on the river system for everyone. We realize that we are all in this together and we must all do our part to help conserve water. Postponing operation of the ladder until it’s absolutely critical is one way we are trying to do this."

The Recovery Program is a voluntary, 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 water resources are available for human uses. The Recovery Program operates in compliance with state water law.


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