Western watershed priority: Manage wildfire risk and impacts

August 11, 2014

From the Albuquerque Journal (John Fleck):

Krista Bonfantine can look up into the mountains behind her Sandia Park home and understand, better than most, the connection between the forested watersheds that provide most of New Mexico’s water and the stuff coming out of her tap.

As she opened the lid on the concrete box that surrounds Cienega Spring, which supplies her neighborhood’s water, she pondered what might happen if a fire burned through the overgrown woods above – the risk of floods tearing down the picturesque canyon, ash and debris wiping out the water supply intake.

Fire and the resulting damage to watersheds have been an increasing concern in recent years, and Bonfantine is part of an ambitious effort to tackle the cause – overgrown forests in New Mexico’s mountains.

While the risk to Bonfantine’s neighborhood is nearby, and therefore immediately apparent, the widespread risk of fire in the watersheds that provide much of New Mexico’s water supplies is harder to see.

The problem is not just the forests themselves, explained Beverlee McClure, president of the Association of Commerce and Industry, a business group. The threat of upland fires threatens the reliability of the water supplies on which we all depend, she said…

McClure’s organization is part of The Rio Grande Water Fund, a broad-based coalition that is working to scale up patchwork efforts underway in the mountains of northern and central New Mexico to restore forests in order to protect the watersheds and water systems on which they depend.

As McClure spoke, a crew from a Corona-based company called Restoration Solutions was at work up the road with chain saws, felling trees in an overgrown patch of woods at a place called Horse Camp on the edge of the Cibola National Forest.

The overgrown woods in the mountains of New Mexico are the result of a century of firefighting that prevented natural, low-intensity fires that used to clear out undergrowth. The result is forests that are so thick in places that they are hard to walk through…

Trees being cut last week on Forest Service land near the Sandia Crest Road can be used as firewood, but there is not enough money to be made from cutting the small timber clogging the unhealthy forests to make such work self-supporting, Racher said. “There’s not enough value in that wood to pay for what needs to be done,” Racher said.

That is at the heart of the Forest Trust, which is attempting to raise $15 million per year in government money and private contributions to pay to expand the work, said Laura McCarthy, director of New Mexico conservation programs for the Nature Conservancy, an environmental group…

“This is a big problem that the federal government is not going to be able to solve for us,” McCarthy said.

More restoration/reclamation coverage here.

Lower Dolores study details native fish needs — The Dolores Star

July 24, 2014

From The Dolores Star (Jim Mimiaga):

A conceptual plan for aiding native fish on the Lower Dolores River was approved by the Dolores Water Conservancy District in June. The District has been negotiating with Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the BLM, Forest Service, and conservation groups on ways to improve native fish habitat below McPhee Dam. The result is the Lower Dolores River Implementation, Monitoring, and Evaluation Plan, focusing on three native fish: the flannelmouth sucker, bluehead sucker, and roundtail chub.

“The plan provides a more coordinated approach for improving native fish habitat, with a focus on additional monitoring,” said Amber Clark, with the San Juan Citizen’s Alliance.

After McPhee Dam was built, small spills, as well as non-spill years from 2001-2004, began reducing the quality and amount of habitat required to meet the needs of native fish. Spring releases from the dam are later in the season, which has reduced the chance for spawning and survival of native fish.

“Protecting the native fish species locally is important because the healthier they are, the less likely they will be seen by the (U.S. Fish and Wildlife) agency as requiring protective status under the Endangered Species Act,” said Ken Curtis, an engineer with the Dolores Water Conservancy District. “Working to help these species keeps control of our river at a local level.”

The implementation plan presents known and preferred habitat conditions and lifecycles of native fish within six separate stretches of the river below McPhee dam, four of which are a focus of conservation: Dove Creek Pump Station to Pyramid (Reach 3), Pyramid to Big Gypsum Valley (Reach 4), Slickrock Canyon (Reach 5), and Bedrock to San Miguel confluence (Reach 6) Reach 3 (nine miles)

Roundtail Chub are most abundant in Reach 3 and have a relatively stable population there. Mature roundtail are smaller than in other Western Slope rivers, indicating they are adapting to low flows. Fish counts at the Dove Creek area counted 140 roundtail chub, the highest in 13 years.

Bluehead and flannelmouth suckers are present, but in low abundance. In 2013, eight bluehead and one flannelmouth were counted. Habitat is good for bluehead, a more cold tolerant fish.

Reach 4 (38 miles)

Disappointment enters the Dolores in this stretch, flushing sediment into the main channel.

All three native species are found in this stretch as well as problematic non-natives including the black bullhead and smallmouth bass, a voracious predator.

Studies show that populations shift toward non-native species during prolonged low-flow periods. In 2004, native species made up less than 50 percent of the fish caught. After a prolonged spill in 2005, 84 percent of the fish sampled were flannelmouth sucker or roundtail chubs. Because of silt buildup from Disappointment Creek, improving flows here would especially help native fish beat out non-natives.

In August 2013, flooding showed that Reach 4 below Disappointment caused unnatural silting, causing a significant fish kill.

A lack of water limits critical dilution effects, and there is an unnatural buildup of silt because of infrequent flushing flows. “During a flash flood event on Disappointment, the surge of debris-filled water flows into the Dolores River, but there is no water to help dilute the surge of silt-laden water,” said Jim White, a CPW fish biologist.

Monitoring native species at Big Gypsum will remain a priority as it appears that the population may be sensitive to low flow.

Flows are a big factor. In 2005, when there was a managed spill, biologists found 150 flannelmouth per hectare at the Big Gypsum site. While in 2004 when there was no spill, flannelmouth were counted at five fish per hectare.

In April 2013, a PIT-tag array was installed across the river just above the Disappointment Creek confluence. Fish are implanted with grain-size microchips and can be detected when they move. Only a few fish have been tagged in the lower Dolores, but more implants are planned. Data shows native fish move up and down the river. The cost of the PIT-tag array is about $75,000.

Slickrock Canyon (32 miles)

All three native fish species are found,but in low abundance. This canyon is difficult to survey, and can usually be floated if there is a spill from McPhee reservoir. The last survey was in 2007, but more are needed to determine if the stretch has rearing habitats for native fish. A relatively large number of small native fish was found near the mouth of Coyote Wash, suggesting tributaries play an important role for young fish.

Bedrock to the San Miguel River confluence (12 miles)

There are a lot of unknowns. It is highly affected by natural salt loading through the Paradox Valley. The salinity is a barrier for fish between the Dolores River below the San Miguel and Slickrock Canyon. A salinity injection well is operated by the Bureau of Reclamation here to mitigate the problem. Researchers want to ascertain the levels of salinity. A second PIT-tag array is considered near Bedrock to help figure out how fish move .

Spill management

Mimicking a natural hydrograph for native fish is one goal of the implementation plan.

McPhee stores most of the Dolores River spring runoff, and exports much of the storage to the Montezuma Valley of the San Juan River Basin. The result is a lack of spring flushing flows in the Lower Dolores to move sediment and create natural habitat.

When inflow into the reservoir exceeds capacity, the spill benefits boaters and the downstream fishery. However, a prolonged drought has limited spill years. The reservoir holds a fishery pool of 29,824 acre-feet allocated downstream throughout the year by CPW. Spill water doesn’t count against the fishery pool, but it is subject to shortages in dry years.

The report suggests ways to optimize the fish pool and spills for the benefit of native fish.

Thermal regime management sends water downstream earlier, in March and April rather than in May, to keep water cooler and delay the fish spawn until after the whitewater season.

Biologists have documented that when spill water is released in May, the low flows on the lower Dolores have heated up, cueing fish to spawn early.

“The fry and eggs are washed away in the whitewater, a hit on survival,” White said.

A model indicates that flow volumes of 125-200 cfs on May 1 may be necessary to keep water below 15C at the Dove Creek Pumps. More water downstream may keep water cool enough to delay spawning. A gauge at James Ranch will monitor conditions.

Flushing flows range from 400-800 cfs are important to prepare spawning areas and improve oxygenated flow around eggs.

Habitat flows ranging from 2,000 cfs to 3,400 cfs are necessary for resetting channel geometry, scouring pools, creating channels for fish nurseries. The Bureau of Reclamation urges increasing the fish pool to 36,500 acre-feet a year. A fund of $400,000 is earmarked for buying additional water, but none has been acquired using these funds.

“There has always been a desire for more water for the downstream fishery,” says Curtis, of DWCD. “Before there is a blanket grab for additional water, there needs to be a specific focus on how it will help, and those questions are being pursued.”

The goal of the Implementation Plan is to maintain, protect, and enhance the native fish populations in the Dolores River.

The area is susceptible to being overrun by small mouth bass and affords opportunity for their suppression by removing caught fish.

Managed spills scour the river bottom, and move sediment in ways that benefit native fish and their young.

Blueheads are rarely detected in this stretch.

Biologists see the problem as two-fold:

The Snaggletooth Rapid is in this stretch, making fish sampling a challenge, but regular fish monitoring is encouraged in the report.

More Dolores River watershed coverage here and here.

2014 Colorado legislation SB14-195 funds phreatophyte study in the South Platte Basin #COleg

June 18, 2014

From The Greeley Tribune (Eric Brown):

Many farmers and others applauded the recent signing of a bill aimed at addressing a major water issue in the region — vegetation along the rivers, which consumes about 40 percent as much water as all cities in northern Colorado combined, studies show.

Signed into law this month, Senate Bill 195, co-sponsored by Scott Renfroe, R-Eaton, allows the Colorado Water Conservancy Board to use funds for a two-year-plus study on the South Platte River watershed where it was impacted by the 2013 flood. The study will attempt to determine the relationship between high groundwater and increases in non-beneficial water consumption of phreatophytes — particularly non-native tamarisk, salt cedars, Russian olives and other such plants along rivers. The bill also calls for developing a cost analysis for the removal of the unwanted phreatophytes in the South Platte Basin. The final report is expected to be presented to the General Assembly by Dec. 31, 2016.

“The amount of plants along the river … and the amount of water we lose because of them … just gets worse and worse every year for us,” said Frank Eckhardt, a LaSalle-area farmer and member of the South Platte Roundtable — a group made up of water officials and experts in the region who convene monthly to discuss ways of solving the region’s future water gaps.

Eckhardt is also chairman of the board for the Western Mutual and Farmers Independent irrigation companies, which, combined, deliver water to about 15,000 acres of farmland in the LaSalle/Gilcrest areas.

Eckhardt said his ditch companies removed some vegetation along their ditches and saw improvements in those water supplies.

The bill talks of the CWCB working with Colorado State University and the Colorado Department of Agriculture on its study, and also notes funding for the study and report could come from unused dollars in an existing $1 million state fund.

“Rather than spend $1 million to study the problem, there’s a lot of us who’d rather see that $1 million go toward more quickly removing some of those plants,” Eckhardt added. “Still, this was a good step.”

A broader study of the South Platte basin, conducted last year by the Colorado Water Institute, showed that phreatophytes continue to increase, resulting in large quantities of non-beneficial consumptive water use — perhaps as much as 250,000 acre feet per year, or 80 billion gallons. According to 2010 Statewide Water Supply Initiative study, all of the South Platte Basin’s municipalities used a little over 600,000 acre feet. That being the case, approval of the study comes as welcome news to many water users and water officials in the ag-intense South Platte River Basin, which includes all or portions of eight of the state’s top-10 ag-producing counties, in addition to many of the fastest growing cities in Colorado.

Many South Platte water users see invasive phreatophytes — deep-rooted plants that obtain water from permanent ground supplies or from the water table — as a major problem and potential threat to agriculture.

In all years, and especially in years like 2012 — one in which rainfall was at a record low, some farmers’ irrigation ditches were running dry and cities were having to watch their supplies closely — many agree some of that water could be going to a more beneficial use than quenching the thirst of vegetation along banks in the South Platte basin.

The Senate Bill 195 study won’t solve the problem, many acknowledge, but it represents another step in the right direction — although some still have questions about the bill.

“There’s still a lot of explanation needed regarding how the dollars will be spent, among other issues,” said Bob Streeter, a South Platte Roundtable member, and head of the roundtable’s phreatophyte committee. “We’re looking forward to having some of that explained to us.”

While Streeter acknowledges that phreatophytes are an issue, he, like others, questions how much water users would actually benefit in the long run if that vegetation was eradicated.

Streeter and others agree some kind of vegetation would be needed in place of the removed phreatophytes because root systems are necessary for keeping the river’s banks from eroding, and vegetation would be needed to provide habitats for wildlife in those areas and flood control.

The study isn’t the first step aimed at the phreatophytes issue. Most recently, the Colorado Youth Corps Association and Colorado Water Conservation Board, a division of the Department of Natural Resources, is funding invasive plant species mitigation projects throughout Colorado in an effort to preserve and protect the state’s water resources. Five projects in 2014 — funded through a $50,000 grant from the CWCB — will be conducted by Colorado Youth Conservation Association-accredited youth corps in conjunction with local project sponsors in four counties throughout the state.

The projects are designed to control a variety of invasive phreatophyte plants. The Weld County Youth Conservation Corps, for example, will receive $15,000 to remove invasive vegetation from riverbanks and sandbars of the South Platte River.

The CWCB, local governments and organizations also have put together other efforts to limit the amount of vegetation that now lines the banks across the state — some of which are plants that couldn’t be found along the river a century ago.

With more thorough studies required and millions of dollars needed to help reduce the number of phreatophytes along rivers, no one is expecting immediate action that would significantly help address the looming water gap.

However, despite the uncertainties, recent years — like 2012 — serve as a reminder that water shortages are likely to be an issue down the road as the population grows in northern Colorado, and all possible solutions need to be thrown on the table to avoid the expected water-supply gap.

The Statewide Water Supply Initiative study estimates the South Platte River Basin alone could face a municipal and industrial water-supply gap of between 36,000 and 190,000 acre feet by 2050.

More invasive specie coverage here.

2014 #COLeg: SB14-195, South Platte River Post #COflood Phreatophyte Study, Ag to Appropriations unamended 12-0

May 5, 2014

Click here to read the bill.

More 2014 Colorado Legislation coverage here.

The Weld County Youth Corps Association recently received grant dollars to help mitigate invasive plant species — Greeley Tribune

April 3, 2014

From The Greeley Tribune (Eric Brown):

The Weld County Youth Corps Association recently received grant dollars to help mitigate invasive plant species along the area’s rivers and protect the state’s water resources.

This will likely come as exciting news to water users in northeast Colorado’s South Platte River Basin, who see invasive phreatophyte plants — deep-rooted plants that obtain water from permanent ground supplies or from the water table — as a major problem.

A study conducted last year by the Colorado Water Institute showed that invasive phreatophyte plants continue to increase in the South Platte basin, resulting in large quantities of non-beneficial consumptive water use — perhaps as much as 250,000 acre feet per year, or 80 billion gallons.

According to a news release, the Weld County Youth Conservation Corps will receive $15,000 to remove invasive vegetation from riverbanks and sandbars of the South Platte River.

The project is coordinated with and sponsored by Ducks Unlimited.

The corps will also receive $7,500 to eradicate tamarisk and Russian olive along the St. Vrain River in a project for the Weld County Weed Division.

A total of five projects in 2014 — funded through a $50,000 grant from the Colorado Water Conservation Board, which is a division of the Department of Natural Resources — will be conducted by Colorado Youth Conservation Association-accredited youth corps in conjunction with local project sponsors in four counties throughout the state.

For the South Platte River project, the Weld County Youth Corps Association crew will clear invasive vegetation from three protected properties located along the South Platte River in Weld and Morgan counties. This work will improve the river channel habitat for waterfowl and other wildlife and reduce consumptive water use.

The project will start at Weld County Road 1 and extend about three linear miles toward the confluence with the South Platte River.

The Weld County Youth Corps Association proposal was one of eight representing $105,000 in requests for 14 weeks of work to mitigate these plants throughout the state.

The Weld County Youth Corps Association — serving youth and young adults ages 14-24 — engages its corps members in community and conservation service projects throughout Weld County.

More tamarisk control coverage here and here.

More quagga mussels found in Lake Powell; Is the Lower Colorado River ecosystem at risk?

February 24, 2014

Originally posted on Summit County Citizens Voice:

Quagga mussels coating a flip-flop in Lake Mead. PHOTO COURTESY NATIONAL PARK SERVICE.

Quagga mussels coating a flip-flop in Lake Mead. PHOTO COURTESY NATIONAL PARK SERVICE.

National Park Service seeking input on mussel management plan

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — The battle to keep Lake Powell free of non-native mussels is tilting toward the aquatic invaders and federal resource managers are concerned the invaders may spread into Glen Canyon.

As of January, the National Park Service reported finding — and removing — about 1,300 hundred adult quagga mussels, and managers at the reservoir said they’re finding more as the season progresses.

In response, the park service is developing a quagga-zebra mussel management plan to help the the agency decide what tools are appropriate to support the ongoing management of invasive mussels in Glen Canyon now that quagga mussels are present in Lake Powell.

View original 178 more words

Grand Junction: Riparian Restoration in the Western U.S., February 18, 19, 20

February 7, 2014


From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Hannah Holm):

Across the West, stream and riverbanks have been taken over by alien invaders. Tamarisk and Russian Olive form dense thickets that crowd out native plants, degrade wildlife habitat, and cut off access to the water.

As daunting as the scale of this invasion is, a tenacious group of scientists, land managers and weed wranglers are doggedly working to understand and control the problem. Many of these experts will gather in Grand Junction Feb. 18-20 to share their latest discoveries on how to tame the invaders and bring back the native willows and cottonwoods, as well as address other challenges to healthy, accessible streambanks.

The Grand Junction-based Tamarisk Coalition is teaming up with The Water Center at Colorado Mesa University to bring these experts together for the research and management conference titled “Riparian Restoration in the Western U.S.” The conference will involve presentations and workshops highlighting recent advancements and emerging issues in riparian invasive plant management and restoration on Feb. 18-19, and a half-day field trip on Feb. 20 to visit a restoration site in Palisade’s Riverbend Park and the Palisade Insectary, which has played an important role in promoting and studying the spread of a tamarisk-eating beetle.

Conference session topics will include secondary weeds and monitoring, threatened and endangered species considerations in restoration, biological control, partnerships and community, restoration planning, technology, wildlife, and water availability and challenges.

There will also be a half-day workshop on “Bridging the Gap between Land Manager Needs and Scientific Research,” and a presentation on the various ways that gardening practices can encourage or discourage certain kinds of insects, including the destructive emerald ash borer.

This conference offers a great opportunity for land and resource managers, private land owners, researchers, students, and others to convene in a collaborative venue to learn about and discuss the latest trends in riparian restoration and ecology. CMU students can attend for free, although they do need to register under the “scholarship” category.

For complete details on the conference and to register, go to http://www.tamariskcoalition.org/programs/conferences/2014.

#ColoradoRiver District: 2014 Water Resources Grant Program

December 4, 2013
Roaring Fork River

Roaring Fork River

From email from the Colorado River District (Martha Moore):

Effective immediately, the Colorado River District is accepting grant applications for projects that protect, enhance or develop water resources within its 15-county region. (district map)

Projects eligible for the grant program must achieve one or more of the following objectives:

• develop a new water supply
• improve an existing system
• improve instream water quality
• increase water use efficiency
• reduce sediment loading
• implement a watershed management action
• control invasive riparian vegetation
• protect pre-Colorado River Compact water rights (those in use before 1929)

Previous successfully grant-funded projects have included the construction of new water storage, the enlargement of existing water storage or diversion facilities, rehabilitation of nonfunctioning or restricted water storage / delivery / diversion structures, implementation of water efficiency improvements and watershed enhancements.

Successful grantees can receive up to a maximum of $150,000 (or approximately 25% of the total project cost; in the case of smaller projects, this percentage may be slightly higher) for their project. The total amount available for the 2014 competitive grant program is $250,000. The application deadline is Jan. 31, 2014.

To access the Water Resources Grant Program application, instructions, guidelines, policies, and other details please visit http://www.ColoradoRiverDistrict.org/page_193.

More information can be obtained by contacting Dave Kanzer or Alesha Frederick at 970-945-8522 or by e-mail to grantinfo@crwcd.org.

More Colorado River District coverage here.

Tamarisk control: ‘When you get a group of people together, it’s amazing what you can do’ — Jesse Loughman

November 5, 2013
Goat munching tamarisk via The Pueblo Chieftain

Goat munching tamarisk via The Pueblo Chieftain

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Melinda Mawdsley):

Desa Loughman thinks tamarisk and Russian olive trees suck, as in suck up too much water. The Palisade resident is tired of watching the non-native plants choke out native trees and consume large amounts of the Colorado River in Riverbend Park.

“They suck the water. They smother out native plants. They literally suck,” Loughman said.

On [October 14], she and her husband, Jesse Loughman, owners of Colorado Alternative Health Care, organized an informal effort of invasive plant eradication in the popular Palisade park along the Colorado River.

“I hope this inspires people all over Colorado to clean up their rivers,” Loughman said. “When you get a group of people together, it’s amazing what you can do.”

For several hours Sunday, the Loughmans and nearly a dozen other people cut down and removed dozens of plants by the boat launch.

“Look at the beach,” Jesse Loughman joked after a huge area of sand was exposed.

The Loughmans coordinated the effort with Frank Watt, Palisade’s public works director, with the hope he can apply for a future grant to replant native plants, Desa Loughman said.

“Frank has a lot of neat opportunities for the town to do things but doesn’t have the manpower,” she added.

Sunday’s tamarisk and Russian olive destruction day was the latest Lend A Hand effort the Loughmans have coordinated to help beautify Palisade at no extra cost to the town. Another invasive plan eradication day is planned for next spring, but the timing depends on the weather, Desa Loughman said.

More tamarisk control coverage here and here.

New Methods Improve Quagga and Zebra Mussel Identification

November 3, 2013
Zebra and Quagga Mussels

Zebra and Quagga Mussels

Here’s the release from Reclamation (Peter Soeth):

The earliest possible detection of quagga and zebra mussels has long been a goal of biologists seeking to discover their presence in water bodies. The Bureau of Reclamation’s Detection Laboratory has released two reports identifying a new sampling method to improve the accuracy of quagga and zebra mussel detection while still at the microscopic larval stage. The reports also outline the processes and procedures used to identify invasive mussels through DNA testing.

“Improving the accuracy of testing provides Reclamation and its partners better information about the presence of quagga and zebra mussels in water bodies where our facilities are located,” laboratory manager Denise Hosler said. “These sampling procedures allow for the improved detection when the mussels are in their larval stage.”

For early detection, Reclamation searches samples from reservoirs, lakes, canals and other water bodies for the microscopic larval form of quagga and zebra mussels. Because they are so small, multiple testing methods are used, including cross-polarized light microscopy, scanning electron microscopy and PCR testing of the DNA of larvae in the water sample.

“Early detection of mussel larvae does not mean that the water body will necessarily become infested,” Reclamation’s Director of Research and Development Curt Brown said. “Early detection provides a warning for managers that a water body is being exposed to mussels through some pathway, so they can consider additional means to prevent further introduction.”

Reclamation’s Detection Laboratory is located in the Technical Service Center in Denver. It specializes in invasive mussels and also identifies species through taxonomic and genetic testing. It was awarded the Colorado Governor’s Award for High Impact Research in 2012 for its work advancing the early detection of invasive quagga and zebra mussels.

To download the reports or learn more about Reclamation’s Invasive Mussel Program, please visit http://www.usbr.gov/mussels.

Please remember to clean, drain and dry your watercraft when you are moving it between bodies of water.

More invasive species coverage here and here.

‘They’re [Russian Olives] thorny, nasty trees’ — Drew Sprafke

July 26, 2013


From The Denver Post (Emilie Rusch):

An offensive against the Russian olive tree — an invasive species that chokes out native cottonwoods and willows — has been launched by Denver, Lakewood, Englewood, Colorado Heights and the Fort Logan National Cemetery. “They’re thorny, nasty trees,” said Drew Sprafke, an official with the city of Lakewood Regional Parks. “When they form those dense stands, no one can get through them.”

Using a grant from the Colorado Water Conservation Board, an 11-person crew from Mile High Youth Corps will be working through early August removing the trees from the lower Bear Creek watershed.

Introduced to Colorado as an ornamental tree, Russian olives can be identified by their narrow, silvery leaves and olive-shaped fruit. They prefer moist, riparian areas, but can be found just about anywhere — along streams, in fields and open space, even ditches, Sprafke said

The eventual goal, Sprafke said, is to remove every Russian olive from Bear Creek Lake Park to the South Platte in Denver during a multiyear process.

The trees are considered a List B noxious weed by the state of Colorado, meaning local governments are required to manage and limit their spread.

Sprafke estimates there are 1,500 Russian olives between Bear Creek Lake Park and Wadsworth Boulevard.

More invasive species coverage here.

CSU Pueblo Fountain Creek research update: Funding for Fountain Creek studies has all but evaporated

July 17, 2013


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Research on Fountain Creek could improve understanding in the scientific community of how selenium interacts with living tissues. Through five years of study of plants and fish tissue on Fountain Creek, Jim Carsella of the Colorado State University Aquatic Research Center has made an important discovery about the relationship of pH to selenium. “The bioaccumulation of selenium is highest in the spring, but the levels found in water are highest in the fall,” Carsella said. “That’s not what you’d expect to find.”

The reason appears to be related to higher pH levels when flows are lower in Fountain Creek, he said. Graphs show a strong correlation between selenium uptake in fish tissue and the concentration in the stream when the pH levels are in the neutral range. But when they increase toward base (as opposed to acidic) levels, the relationship is destroyed. “This has implications on a worldwide basis on how selenium affects levels in living tissues,” said Del Nimmo, a researcher with CSU-Pueblo.

It’s also important to ongoing water quality issues on Fountain Creek, which is listed as impaired for selenium by the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission. Selenium is an element that is necessary for life, but toxic in higher concentrations. Standards are based on the concentration of levels in fish and birds, as well as what is considered safe for humans.

Research by CSU-Pueblo also has shown an inverse relationship between selenium and mercury in fish tissue, meaning that as selenium increases, mercury decreases. There are high levels of mercury loading on Upper Fountain Creek — possibly from atmospheric sources or from former mining activity. Above Pueblo, selenium levels spike on Fountain Creek because of water flowing over layers of Pierre shale, believed to be the chief reason for higher selenium levels.

More coverage from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain:

Colorado State University- Pueblo researchers are continuing to monitor Lake Pueblo, the Arkansas River below Pueblo Dam and Fountain Creek as a result of concerns about water quality that began about a decade ago. “Those are the three areas where we are concentrating our efforts,” said Scott Herrmann, an aquatic biology professor who began monitoring the changes at Lake Pueblo before the dam was built.

Like water levels in the Arkansas River basin, the level of enthusiasm for the research being conducted at the university has seen high and low points, particularly over the past five years. “We have a lot of background data on fish and plant species on Fountain Creek, and in the future, we would be interested in repeating the studies,” Herrmann said.

While conditions have changed on the Arkansas River and Fountain Creek, there still is value in the research that has been done to date. “We’re sitting in the catbird’s seat when it comes to data prior to the (Waldo Canyon and Black Forest) fires,” said Del Nimmo, a biologist with the Aquatic Research Center at CSU-Pueblo. Samples taken shortly after the Waldo Canyon Fire have not been tested because of a lack of funding.

Funding for Fountain Creek studies has all but evaporated as government agencies have pulled back.

The previous studies were funded at first by the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, which cut off its support last year after putting more than $400,000 into university studies. The board asked the CSU-Pueblo team to get broader funding contributions last July when it declined to put more money into Fountain Creek.

Pueblo County commissioners have funded about $75,000 per year, while the city of Pueblo and Colorado Parks and Wildlife also have contributed.

The Pueblo Board of Water Works is continuing to fund water sampling in Lake Pueblo and at two points downstream of Pueblo Dam, primarily driven by concern about mussels. The research was helpful in the water board’s recent position on Chlorophyll A levels in Colorado Water Quality Control Commission hearings.

Samples of water taken from Lake Pueblo by Herrmann and Nimmo were used in the discovery of zebra and quagga mussel larvae in 2008, as well as follow-up studies. Most recently, those samples led to the discovery of new invasive species in Lake Pueblo.

More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.

‘Pueblo Reservoir is quite a home for exotic species’ — Scott Herrmann

July 16, 2013


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

It’s been nearly five years since evidence of invasive zebra mussels was found in Lake Pueblo, setting off a statewide campaign to keep them and their cousins, quagga mussels, from spreading. There has been no confirmation since then that a breeding population of either of the potentially damaging mussels exists in the reservoir, or anywhere else in the state.

But continued study at Lake Pueblo by Colorado State University-Pueblo researchers is turning up more exotic species. “Pueblo Reservoir is quite a home for exotic species,” said Scott Herrmann, an aquatic biology professor at CSU-Pueblo. “It’s surprising what we’ve found.”

Some of those, such as the Asian clam, have been known for years and cause relatively little damage. But others have the potential to displace related native species and harm fish habitat.

The invasive species were found in sampling done from 2008-10 by Herrmann and Del Beaver, an aquatic ecologist in Ohio. A scientific paper has been prepared, but is not yet published.

It’s not known if the populations could become large enough to have either a positive or negative impact on Lake Pueblo, Herrmann said.

A type of water flea has the potential to do the most damage, because unlike native species, it has long spines. Fish feeding on them would be expected to grow more slowly, Herrmann explained.

A type of moss animal, however, is a filter feeder like the invasive mussels, and could actually be out-competing any mussels for resources. Populations of the invasive species appear to peak during late summer and early fall, when the reservoir levels are lowest and warmest. Similar native species peak in late spring.

“Lake Pueblo is unique in that it is a cold-water reservoir in a warmwater environment,” Herrmann said. “There is a diversity of species without one dominating. What you find are rotating occurrences.”

More invasive species coverage here and here.

Lake Powell: Quaggas in the pipes? #ColoradoRiver

May 18, 2013


From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

The National Park Service recently identified 14 adult quagga mussels attached to moored vessels and dock structures at the Wahweap Marina in Lake Powell. None of the adult mussels were close enough together to mate for successful reproduction. All of the mussels were physically removed from the lake. The first four mussels were found when a local marine service business noticed the small shells on a boat that had been pulled for maintenance and then notified the park service. “We really appreciate the report of this finding since it will help in the removal of the adult mussels before they can reproduce,” said Mark Anderson, a Glen Canyon ecologist. “It’s likely that the mussels were introduced via ballast or bilge water from a boat that was not cleaned, drained, or dried.”

Boats, docks, and cables in Wahweap Bay will continue to be assessed by the NPS dive team. The Antelope Point area was inspected beginning in December of 2012 with no mussels discovered.

Click here to read the March 27, 2013 Mussel Monitoring Update for Lake Powell from the National Park Service:

Mussel Monitoring Update for Lake Powell

1. What was found?
Fourteen widely dispersed adult quagga mussels were found attached to moored houseboats and dock structures. The mussels were alive, but too far apart to successfully reproduce.

2. Where were they found?
The adult mussels were found at the Waheap Marina. Surveys were conducted in the Antelope Point area beginning in December, 2012 and no mussels were detected.

3. How were they found?
Employees of a local marine services business discovered the first four mussels on a single houseboat that had been removed from moorage for annual cleaning and maintenance. They contacted Glen Canyon National Recreation Area staff on March 18th to identify the organisms. NPS staff confirmed they were quagga mussels. Divers discovered the additional mussels as they searched nearby.

4. Why is this important?
No adult mussels have been found in Lake Powell prior to last week. The mussels appear to have attached and grown on the boats and structures while they were in the lake. The mussels were too far apart, however, to reproduce.

5. What are the next steps?
Diver surveys will continue in the coming weeks to determine the extent of the number of mussels. When found, mussels are physically removed from the lake to prevent reproduction. The NPS will continue all of our mussel prevention activities including inspections of boats. Preventing the spread of Quagga mussels and other aquatic invasive species is more important than ever.

6. If control strategies are not effective, how soon could Lake Powell start experiencing mussel impacts?
Should a mussel population get established and spread, it could be several years before their presence would be obvious. Spreading lake-wide could take considerably longer.

7. What can the public do to help?
Clean, drain, and dry! The spread of mussels and other aquatic invasive species is preventable. Cooperate with prevention program efforts at Lake Powell and other places where people are trying to protect their waters. Always make sure your vessels and equipment are not causing the problem. Spread the message, not the mussels.
rch 27, 2013

8. Are boat inspections still required at Lake Powell? Yes.

9. Can boats leaving Lake Powell spread mussels to other waters now?
Not if boaters practice “Clean, Drain, and Dry” and treat their boats and equipment to prevent spreading aquatic species.

10. What effect will this have on the Colorado River below the dam in Glen and Grand canyons? These detections are so low that no effect will occur. If a large infestation of Quagga mussels existed in Lake Powell, large numbers of mussel larvae might travel through the dam. The larvae that survived would seek to attach in low flow areas. It is not known if they could reach high numbers. The Arizona Canal has not yet developed large populations of mussels despite larvae being delivered from the Lower Colorado River.

11. What has the NPS done to stop mussels at Lake Powell?
The NPS has operated a mussel prevention program at Lake Powell since 2000. Over a decade ago, scientists predicted that Lake Powell would be the first lake in the western U.S. to get mussels. The number of high-risk boats coming to the park has increased exponentially in that time. Prior to 2007 and the discovery of mussels in the west, Lake Powell was threatened by about 50 high-risk boats per year from eastern states. In 2011 alone, that number was 17,000. 38 boats with mussels were stopped from launching in 2012, over twice the number in 2011. The increased pressure has required the park to screen boats to determine the highest risks and focus our limited capability where it was needed most. At busy times, as few as 15% of boats may actually get inspected.

12. How does NPS monitoring at Lake Powell compare to other mussel monitoring programs?
No other lake on earth is as intensely monitored for mussels as Lake Powell. The NPS processes hundreds of samples each year. The NPS uses 4 early detection methods, including microscopic analysis, automated particle analysis (FlowCAM), Polymerase Chain Reaction (the DNA test), and deployment of artificial substrates to detect early colonization. Sampling occurs lake-wide at routine sites like marinas and the dam; computers are also used to determine random sampling locations throughout the lake. More samples collected are from areas where there are the most boats. Using both routine and random sampling as well as multiple early detection methodologies is expected to increase the chances of very early detection. Control of any invasive species is easiest when caught early. If these current findings represent a population, the best chances have been created for successful control.

More invasive species coverage here.

The Center for Biological Diversity files an intent to sue the USDA over management of the tamarisk leaf beetle

March 18, 2013


From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

Along with Maricopa Audubon, the CBD last week filed a notice of intent to sue the U.S. Department of Agriculture and APHIS, the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, over their failure to safeguard flycatchers. APHIS promised mitigation if its release of the beetles went awry, but has not taken the steps necessary — including planting native willows and cottonwoods to replace dying tamarisk — to help the endangered flycatchers. “APHIS refuses to clean up its own mess now that its introduction of an exotic, invasive biocontrol agent has gone haywire,” Silver said.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was also included in the notice of intent to sue for failing to protect the flycatcher as required by the Endangered Species Act; another federal agency, the Bureau of Reclamation, was included because its plans to protect the flycatcher in western Arizona are no longer sufficient due to the spread of the beetles. Today’s notice clears the way for litigation against these agencies if they fail to initiate protective actions within 60 days.

Flycatchers frequently nest where tamarisk has displaced native cottonwood and willow trees. A quarter of the birds’ territories are found in areas dominated by tamarisk, and about half are found in areas of mixed tamarisk and native trees.

More tamarisk control coverage here and here.

Lake Mead: Quaggas have become the dominant lake-bottom organism #coriver

February 3, 2013


Here’s a report about the recent USGS assessment of water quality at Lake Mead, from Bob Berwyn writing for the Summit County Citizens Voice. Here’s an excerpt:

Overall, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation said that Lake Mead’s water quality is good and that fish populations are holding their own. Lake Mead is even providing habitat for an increasing number of birds. But the report also acknowledges that invasive quagga mussels have become the dominant lake-bottom organism, posing significant threat to the Lake Mojave and Lake Mead ecosystems. The report also acknowledges the long-term threat of climate change, which will bring reduced water supplies to the entire Colorado River Basin.

“While the Lake Mead ecosystem is generally healthy and robust, the minor problems documented in the report are all being addressed by the appropriate agencies, and are showing substantial improvement since the mid 1990′s,” said U.S. Geological Survey hydrologist Michael Rosen.

Major findings detailed in the report include the following:

  • Basic water-quality parameters are within good ranges of Nevada and Arizona standards and EPA lake criteria. Potential problems with nutrient balance, algae, and dissolved oxygen can occur at times and in some areas of Lake Mead. The Lake Mead-wide scope of monitoring provides a solid baseline to characterize water quality now and in the future.
  • Legacy contaminants are declining due to regulations and mitigation efforts in Las Vegas Wash. Emerging contaminants, including endocrine disrupting compounds, are present in low concentrations. While emerging contaminants, such as pharmaceuticals, personal care products, or plasticizers have been documented to cause a number of health effects to individual fish, they are not seen at concentrations currently known to pose a threat to human health. In comparison to other reservoirs studied by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Lake Mead is well within the highest or ‘good’ category for recreation and aquatic health.
  • Lake Mead and Lake Mohave continue to provide habitat conditions that support a rich diversity of species within the water, along shorelines, and in adjacent drainage areas, including organisms that are both native and non-native to the Colorado River drainage.
  • Sport fish populations appear stable and have reached a balance with reservoir operations over the past 20 years and are sufficient to support important recreational fishing opportunities. Native fish populations within Lake Mohave are declining, but the small native fish populations in Lake Mead are, stable without any artificial replenishment.
  • Lake Mead and Lake Mohave provide important migration and wintering habitat for birds. Trends include increasing numbers of wintering bald eagles and nesting peregrine falcons. Lake Mead water-level fluctuations have produced a variety of shorebird habitats, but songbird habitats are limited. Although some contaminants have been documented in birds and eggs in Las Vegas Wash, mitigation efforts are making a positive change.
  • Invasive quagga mussels have become the dominant lake-bottom organism and are a significant threat to the ecosystems of Lake Mead and Lake Mohave because they have potential
to alter water quality and food-web dynamics. Although they increase water clarity, they can degrade recreational settings.
  • Climate models developed for the Colorado River watershed indicate a high probability for longer periods of reduced snowpack and therefore water availability for the Lake Mead in the future. Federal, state and local agencies, and individuals and organizations interested the future of the water supply and demand imbalance are working together to examine strategies to mitigate future conditions.

  • The Middle Colorado River Watershed Partnership is hosting a public educational field tour on November 28

    November 17, 2012


    From the Middle Colorado River Watershed Partnership:

    The Leadership Committee will be meeting at the offices of the Garfield County School District R2-E, on Wednesday, November 28th, 2012, from 8:00 to 9:15 AM. The District offices are located at 339 Whitewater Avenue, Rifle, CO.

    We welcome all of our Partners and members of the public to join us for an educational field tour on Wednesday, November 28th beginning at 9:30 AM and running until approximately 11:30 AM. Please RSVP by clicking here. Along with our host, Steve Anthony, Director of Garfield County’s Vegetation Management program, see first-hand the collaborative work on the part of a number of agencies and private landowners to promote tamarisk control within portions of our watershed. We will be looking at two projects currently underway along the mainstem of the Colorado River near Rifle: Lion’s Park and the Gypsum Ranch.

    Tour Info Flyer.

    Map of Tour Meeting Location.

    Quaggas in the pipes? — Lake Powell’s waters yield Quagga mussel DNA and veligers

    November 2, 2012


    Here’s the release from the National Park Service:

    Recent monitoring samples from Lake Powell have revealed evidence of microscopic Quagga mussel larvae and the National Park Service (NPS) has accelerated laboratory and field efforts to identify the source, reported Glen Canyon National Recreation Area Superintendent Todd Brindle. Quagga mussel larvae and DNA were found in separate water samples collected near Antelope Point and Glen Canyon Dam. “We don’t know yet if there is a population trying to establish in the lake,” said Brindle. “The DNA can last after the organism is dead, so there is a possibility that it could have washed off boats that had been in other infested waters.”

    NPS aquatic ecologist Mark Anderson provided additional details on the sampling results. “The bodies of four larval mussels were found in four different samples near the Glen Canyon Dam. The sampling process kills mussel larvae so it is not known if any of them were alive in the lake,” stated Anderson. “One of them had a broken shell, suggesting that it was dead when it was collected.”

    Anderson explained that testing occurs using two separate methods: DNA and microscopy. The DNA method is more sensitive and potentially detects the presence earlier, but can be less accurate. Detection using microscopes is more accurate but requires an organism or piece of organism that is large enough to be visible in the microscope. Samples are taken using both methods at multiple sites around Lake Powell.

    Superintendent Brindle remains hopeful that the monitoring results are not evidence of an established population of mussels. If it is an early detection, the mussels may not establish and grow into adults, said Brindle. “Scientists are not sure why but many western waters have shown similar findings and then never developed a noticeable population, such as at Lake Granby, Lake Pueblo, Electric Lake, Red Fleet, Navajo Lake, Grand, Shadow Mountain, Willow Creek, and even Lake Powell in 2007.”

    In the meantime, monitoring and testing by the NPS will continue. “It is possible that these results will not be duplicated and a population of Quagga mussels is not developing,” said Anderson. In addition to the water sampling, NPS divers and underwater remote operated vessels will be used to search for adult mussels. “However, if test results continue to show positive for DNA or if there are adult mussels visible, it could indicate that a population is starting,” Anderson said.

    If there is a population of mussels, Superintendent Brindle said he is committed to working with all agencies and partners to determine the extent of the population and investigate and implement strategies for control. Depending on the extent of an early population, removing, wrapping or burying the mussel colony might be effective in preventing additional reproduction.

    “We will continue the boat inspections that are currently in place,” Anderson stated. “Prevention is still the most effective way to fight invasive species. Continue to clean, drain, and dry your boat and equipment after every use.”

    More coverage from the Associated Press via The Columbus Republic. From the article:

    The National Park Service said Thursday that samples taken near Glen Canyon Dam and Antelope Point show the presence of mussel larvae and DNA. Glen Canyon Recreation Area Superintendent Todd Brindle says it’s possible the larvae could have washed off boats that had been in mussel-infested waters. He says divers and remote-controlled vessels will be searching for adult mussels that would signal the startup of a population.

    More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.

    Restoration: Woods Lake fish are going to get a dose of Rotenone to pave the way for expanded cutthroat habitat

    August 13, 2012


    From The Telluride Daily Planet (Collin McRann):

    Over the past year, the lake and its tributaries — located off of Forest Service Road 618 west of Telluride — have been the subject of a Colorado Parks and Wildlife project to eliminate non-native trout, mainly brookies and browns, to make way for native cutthroats. Though the project was supposed to be complete by this summer, an assessment revealed brooke trout are still living the lake.

    “Last year we treated the lake and tributaries and then they went back this summer, and we found mainly young of the year — brooke trout,” said John Alves, a Senior aquatic biologist with Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “It looks like some of them might have spawned before we got the project going last year, so there’s some that we have to go hit again this year, that’s going to happen next week.” The lake will be treated Aug. 14-16 with a chemical called Rotenone. Alves said the treatment will focus on areas of the lake where the brooke trout were found.

    Another assessment will be done after the treatment via electro fishing and gill netting. If it is then determined the lake is ready for a transplant of cutthroat, the fish could be transported into the area as soon as this fall. If not, the lake will be left barren until next year…

    The transplant will involve at least 2,000 cutthroats a year, which will be taken from different brood stocks and hatcheries around the state. Though no specific source for the fish has been determined, Alves said Kelso Creek in the Uncompahgre National Forest is a likely candidate.

    More restoration/reclamation coverage here and here.

    Controlling pondweed in Dillon Reservoir

    July 30, 2012


    From the Summit Daily News (Dr. Joanne Stolen):

    Pondweeds are the subject of my current peeve. These submerged water plants can be both good and bad. They provide food and hiding places for young fish but, when overly abundant, allow too many of them to escape the larger predatory fish. Worst of all, in shallow waters, they rot under the ice in winter and may completely use up the oxygen, causing most fish to suffocate. The species that seems to be overly abundant along the shores of Dillon Reservoir currently is curly leaf pondweed. The scientific name is “potamogeton crispus.”[...]

    Habitat manipulation such as draw-downs and dredging can also be used to manage curly leaf pondweed. Fall drawdown can kill the plants, exposing them to freezing temperatures and drying out. Dredging can be used as a control by increasing the water depth. In deep water, the plants will not receive enough light to survive. There are some chemical controls. There are a small number of aquatic herbicides that can be used to control curly leaf pondweed. Formulations of diquat (Reward) and endothall (Aquathall K) can be used in small areas and will usually knock down curly leaf pondweed within two weeks. The time for treatment is in spring or early summer when natives are still dormant and temperatures are low enough. Fluridone usually has to be applied to an entire lake and requires 30 days to knock down curly leaf pondweed. I doubt whether chemical controls would be appropriate for a reservoir. In any case if you are out and about in your boat on the reservoir, grab a few handfuls. It pulls out easily.

    More invasive species coverage here and here.

    Tamarisk control: The leaf beetle for biocontrol program is yielding good results

    July 18, 2012


    From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

    Efforts to control invasive tamarisk plants along the Arkansas River are looking up, thanks to a boost from some unexpected evolutionary adaptations. A small imported but that eats and kills the water-sucking plants has been expanding its range and reproducing more efficiently after adapting to regional cycles of darkness and light. “This is one of the clearest cases of rapid evolution,” said Tom Dudley, who has been involved in the tamarisk control efforts at UC Santa Barbara’s Marine Science Institute Riparian Invasive Research Laboratory. The tamarisk leaf beetle has managed to delay its entry into hibernation to adapt to the shorter days of the southern region of the United States. That adaptation enables the beetle to survive until spring and prolongs the time it has to reproduce.

    More tamarisk control coverage here and here.

    Drought news: Northern Colorado officials are examining removal of streamside vegetation to increase supplies #CODrought

    July 6, 2012


    From The Greeley Tribune (Eric Brown):

    Estimates show that trees and shrubs lining the South Platte Basin’s rivers and irrigation ditches — salt cedars, Russian olives, cottonwoods and others — collectively consume hundreds of thousands of acre feet of water each year, although comprehensive studies on the issue in the South Platte Basin are few, and also outdated, some say.

    Some experts believe the amount of water consumed by those plants — called phreatophytes — could be rivaling or even surpassing the more than 600,000 acre feet of water that, according to Colorado Department of Natural Resources, were delivered to all of the South Platte Basin’s municipalities in 2010.

    And in a year like 2012 — one in which rainfall is at a record-low, some farmers’ irrigation ditches are running dry, and cities are having to watch their supplies closely — many agree some of that water could be going to a more beneficial use than quenching the thirst of vegetation along banks in the South Platte Basin, some of which isn’t native to the area in the first place…

    Additionally, some question how much water users would actually benefit in the long run if that vegetation was eradicated. Water officials and environmentalists agree that some kind of vegetation would be needed in place of the removed plants, since root systems are necessary for keeping the river’s banks from eroding, and vegetation would also be needed to provide habitats for wildlife in those areas.

    It’s also not clear who would legally be entitled to the water that’s salvaged through eradicating phreatophytes. In recent decades, the state’s water courts have denied requests from individuals wanting to clear their property of trees and shrubs and stake claim to the water that’s saved…

    “This issue is certainly on a lot of peoples’ radars right now … but there’s still a lot we don’t know,” said Harold Evans, chairman of the city of Greeley Water and Sewer Board, who also serves on the South Platte Roundtable. “I think we’re all in favor of finding ways to make water more available to users. We just need to learn more about this and see what’s feasible.”[...]

    In recent years, the South Platte Roundtable — made up of water officials and experts in the region who convene to discuss ways of solving the water-supply gap — has spearheaded efforts to attain about $250,000 to eradicate the Russian olives and salt cedars along the South Platte River near Brush.

    More invasive species coverage here. More tamarisk control coverage here and here.

    The Dolores River below McPhee is part of Interior’s ‘America’s Great Outdoors Highlighted River Projects’

    May 24, 2012


    Here’s the link to the Department of Interior’s America’s Great Outdoors Highlighted River Projects webpage. Here’s the link to the Dolores River release. Here’s an excerpt:

    The Dolores River Partnership was formed in 2008 and is a two state, citizen driven partnership with the goal of restoring approximately 200 miles of the Dolores River from McPhee Reservoir to its confluence with the Colorado River in Utah. Project goals include improving public safety, the removal of tamarisk and other noxious weeds, improving fish habitat, the development of education and stewardship opportunities, and expanding opportunities for youth employment.

    This citizen driven project is focused on restoring riparian vegetation through the removal of tamarisk and other invasive species along the Dolores River and the planting of native cottonwoods and willows. Youth groups will assist with invasive species control and native species planting. Tamarisk removal and native vegetation plantings will reduce the risk of wildfire, increase in-stream water flows, and improve stream bank stability thus improving habitat conditions for native fish species.

    Thanks to KUNC (Emily Boyer) for the heads up.

    More Dolores River watershed coverage here and here.

    Colorado steps up efforts to monitor and prevent infestations of invasive mussels

    April 25, 2012


    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    A boat coming into Lake Pueblo from Wisconsin on April 10 was contaminated with mussels. Another contaminated boat was stopped at Chatfield Reservoir earlier in the month…

    “The good news is that we haven’t seen any new mussel discoveries since 2008,” said Gene Seagle, an aquatic nuisance species coordinator with Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “But we can’t let our guard down and assume that problems don’t exist.” More than 200 inspectors already have received training this spring with more sessions planned before Memorial Day weekend, the official start of the boating season in the state.

    Here’s the release from Colorado Parks and Wildlife:

    Warm weather arrived early this year in Colorado and officials with Colorado Parks and Wildlife are ramping up boat inspections at more than 85 sites around the state. The aquatic nuisance species boat inspections are mandatory at state parks open for boating and at most other boatable waters in the state.

    “The good news is that we haven’t seen any new mussel discoveries since 2008,” said Gene Seagle, an aquatic nuisance species coordinator with Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “But we can’t let our guard down and assume that problems don’t exist.”

    Seagle added that Colorado inspectors have already decontaminated two mussel-infested out-of-state boats this year.

    During the first weekend in April, inspectors at Chatfield State Park stopped a mussel-infested boat that had been purchased in Indiana and brought to Colorado. On Tuesday, April 10, inspectors at Lake Pueblo State Park inspected a boat that had come from Wisconsin and was carrying mussels from the Great Lakes region. Both boats were decontaminated before being allowed to enter Colorado waters.

    More than 200 inspectors have already received training this spring with more training sessions planned before Memorial Day weekend, the official start of the boating season in the state. Trained inspectors will be stationed on boat ramps around the state throughout the boating season. Inspectors are watching for all aquatic invasive species such as zebra and quagga mussels, New Zealand mudsnails and Eurasian watermilfoil. The inspectors also work to prevent the movement of water from lakes or reservoirs to other bodies of water as microscopic young mussels, not visible to the human eye, could be accidentally moved in live wells, anchor basins or other places on a vessel where water can accumulate. The aquatic nuisance species could do substantial damage to ecosystems, boats and water delivery systems in Colorado if they become established. These invaders typically can’t be controlled once they get introduced and have cost other states in the nation billions of dollars to continue operating water distribution systems to homes, farms and businesses.

    The first significant aquatic nuisance species detection in Colorado occurred in 2007, with the discovery of zebra mussel larvae in Pueblo Reservoir at Lake Pueblo State Park. The Colorado General Assembly allocated funding for a large-scale prevention effort and Colorado’s aquatic nuisance species program has been operating for four years. Every year inspectors have stopped boats that were headed into Colorado waters with attached mussels, New Zealand mudsnails, rusty crayfish and invasive plants and weeds.

    “Each year we get better at conducting the inspections and boaters become more understanding of the need for the program,” said Elizabeth Brown, invasive species coordinator for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “Inspectors are better trained than ever before and most boaters are showing up with their boats clean, drained and dried which gets them on the water faster.”

    Colorado’s aquatic nuisance species program requires that all boats which have been in waters outside of Colorado must be inspected and receive a green inspection seal prior to launching in any water of the state. CPW staff encourages boaters to plan ahead to reduce delays due to boat inspections.

    Boaters who live in, or are traveling through, Denver, Grand Junction or Hot Sulphur Springs have access to advance inspections and decontamination facilities. These are located at the Parks and Wildlife Northeast Region office at 6060 Broadway in Denver, at the CPW Northwest Region office located at 711 Independent Ave. in Grand Junction and at the Hot Sulphur Springs Area Office, located at 346 Grand County Road 362. These stations are in service weekdays during regular business hours. Advance inspections at these facilities provide a secure green seal that will speed up the next inspection at boat ramps in Colorado.

    Inspection stations are also available at boating waters around the state. A complete list of inspection sites and hours of operation can be found at http://wildlife.state.co.us/Fishing/Pages/MandatoryBoatInspections.aspx.

    Several short videos about aquatic nuisance species and boat inspections can be found at http://www.parks.state.co.us/NaturalResources/ParksResourceStewardship/AquaticNuisanceSpecies/Pages/AquaticNuisanceSpeciesHome.aspx

    More invasive species coverage here and here.

    Colorado River Basin: What are the reasonable water management options and strategies that will provide water for people, but also maintain a healthy river system?

    December 25, 2011


    Here’s a guest commentary written by Eric Kuhn, David Modeer and Fred Krupp running in The Denver Post. The trio are issuing a call to arms of sort, asking for input for the Colorado River Basin Study. Here’s an excerpt:

    Management of the Colorado River is a complex balancing act between the diverse interests of United States and Mexico, tribes, the seven basin states, individual water users, stakeholders, and communities. The challenges posed by new growth and climate change may dwarf anything we faced in the past. Instead of staring into the abyss, the water users, agencies, and stakeholder groups that make managing the Colorado River responsibly their business are working together, using the best science available to define the problem, and looking for solutions.

    We’re calling our inquiry the Colorado River Basin Study, and we want your help. As Colorado River management professionals, we have a lot of knowledge and ideas, but we know that we don’t have them all. We want ideas from the public, from you, but we need your input by February 1. You can submit your suggestions by completing the online form at: http://on.doi.gov/uvhkUi.

    The big question we need to answer is: What are the reasonable water management options and strategies that will provide water for people, but also maintain a healthy river system? We don’t believe there’s a single silver bullet that will resolve all of our challenges. We want to continue to explore the benefits and costs of every possibility, from conservation to desalination to importing water from other regions.

    The West was built on innovation and hard work, and that spirit is still strong. Our landscapes and communities are unparalleled in their beauty, resilience, and character. The economic well-being of our rural and urban communities in the Colorado River basin is inextricably linked to Colorado River and its environmental health.

    That’s why we are asking for the public’s input to help us craft a study showing a path forward that supplies our communities with the water they need to thrive and protects the health of the Colorado River-and the ecosystems and economies it supports.

    More Colorado River basin coverage here.

    An October tamarisk control operation on the North Fork of the Gunnison River used cutting and herbicide treatments

    November 6, 2011


    From the Delta County Independent (Kathy Browning):

    On Oct. 21, volunteers worked on a half-mile of the easement. Tamarisk, Russian olive and Siberian elm were cut out and stumps of the invasives were treated with herbicide. Tamarisk and Russian olive were introduced in the 19th century as ornamentals. Tamarisk is now seen as a problem as it out-competes native plants for moisture and displaces them along river eco-systems in the West.

    Webb Callicutt, Delta County weed coordinator, trained volunteers on how to apply the herbicide.

    Rosa Brey of the Colorado Canyons Association explained why it was partnering on this project. “We are a Grand Junction based group and are looking to expand our membership and our volunteer base in Delta and Montrose counties,” Brey said. “The other reason we are involved is because this river flows into the Gunnison which flows through several of our conservation areas. So if we can get tamarisk eradicated on the upstream sections of the river, then there will be fewer seeds that will flow down the river and down into the conservation areas.”

    More tamarisk control coverage here and here.

    Ruedi Reservoir: No quaggas in the pipes, so far

    October 5, 2011


    From the Associated Press via 9News.com:

    Inspectors at Ruedi Reservoir say thousands of inspections have turned up no signs of mussels that have infested other Colorado reservoirs. The Ruedi Power and Water Authority inspectors near Basalt were looking for zebra and quagga mussels.

    More invasive species coverage here.

    Invasive species: Mudsnails and Eurasian watermilfoil found at Eleven Mile Reservoir

    September 3, 2011


    From the Fairplay Flume (Quintn Parker/Tom Locke):

    The New Zealand mudsnail cannot be controlled, reproduces very rapidly and could lead to smaller fish in Eleven Mile, while the Eurasian milfoil can be controlled but not eradicated, and it could lead to dense weed mats in the reservoir that could make it difficult to navigate for swimmers or boaters, Elizabeth Brown, invasive species coordinator for Colorado Parks and Wildlife, told The Flume.

    “Eleven Mile State Park is a fabulous place, and it will continue to be so. It’s something we’re going to have to manage,” said Brown. “We’re working on a strategy.”

    Eleven Mile State Park is of significant importance to Park County. In 2009, it drew 309,266 visitors, and between June 2008 and May 2009, $15.7 million was spent by non-resident visitors to Eleven Mile, according to survey results released Sept. 2, 2010.

    Here’s the release from Colorado Parks and Wildlife:

    Officials with Colorado Parks and Wildlife are continuing efforts to educate boaters, anglers and other recreationists about the need to clean, drain and dry boats, waders and other equipment when using Colorado waters.

    “We have had success with our boat inspection programs to prevent invasive species, but there are a few aquatic nuisance species that can spread via methods other than boats,” said Elizabeth Brown, an Invasive Species Coordinator with Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “The fact that we’re finding new populations means we have to work harder to engage the public to do their part to clean and dry all their gear and equipment as well as their boats to protect our waters.”

    Rusty crayfish, discovered in 2009 in the headwaters of the Yampa River, have been recently confirmed in the reservoir at Stagecoach State Park, near Steamboat Springs. A July 6 survey found that New Zealand mudsnails, another aquatic invader, have made their way from South Delaney Butte Reservoir to nearby East Delaney Butte Reservoir within the Delaney Buttes State Wildlife Area in North Park. Colorado Parks and Wildlife monitoring crews have also recently confirmed New Zealand mudsnails and an aquatic invasive weed, Eurasian watermilfoil, in the reservoir at Eleven Mile State Park. Earlier this summer it was announced that quagga mussel veligers were again confirmed through monitoring at Lake Pueblo State Park.

    The effort to educate recreationists began in earnest in Colorado in 2004 as both Colorado State Parks and the Colorado Division of Wildlife undertook campaigns following the initial discovery of New Zealand mudsnails in Colorado. The effort intensified in 2007 when invasive zebra mussels were discovered in Lake Pueblo. With legislative funding assistance, Colorado State Parks and the Division of Wildlife rolled out a statewide effort to inspect boats on major waters in the state and try to prevent the spread of zebra and quagga mussels and other invasive species. Gov. John Hickenlooper signed legislation earlier this year that merged Colorado State Parks and the Division of Wildlife and the separate programs are being combined with an eye toward identifying efficiencies that will make the programs more effective.

    “Invasive species are very effective at hitching a ride to new places on everything from boats to waders to hiking boots,” explained Brown. “Recreationists can stop the spread of these costly invaders by cleaning their equipment in between each and every use. The majority of Colorado’s waters are still free of invasive species and through a comprehensive education program we hope to keep it that way.”

    Some invasive species have shown the ability to live for several weeks out of the water in nothing more than a crevice or clump of mud. Invasive species threaten fisheries, ecosystems and water management equipment. In areas where invasive mussels have become established they have altered fishing, littered beaches with sharp shells, clogged pipes and damaged underwater structures.

    Boaters can find information about how to protect Colorado waters from invasive species online at http://wildlife.state.co.us/Fishing/Pages/MandatoryBoatInspections.aspx or http://www.parks.state.co.us/Boating/NewBoatInspection/Pages/BoatInspection.aspx.

    The most important thing anglers can do is to remove all mud, plants and organic material from their waders and equipment after every use. Anglers are advised to then submerge waders and gear in a large tub filled with a mixture of half Kitchen Formula 409 and half water for at least 10 minutes. Debris should be scrubbed from surfaces and a visual inspection should be done before rinsing. Items can also be soaked in water greater than 140 degrees Fahrenheit for a minimum of 10 minutes. Waders or boots can also be stored in a freezer overnight between each use or can be dried completely for at least 10 days before using them in another body of water.

    More information is available about New Zealand mud snails at http://wildlife.state.co.us/WildlifeSpecies/Profiles/InvasiveSpecies/Pages/RustyCrayfish.aspx.

    Additional information about rusty crayfish, including regulations prohibiting crayfish movement in western Colorado, can be found online at http://wildlife.state.co.us/WildlifeSpecies/Profiles/InvasiveSpecies/Pages/RustyCrayfish.aspx.

    Detailed information on zebra and quagga mussels can be found at http://wildlife.state.co.us/WildlifeSpecies/Profiles/InvasiveSpecies/Pages/ZebraandQuaggaMussels.aspx.

    More invasive species coverage here.

    Ty Churchwell — ‘It is not worth offending someone who agrees with me on most issues to take a stance on climate change or global warming’

    September 1, 2011


    From The Durango Herald (Lynda Edwards):

    …conservationists have tried dozens of ways to restore trout to the Animas and its tributaries. After World War II, cowboys helping the U.S. Wildlife Service would carry hatchery or farmed trout in cast-iron jugs on their horses into the mountains, where they released the fish into Animas headwaters. Tanker trucks and helicopters with huge buckets also have been used to plop trout into the river and its tributaries…

    [Ty] Churchwell, who has degrees in horticulture and chemistry, refuses to discuss climate change. He won’t even say whether he believes it exists…

    “To get my work done, I need to be able to sit at the table and forge alliances with people who have very different ideas about global warming,” Churchwell said. “It is not worth offending someone who agrees with me on most issues to take a stance on climate change or global warming.”

    More Animas River watershed coverage here.

    Invasive mussels: Reclamation to Provide Training on Protecting Facilities Utilizing Protective Coatings

    August 22, 2011


    Here’s the release from the Bureau of Reclamation (Peter Soeth):

    Discussion will include protection methods to control quagga and zebra musselsThe Bureau of Reclamation’s Technical Service Center will be hosting the Corrosion and Protective Coatings Hands-on Training from October 25-27, 2011, in Denver, Colo., to familiarize participants with the issues relating to corrosion of metal and corrosion protection. The course is open to anyone and will cost $1,050.

    The course is intended for engineers, technicians, specification writers, technical project managers, and other staff associated with construction and repair of water resource structures.

    Students who attend the Corrosion and Protective Coatings Hands-on Training will learn how corrosion occurs and methods to minimize and prevent corrosion to infrastructure protective coatings, cathodic protection, new technologies, and inspection and repair techniques relating to maintenance and repair infrastructure.

    The course will also discuss methods to control quagga and zebra mussels, with emphasis on antifouling coating control methods.

    Attendees will be provided the opportunity to prepare steel panels, apply coatings, perform destructive and non-destructive testing, inspect coatings and corrosion, and testing of cathodic protective systems.

    To learn more about the training or to get the registration materials, please visit: http://www.usbr.gov/pmts/tech_services/training/corrosion.html. You may also contact William Kepler at 303-445-2386.

    More invasive species coverage here.

    Lake Pueblo: Monitoring finds mussels persist in Pueblo Reservoir

    July 14, 2011

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    Here’s the release from the Colorado Department of Wildlife (Randy Hampton):

    Recent testing has confirmed the ongoing presence of quagga mussel veligers at the reservoir at Lake Pueblo State Park. Although no fully developed mussels have been found at the reservoir, the presence of veligers, the microscopic offspring of adult mussels, does indicate that mussel reproduction is occurring.

    Testing originally found a zebra mussel veliger in Pueblo Reservoir in 2007. Monitoring also detected both quagga and zebra veligers in 2008 and 2009. No veligers were found in 2010. The most recent quagga mussel veliger was collected during routine sampling in May and was confirmed by microscopy and DNA testing conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. The results were reported to Colorado Parks and Wildlife biologists on July 6.

    Colorado’s early detection program is designed to find juvenile, free-floating, veligers in the water before adult populations become apparent. Reservoirs in other states have shown that it may take many years for an invasive mussel population to establish a large reproducing adult colony. Lake Cheney in Kansas had a positive veliger detection followed by several years of negative results, before the population size was large enough to appear on the shorelines.

    “Our annual monitoring program confirms that the invasive mussels are persistent in Lake Pueblo,” said Elizabeth Brown, invasive species coordinator for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “Through the mandatory boat inspection program, we will continue to stress that boaters clean and fully drain their boats before leaving Lake Pueblo State Park to help limit the spread of these invaders.”

    Like all of the popular boating waters in the state, Lake Pueblo State Park has a thorough inspection process for boats that enter the reservoir. Because of the presence of quagga and zebra mussel veligers at Lake Pueblo State Park, boat owners are also required to have their boats inspected and possibly decontaminated on exit from Pueblo Reservoir.

    All boats that have launched on any Colorado lake or reservoir where mussels have been detected, including Lake Pueblo, are required to pass an inspection before launching at a new location. In addition, out-of-state boats and resident boats that go out-of-state and return to Colorado must pass a state-certified inspection for aquatic nuisance species prior to launching in any Colorado lake, reservoir or waterway.

    “Mandatory boat inspections have proved successful in other states at stopping the spread of invasive mussels,” said Gene Seagle, invasive species coordinator for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “We want to ensure that boats coming from other states are being inspected prior to launching anywhere in Colorado. It’s also extremely important that containment efforts continue on the reservoirs where mussels have already been detected.”

    Inspection facilities also check trailered watercraft at 27 other state parks and 84 other locations outside of the state parks system. Boaters can also get boats pre-inspected and green sealed at Parks and Wildlife offices in Denver at 6060 Broadway, Grand Junction at 711 Independent and in Hot Sulphur Springs at 346 Grand County Road 362. Hours and days of operation at inspection stations vary so boaters should check times and dates in advance at http://wildlife.state.co.us/Fishing/MandatoryBoatInspections.htm or by visiting an individual state park page at www.parks.state.co.us.

    In addition to the state’s inspection and decontamination program, Colorado Parks and Wildlife will continue its effort to educate boaters to stop the spread of aquatic nuisance species in the state. A series of short, easy to understand videos on how boaters can prepare for inspections is available at http://www.parks.co.state.us under the “Boating” tab. Boat owners can find more information about preventing the spread of aquatic nuisance species at http://wildlife.state.co.us/WildlifeSpecies/Profiles/InvasiveSpecies/WatercraftCleaning.htm.

    “Educating boaters about mussels and how to inspect their own vessels is an important part of our effort to prevent the further spread,” said Brad Henley, Park Manager at Lake Pueblo State Park. “We greatly appreciate the continued support and cooperation of the boating public.”

    Quagga and zebra mussels are non-native species introduced to the Great Lakes in the 1970’s, probably through the ballast water from an eastern European port where the mussels are native. In the last 23 years, the mussels have spread from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico and into the western United States, damaging beaches, aquatic life, municipal water systems and hydroelectric facilities. There is currently no known way to rid a water of the mussels without significant environmental damage, so prevention is the best alternative. The fingernail-sized mussels attach to anchor lines and boat hulls and their microscopic veliger young can be transported in any water transported on a boat or in a bait bucket.

    Aquatic nuisance species, such as zebra and quagga mussels, rusty crayfish, New Zealand mud snails and numerous invasive water plants and weeds can create a number of ecological and economic problems due to their rapid reproduction. Because invasive mussels attach to hard surfaces like concrete and pipes, they can clog pipelines at reservoirs and lakes, boat engines, fish ladders, hydropower turbines and municipal water delivery systems.

    More coverage from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

    Veligers, the larval form of the clamlike creatures, were confirmed last week after microscopic and DNA testing by the Bureau of Reclamation from routine sampling of the reservoir in May. No fully developed mussels have been found, but the presence of offspring suggests they are breeding in the reservoir or upstream…

    The mussels are most commonly spread from one lake to another when boats are not properly cleaned. They can live for weeks outside a water body in the wet areas of a boat. Colorado began a statewide response to zebra and quagga mussels in 2008 by stepping up boat inspections and educating boaters about the need to inspect clean and dry boats when moving them from one lake to another. Boat washes for suspect craft also were installed at several lakes, including Lake Pueblo…

    The mussels damage beaches, water-supply pipes, hydroelectric generation equipment and aquatic ecosystems. Once a population becomes established, there is no known way to eradicate it, so prevention is seen as the most effective way to contain the threat.

    More invasive species coverage here and here.

    Colorado State Parks turns up only two boats with invasive mussels attached out of 50,000 inspected so far this season

    July 2, 2011

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    “Educating boaters about the risks of (invasive species) and how to check your boat has been a high priority for several years and it’s paying off,” [Gene Seagle, aquatic nuisance species coordinator for Colorado State Parks] said. “Most boaters arrive at the reservoirs in state parks already knowledgeable about ANS and how to check your boat.”[...]

    The two out-of-state boats with adult quagga mussels attached were found at Crawford Lake State Park in May and Jackson Lake State Park in June…

    Evidence of zebra mussels — in the form of larvae called veligers — was first found in Lake Pueblo in late 2007. In the next year, zebra and quagga veligers were found at other sites. No new water samplings have shown evidence of the clamlike creatures which can overpopulate lakes and clog water pipelines.

    More invasive species coverage here and here.

    Researchers determine the mechanism for Didymo algae growth in relatively pristine streams

    June 6, 2011

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    From the Boulder Daily Camera (Laura Snider):

    “Diatoms pretty much grow everywhere, whether it’s really clean water or waters that are relatively impacted,” said Sarah Spaulding, a researcher at the University of Colorado’s Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research. “Generally, the more nutrients you get in the water, the more biomass you get. “What’s different about this diatom is that we found it would make a large amount of biomass where there weren’t many nutrients in the water.”

    This has allowed rock snot, an invasive species in North America, to explode in streams that have not historically supported large algae blooms. In a study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, the scientists explain how Didymo does it. The key is Didymo’s stalks, which keep the algae attached to the rocks. The stalks are able to collect the limited phosphorous nutrients available in the stream on their surfaces along with iron. Then, bacteria that live in the rock snot mats interact with the accumulated iron to make the phosphorous easier for the algae to use.

    Ruedi Reservoir: Inspections for invasive mussels to resume later in the month

    May 9, 2011

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    From The Aspen Times (Janet Urquhart):

    Boaters at Ruedi Reservoir, east of Basalt, will again face weekend inspections, starting in late May, but the future of the program — an effort to prevent the spread of invasive species — is unclear. The Ruedi Water and Power Authority stepped up last year to spearhead the inspection program on summer weekends from Memorial Day through Labor Day. In 2009, inspections were infrequent — the Colorado Division of Wildlife arranged for a roving inspection unit to set up occasionally at the Ruedi boat ramp, adjacent to the Ruedi Creek campgrounds. This year, RWAPA hopes to have more people involved, in order to speed up the process of checking boats at busy times, according to Mark Fuller, the authority’s director. Inspectors are looking for zebra and quagga mussels, destructive species that have infested other Colorado reservoirs, but have not been detected in Ruedi, according to Fuller.

    More invasive species coverage here and here.

    Tamarisk control: Federal, state and local officials complete clearing 3,000 acres in the Arkansas River valley near the Kansas border

    April 22, 2011

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    “Some people ask why we’re starting at the bottom when it spreads downstream,” said Henry Schnabel, a Prowers County commissioner. “In our case, Holly would be inundated if there was a backup because the river channel is clogged.”[...]

    Michael Daskam, of the Holly Natural Resources Conservation Service office, Wednesday gave the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District board an overview on the progress of the Prowers County tamarisk project. The Lower Ark board voted to support the project with $30,000 in the coming year. Schnabel said not all of the funding may be necessary, because the program requires private landowners to sign up. The project has been more cost-effective than anticipated, costing a total of $264,690 to spray 3,172 acres by helicopter over the past two years, or $83.50 an acre, Daskam said…

    The benefits include better water quality and quantity. The U.S. Geological Survey last year reported tamarisk water savings have not been proven, but did not rule out the possibility in a report released last year, Daskam said…

    This year, the program will focus on spot spraying, catching areas that were not sprayed by helicopter, such as clumps of tamarisk growing under cottonwoods. A revegetation workshop is also planned to discuss the best ways for restoring native plants, Daskam said. Other partners in the project include the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, Southeastern Colorado Resource Conservation and Development, State Land Board, Northeast Prowers Conservation District, Division of Wildlife and Tri-State Generation & Transmission Association. Kansas also is working on the problem just across the state line.

    More tamarisk control coverage here and here.

    Colorado Department of Wildlife: Outdoor Agencies Resume Mussel Mission

    March 16, 2011

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    Here’s the release from the Colorado Division of Wildlife:

    As the weather warms and boat owners ready for spring, the Colorado Division of Wildlife and Colorado State Parks are launching the annual effort to protect the state’s lakes, reservoirs and rivers from aquatic invaders. The focus of this year’s efforts will be zebra and quagga mussels, but boat inspectors will also check for New Zealand mud snails, rusty crayfish and other invasive species.

    “This will be the fourth year of Colorado’s active boat inspection program and we continue to make the process more efficient, more effective and more convenient,” said Elizabeth Brown, who leads the Division of Wildlife’s statewide invasive species efforts. “Boaters stepped up to help improve this process and educate each other and we truly appreciate their partnership with us.”

    Since 2007, officials have stressed the “clean, drain and dry” message to educate boaters on how to make sure their crafts aren’t moving anything from one water to another.

    “Boats that are clean and dry will get through these inspections more quickly,” Brown said. “Dirty, wet boats are going to get a longer look and may need decontamination before being able to proceed.”

    Specially trained State Parks’ staff will inspect boats entering the water at 29 State Parks. Seven State Parks that are open or will open this week for the 2011 boating season are: Barr Lake, Boyd Lake, Chatfield, Cherry Creek, Highline Lake, Jackson Lake, John Martin and Lake Pueblo.

    “Inspections at other State Parks will start as the warm weather thaws the ice and the water is available for boating,” said Gene Seagle, invasive species coordinator for Colorado State Parks. “We have a great boating resource and appreciate the growing understanding of the need for these inspection programs within the boating community.”

    Division of Wildlife teams have begun boat inspections at Jumbo and Prewitt Reservoirs in northeastern Colorado’s Logan County. The reservoirs opened for boating Friday, March 11. Douglas Reservoir will open to boating April 1.

    Other Division of Wildlife inspection operations will be carried out at waters around the state as boating access becomes available in April and May. The Division of Wildlife offers boat inspections on dozens of lakes and reservoirs.

    In just the past two years boat inspectors have intercepted more than 30 boats with mussels attached coming into Colorado. Those boats have been stopped from entering Colorado waters, preventing the spread of these invasive species. Because of the success of these interventions, no new zebra or quagga mussel positive waters have been discovered in the state since 2008.

    Boaters who live or are traveling through Denver, Grand Junction or Hot Sulphur Springs also have access to the Division of Wildlife’s permanent boat inspection facilities. Boats inspected at these facilities can be affixed with a seal that will allow the boater to get through reservoir inspections much more quickly.

    “A lot of boaters find that it is more convenient to run the boat over to the Division of Wildlife office and get the inspection done a few days before they head out,” Brown said. “That way, when the day of the fishing trip comes around, they can get through the inspection and onto the water much faster.”

    Inspection stations at the Division’s Denver headquarters at 6060 Broadway in Denver, Northwest regional office at 711 Independent in Grand Junction and Hot Sulphur Springs area office at 346 Grand County Road 362 are available weekdays during regular business hours.

    Colorado State Parks has a series of short videos about the topic available on their website at:

    To also help boaters learn more about invasive mussels and to help boaters understand the inspection process, the Division of Wildlife has posted several videos on its website. The videos are available at:

    Below are hours for some recently opened State Parks inspection operations. For additional details, see the State Parks website at http://parks.state.co.us/Boating/NewBoatInspection/Pages/BoatInspection.aspx

    Barr Lake State Park: inspection hours will be 7 a.m. – 5 p.m. weekends only in March with expanded hours beginning April 1 (see website for additional information)
    Boyd Lake State Park, main boat ramp, 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. Mon.-Thur., 7 a.m. – 7 p.m. Fri., Sat., and Sun. through May 1, when hours will expand from 6 a.m. – 10 p.m. daily
    Chatfield State Park: north boat ramp open 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. South ramp opens April 1 and hours at both ramps extend May 1 to 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.
    Cherry Creek State Park, East Ramp, 6 a.m. – 6 p.m. daily
    Highline Lake State Park, main boat ramp, 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. daily
    Jackson Lake State Park will open for boating Friday, March 18, inspections 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Mon. through Fri. and 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Sat. and Sun. On May 1, the hours will be 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. daily.
    John Martin State Park will open Wed., March 16, inspections 7:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. Mon. through Fri. and 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends.
    Lake Pueblo State Park, main ramp, 5 a.m. – 11 p.m. daily (see website for additional information)

    Below are hours for some recently opened Division of Wildlife State Wildlife Area waters. For additional inspection sites and hours, see: http://wildlife.state.co.us/Fishing/MandatoryBoatInspections.htm.

    Prewitt Reservoir, 9 a.m. – 7 p.m. on Fri., Sat., Sun. and Mon. Beginning April 1, inspections will be seven days a week from 6 a.m. – 8 p.m.
    Jumbo Reservoir, 9 a.m. – 7 p.m. on Fri., Sat., Sun. and Mon. Beginning April 1, inspections will be seven days a week from 6 a.m. – 8 p.m.
    Douglas Reservoir will open to boating April 1.

    More coverage from The Fort Morgan Times.

    More invasive species coverage here and here.

    Purgatoire River cleanup April 30

    February 22, 2011

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    From The Trinidad Times (Steve Block):

    The designer of the river enhancement project is FIN-UP Habitat Consultants, of Manitou Springs, and the project is titled “Trinidad/Purgatoire River Reach 4 Demonstration Project.” The design process is unique in that it doesn’t use much water. The design utilizes existing water during low-flow periods and accentuates the water available during the irrigation season. Lackey said bringing off a project of this size is difficult during tough economic times but said the partnership that has been put together has managed to fund the project with no public funding. The river reclamation project is estimated to cost between $120,000 to $150,000.

    “That’s a very big deal for us. The partnership has been with the Purgatoire River Conservancy District, which actually owns the water. The dam up there was built in the 1970s to irrigate the farmland east of town. They have committed $90,000, and that’s a lot of money. Then Pioneer Natural Resources got on board. They are a big contributor to the county and to its economy, and they are also very interested in this river project because it reflects on their stewardship of the watersheds west of town and east. Pioneer has come to the table with $40,000. So at this point we have acquired enough funding and in-kind services to complete the project from I-25 all the way to North Commercial Street and a little bit east. That’s an exciting start. Comcast has been on board with us since the second year with the river cleanup and they have been a big part of that. Trout Unlimited, without their contacts and the people who were visited, this probably would not have happened. The Trinidad Community Foundation has also been very important.” Other partners include Purgatoire Valley Construction, MFS Forestry, Colorado State Forest Services, the Soil and Conservation Services, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and, most importantly, the citizens of Trinidad.

    April 30 marks the fifth annual river cleanup. Last year 232 volunteers helped with the cleanup, and this year Lackey said he hopes for 250 or more volunteers. “It’s a fun thing to do for everybody involved. Bring the kids. They can learn about some of the river ecology, pick up a lot of trash, and learn a little bit about what it’s going to take care of a jewel that Trinidad has never really abused, it has just never used. It’s going to be a great addition to the downtown area. So, we’ll see everybody on April 30 with their irrigation boots on and a trash bag, and we’ll ‘git ’er done’”

    More Purgatoire River watershed coverage here and here.

    ‘Poudre runs through it’ forum recap

    February 6, 2011

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    From the Northern Colorado Business Report:

    Mary Lou Smith, a policy and collaboration specialist with the Water Institute, said the main message of the forum was to get people with diverse opinions about the region’s water future talking together. “The message was it’s important for us to look at the various values we bring to the table when we look at the future of the water supply in this area,” she said. “We said how can we work together? That really set the tone.”[...]

    Smith said the purpose of the forum was not to push any particular agenda as to how the region’s future water needs should be met. One ongoing controversial water issue in the region is whether Glade Reservoir – a proposed new storage project- should be built just outside Poudre Canyon. Smith said Glade may or may not be part of the solution. “There’s a whole portfolio of solutions, including storage,” she said. “This isn’t about building Glade – it’s much broader than that. It’s about realizing there are trade-offs and helping the public better understand how water law works and forming educated opinions.”

    Three more educational sessions are set to continue the discussion on Feb. 24, March 10 and March 24. All three will be held in the Larimer Courthouse, 200 W. Oak St., from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

    More Cache la Poudre River watershed coverage here and here.

    Tamarisk control: The Tamarisk Coalition scores $25,000 from Xcel

    December 15, 2010

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    From the Grand Junction Free Press:

    The Tamarisk Coalition will be accepting $25,000 from the Xcel Energy Foundation for the continued restoration activities at Watson Island 9 a.m., Thursday, Dec. 16, at the Western Colorado Botanical Gardens. The Tamarisk Coalition will be using these funds in partnership with the City of Grand Junction, Western Colorado Math and Science Center, Mesa State College, the Botanical Gardens, and the Western Colorado Conservation Corps to reach the ecological objectives for this site which include replacing invasive plant species with native plants to benefit wildlife habitat.

    More Tamarisk control coverage here and here.

    Fountain Creek: Phragmites to require mitigation?

    November 28, 2010

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Called phragmites (frag-my-tees), the reeds also have been found near Lake Minnequa, said Scott Hobson, assistant city manager and head of the city’s planning department. The city has extensive plans to develop both Fountain Creek and Lake Minnequa, and the phragmites could be an impediment. “We’re monitoring it to see how much it’s spreading,” Hobson said. “It does expand very quickly, so we might have to look at controlling it somehow.”

    About five years ago, the city cut down much of the tamarisk, or salt cedar, that grew in the Fountain Creek channel in an attempt to preserve the effectiveness of Pueblo’s levees. Tamarisk remains in some areas; others are a more natural mix of vegetation. A few large areas, however, have been colonized by large stands of phragmites, which look like amber waves of grain. “We’ve noticed it in the last two or three years, but it’s really taken off this year,” Hobson said.

    Here’s the Wikipedia page for phragmites. Here’s an excerpt:

    In North America, the status of Phragmites australis was a source of confusion and debate. It was commonly considered an exotic species and often invasive species, introduced from Europe. However now with evidence of the existence of Phragmites as a native plant in North America long before European colonization of the continent. It is now known that the North American native forms of P. a. subsp. americanus are markedly less vigorous than European forms. The recent marked expansion of Phragmites in North America may be due to the more vigorous, but otherwise almost indistinguishable European subsp. australis , best detectable by genetic analysis.

    Phragmites australis subsp. australis is causing serious problems for many other North American hydrophyte wetland plants, including the native Phragmites australis subsp. americanus. Gallic acid released by Phragmites is degraded by ultraviolet light to produce mesoxalic acid, effectively hitting susceptible plants and seedlings with two harmful toxins. Phragmites so difficult to control that one of the most effective methods of eradicating the plant is to burn it over 2-3 seasons. The roots grow so deep and strong that one burn is not enough.

    More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.

    Mesa State College: The Effects of Water Management on Native Fishes in the Dolores and Yampa River Basins – Hydrology Matters

    November 4, 2010

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    From email from Mesa State College (Gigi Richard)

    Our next presentation in the Fall 2010 Natural Resources of the West: Water seminar series a project of the Water Center at Mesa State College will be…

    Monday 8 November, 4:00 pm
    Saccomanno Lecture Hall, Wubben Science Building, Room 141 (WS 141)
    Mesa State College

    The Effects of Water Management on Native Fishes in the Dolores and Yampa River Basins – Hydrology Matters

    David Graf, Water Resource Specialist, Colorado Division of Wildlife

    Seminars are free and open to the public, no registration necessary.
    For the entire seminar series schedule, please see:


    For more information please contact:

    Prof. Gigi Richard, 970.248.1689, grichard@mesastate.edu
    Prof. Tamera Minnick, 970.248.1663, tminnick@mesastate.edu

    More Dolores River watershed coverage here. More Yampa River basin coverage here.

    Sanchez Reservoir: The Colorado Division of Wildlife plans to eradicate rusty crayfish in the reservoir

    October 16, 2010

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Matt Hildner):

    Tom Remington, the division’s director, signed the order this week in an effort to keep the rusty crayfish from being moved into other waters. “Rusty crayfish are a tenacious invasive species that have the potential to impact streams and lakes,” Greg Gerlich, the agency’s aquatic section manager, said in a news release. The crustacean has large claws and out-competes native species for food and habitat. They’re also capable of clearing large areas of aquatic plants, reducing habitat for invertebrates and shelter for small fish.

    More rusty crayfish coverage here.

    Invasive mussels update

    October 5, 2010

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    No confirmed reports of the mussels within Colorado have been received so far this year, although there have been eight cases where mussels were found on boats coming into the state, Colorado State Parks reported Monday. The mussels were found on the boats as inspectors looked at more than 200,000 boats coming into the state…

    “We are seeing more boaters showing up already cleaned, drained and dry,” said Rob Billerback, manager of the biological programs for Colorado State Parks. “Most boaters also show up having heard of zebra mussels, so they understand why we are doing this program to protect Colorado’s lakes, reservoirs and streams.”[...]

    Researchers continue to test above and below Pueblo Dam, but have found no new evidence of mussels in Lake Pueblo. The first larvae of zebra mussels were found in Lake Pueblo in late 2007 and confirmed in 2008.

    More invasive species here and here.

    David Nickum: ‘This is a huge missed opportunity’

    September 7, 2010

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    Update: Here’s the release from Trout Unlimited (Randy Scholfield):

    A settlement to one of Colorado’s longest-running water disputes – and the opportunity to launch the largest native trout restoration in Colorado’s history – was dealt a blow by the Forest Service’s refusal to accept a collaborative arrangement for funding the project.

    Colorado Trout Unlimited (CTU) and the Water Supply and Storage Company (WSSC) last year agreed to settle a long-standing dispute regarding how best to address environmental impacts of the Long Draw Reservoir in the Cache la Poudre headwaters. But the Forest Service on Sept. 3 rejected the cost-sharing arrangement at the heart of the proposal.

    The parties based the proposal on a Forest Service concept for restoring native greenback cutthroat trout in 40 miles of the Cache la Poudre headwaters, but they developed a collaborative framework for doing so under which WSSC would provide seed money for the program while CTU and the State of Colorado would leverage that contribution through public and private grants and in-kind contributions. The Forest Service supported the greenback restoration alternative, but rejected the collaborative approach and instead placed full responsibility for the program on WSSC.

    “The good news is that the Forest Service, WSSC, and CTU all agreed that restoring native trout in the Poudre headwaters is the right approach to mitigating Long Draw’s impacts,” said David Nickum, Executive Director of CTU. “The bad news is that the Forest Service rejected a carefully crafted proposal that had allowed stakeholders to find common ground after more than 10 years of legal battles. This is a huge missed opportunity.”

    Under the proposed collaborative effort, WSSC would take responsibility for reclaiming and restoring native cutthroat trout in Long Draw Reservoir and its tributaries – establishing a large and stable recovery population. WSSC, CTU, and state agencies including the Division of Wildlife and Colorado Water Conservation Board would then leverage that contribution to extend restoration into multiple adjacent drainages that could ultimately create a “metapopulation” – a network of native fish populations across a larger watershed that is more resilient and sustainable than small isolated populations. The effort would be the largest native trout restoration project in Colorado’s history and would represent a major step toward recovery and de-listing of greenbacks under the Endangered Species Act.

    “We worked diligently to develop the Forest Service’s concept into a balanced, win-win proposal,” said Dennis Harmon, General Manager of WSSC. “We are disappointed and frustrated that the Forest Service has missed this opportunity to resolve the dispute and has instead adopted a decision that will extend the controversy over Long Draw as well as its economic and environmental costs. We simply do not feel that the cost to the company (estimated by the Forest Service at more than $800,000 and maybe much more) to renew a permit for 53 acres around the perimeter of Long Draw Reservoir is appropriate or fair to the Company and its shareholders.”

    The Forest Service has an administrative appeal process by which parties can seek reconsideration of agency decisions. Despite the setback posed by the current decision, CTU and WSSC hope to work with the agency through its appeal process to advance a collaborative approach, avert further legal battles, and bring this long conflict to a positive close for the Poudre River and the fish and farmers that rely upon it.

    From the Fly Rod and Reel weblog (David Nickum/Dennis Harmon):

    “The good news is that the Forest Service, WSSC, and CTU all agreed that restoring native trout in the Poudre headwaters is the right approach to mitigating Long Draw’s impacts,” said David Nickum, Executive Director of CTU. “The bad news is that the Forest Service rejected a carefully crafted proposal that had allowed stakeholders to find common ground after more than 10 years of legal battles. This is a huge missed opportunity.”

    Under the proposed collaborative effort, WSSC would take responsibility for reclaiming and restoring native cutthroat trout in Long Draw Reservoir and its tributaries – establishing a large and stable recovery population. WSSC, CTU, and state agencies including the Division of Wildlife and Colorado Water Conservation Board would then leverage that contribution to extend restoration into multiple adjacent drainages that could ultimately create a “metapopulation” – a network of native fish populations across a larger watershed that is more resilient and sustainable than small isolated populations. The effort would be the largest native trout restoration project in Colorado’s history and would represent a major step toward recovery and de-listing of greenbacks under the Endangered Species Act.

    “We worked diligently to develop the Forest Service’s concept into a balanced, win-win proposal,” said Dennis Harmon, General Manager of WSSC. “We are disappointed and frustrated that the Forest Service has missed this opportunity to resolve the dispute and has instead adopted a decision that will extend the controversy over Long Draw as well as its economic and environmental costs. We simply do not feel that the cost to the company (estimated by the Forest Service at more than $800,000 and maybe much more) to renew a permit for 53 acres around the perimeter of Long Draw Reservoir is appropriate or fair to the Company and its shareholders.”

    Here’s the USFS record of decision for the project.

    More Cache la Poudre watershed coverage here and here.

    Montezuma County: Tamarisk forum recap

    September 4, 2010

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    From the Cortez Journal (Kimberly Benedict):

    The evening forum, held at the Calvin Denton Room at Empire Electric, was presented by the Dolores Conservation District in partnership with Colorado State University Extension. “Our main focus is to hear from everybody what you want to be doing with tamarisk in the county,” said Steve Miles, of the Dolores Conservation District. “We really want to hear input as to what you want to see the conservation district do.”[...]

    Miles, Clark Tate, with the Tamarisk Coalition, and Dan Bean, of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, gave brief presentations on the progress of tamarisk eradication in the west, focusing on the use of tamarisk beetle biocontrol. First released in 2001 in experimental sites, tamarisk beetles are now widespread throughout Colorado and Utah. The small beetles are native to China and Kazakhstan and were part of a $1 million USDA project aimed at finding a biocontrol agent for tamarisk. “The tamarisk biocontrol project started in the ’70s with a look at tamarisk and the problems and potential for developing agents for control,” Bean said. “At the time their was a belief you could not control trees and shrubs with an insect so they shelved it. In the late ’80s they reconsidered.”

    Tamarisk beetles do not kill plants directly, they consume the foliage resulting in stressed plants that have difficulty greening after a few seasons, according to Tate. The beetles have left a wake of dead tamarisk in their path in Nevada, resulting in a 75 percent mortality rate. “We are seeing a lot of stressed out tamarisk,” Tate said. “It is hard to tell if they are actually dead, but just looking at them, they are very, very stressed. It is time to start thinking about the void that is going to be created.”

    More tamarisk control coverage here and here.

    Montezuma County: Tamarisk control update

    August 8, 2010

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    From the Cortez Journal (Melinda Green):

    The beetle is working in McElmo Canyon, stripping the leaves from tamarisks, then flying away to another stand of tamarisks. The beetles may return when the tamarisk grows more leaves, until in three to four years, the tree dies, Miles said. That gives time to revegetate with more desirable plants.

    However, in June, the U.S. Department of Agriculture ended its program of releasing the beetles in 13 states, including Colorado. The move came after the Center for Biological Diversity and the Maricopa Audubon Society sued, saying that release of the beetle in southern Utah in 2006 had destroyed tamarisk trees containing endangered southwestern willow flycatcher nests. When tamarisks crowded out the native willow preferred by the flycatcher, the bird moved to tamarisk trees, Miles said. He believes a better strategy would be to reintroduce the willow in areas where the beetles have killed the tamarisk. The beetles already released continue to thrive and help with tamarisk control, he said.

    With an estimated 9,000 acres of tamarisk in Montezuma County in 2005, organizers have been successful in slowing its progress, Miles says. “We’ve definitely made progress (controlling the tamarisk locally),” he said. “You don’t see much around McPhee Lake. We treated (chemically) 200 acres in 2005 above McPhee. We’re helping keep tamarisk out of 50,000 to 60,000 acres of agricultural land in the county, spread through irrigation water. The Conservation District, National Resource Conservation Service, private agencies, and state agencies spent half a million dollars here in the last seven years.”

    Work was also done on the upper reaches of McElmo Creek and the Hawkins Preserve. In addition, Miles said the Mancos Conservation District and the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe have been working to control tamarisk on the Mancos River.

    “We’re working on revegetation projects with landowners to find the best way to get appropriate plants back in,” he said. “Most of the time there’s enough native seed source to come back in. Nature abhors a vacuum, so if we take out one noxious weed, we don’t want another noxious one to come in.”

    More tamarisk control coverage here and here.

    Jackson County: New Zealand mud snails found in South Delaney Butte Reservoir

    August 8, 2010

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    From the Summit County Voice (Bob Berwyn):

    Wildlife experts discovered the mudsnails during a shoreline survey at the end of July. This is the fourth location where the invasive freshwater mollusks have been detected in Colorado.
    “The New Zealand mudsnail competes with our native invertebrate species,” said Elizabeth Brown, the division’s invasive species coordinator. “So far, we haven’t seen huge impacts to our fisheries. But New Zealand mudsnails have the potential to seriously disrupt the aquatic communities that are the foundation of the food web. If mudsnails become numerous enough, they can reduce the availability of nutrients to their point where it harms fish populations.”

    Native to New Zealand, New Zealand mudsnails were first detected in the United States in 1987 in Idaho’s Snake River. Since then, the species has spread rapidly throughout the West, infesting waters in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Wyoming and British Columbia.

    State wildlife officials first discovered New Zealand mudsnails in South Boulder Creek in 2004. Subsequently, the DOW has confirmed infestations in the South Platte River between Eleven Mile and Spinney Mountain reservoirs and in the Green River near the Colorado/Utah border…

    A major reason for DOW’s concern is the snail’s astounding reproductive capacity. New Zealand mudsnails reproduce asexually and the release of one snail can create a population with a density of between 100,000 to 700,000 snails per square meter. New Zealand mudsnails have no natural predators in outside their native range. Scientists have not yet found a way to contain or eliminate mudsnail infestations.
    “Our primary goal at this point is to keep them from spreading, and for that we need anglers and boaters to take common-sense steps to prevent the transport of mudsnails to other locations,” said Brown.

    The primary vector for spreading New Zealand mudsnails is human-assisted transport overland, on waders, fishing gear and boats. Unlike zebra and quagga mussels, New Zealand mudsnails cannot attach to hard surfaces. Instead, they “hitchhike” or hide in mud or plant materials embedded on dirty boats and fishing equipment. The mudsnails–only 1/8 inch in length when fully mature–can live out of water for days in mud or other moist environments…

    For more information about New Zealand mudsnails and how to prevent their spread, please visit this link.

    More invasive species coverage here.

    Purgatoire River: Cleanup efforts, restoration and invasive plant control

    August 3, 2010

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    From The Trinidad Times (Randy Woock):

    The project’s origins stretch back to about five years ago with the Trinidad Community Foundation (TCF) and has grown since to include a multitude of active and supporting partners such as Trout Unlimited, The Nature Conservancy, the Spanish Peaks-Purgatoire River Conservation District, the Colorado Division of Wildlife, the City of Trinidad, the Tamarisk Coalition, private landowners and host of other agencies and groups. “We were talking about how the Purgatoire River, from the dam all the way through the town, was a very under-utilized resource. When the (TCF) got together, one of the tenants of their reason for being was recreation within the area,” TCF and Purgatoire Anglers chapter of Trout Unlimited member Howard Lackey said. “I took the project with the river as kind of our banner project for recreation.”

    The focus on the Purgatoire River commenced with the regular cleanups that are still ongoing through the efforts of a small army of volunteers, including local Comcast employees. “This year, I think we had 232 volunteers,” Lackey said. “Part of what the neglect of the river corridor was, was that a lot of invasive species were allowed to take hold. Russian olive is a very prolific and water-thirsty plant, so it has a tendency to concentrate along wet areas and streams banks. It chokes out the native flora, which was willow, cottonwoods, all that kind of stuff that was here 200 years ago before the Russian olive.”[...]

    “It’s not so much that the Purgatoire has been abused, it’s just been ignored,” Lackey said. “We’ve had a lot of people that have kicked in, and then The Nature Conservancy started with it, and the Purgatoire River Conservancy District…got interested in the process to clean up the river, and it helps the delivery of water to their irrigators.”[...]

    The second phase of the current project would begin with the repair of the river area from damage caused by illegal ATV traffic, trash and illegal dumping. Examples of the latter two problems are easily seen by even a casual stroll through much of Trinidad‘s river area. “We’d like to bring it back to a natural state that would allow for nature trails on the north side that would include not only the hiking, but also possibly areas where we could define and meet the natural flora and natural wildlife,” Lackey said. “The part of the trail system, called the Boulevard Edition, which is west of I-25…that’s a part of the river that’s been extremely abused; just out of control four-wheel usage that’s torn up the landscape. At our cleanup this year we took two-and-a-half 40 yard rolloff (dumpsters) of crap out of there.”

    Plans then call for developing the river to include a fishery, making the stretch around and through Trinidad conducive to recreational fishing. “That’s where the Trout Unlimited comes in,” Lackey said. “The Trout Unlimited group have engaged a stream engineer that is taking a look at the flows of the Purgatoire between low and high to decide how we can design the stream to make it conducive to a trout fishery.”

    Lackey described the goal of a successful design as creating “a streambed within a streambed. We have to design for two different flows: one which is a very low flow—anywhere from three (cubic feet per second – cfs) to 10 cfs — then a very high flow up to 400 cfs to 500 cfs,” Lackey said. “We kind of are envisioning a channel following the natural flow of the water, and enhancing it with rock structures, bank structures, things that will have a conducive environment for trout during low water segments, and then once the water (level) comes up, it will go outside those banks and increase more areas for the fish to inhabit.”

    During the summer months, plans call for cooperation with the Colorado Department of Wildlife to utilize parts of the river for a stocking program. “That will give access to kids and older adults to deal with the fish within the city limits,” Lackey said. “The state usually stocks rainbow (trout), but we’d like to have a reproducing population of brown trout, eventually. Of course, that will take some time.”

    Trout Unlimited hopes to develop fisheries in the river from east Trinidad up to the base of the Culebra Range, through the Purgatoire River’s south, middle and north forks and “anything in between. It’s a large area that’s basically been undeveloped for years and years. The south fork is turning into a pretty decent fishery through the efforts of the Department of Wildlife in the designation Bosque del Oso Wildlife Area,” Lackey said.

    More Purgatoire River watershed coverage here and here.

    Denver Federal Center based Reclamation team is researching poison, blasts of ultra-violet light, shock waves and the introduction of a mussel-destroying predatory sunfish as possible methods for the control of invasive mussels

    July 21, 2010

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    From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

    The researchers testing these tactics say some seem to work and, if proved, could save tens of millions of dollars by protecting western hydropower and water delivery facilities against the proliferating Eurasian quagga and zebra mussels. “Once the mussels are there, this would help control them,” said U.S. Bureau of Reclamation mussel program coordinator Leonard Willett, who this week was supervising tests at dams along the lower Colorado River.

    Lab tests of the poison are “very promising,” he said. It contains Pseudomonas fluorescens — derived from a bacterium that destroys mussels but apparently not fish. The Environmental Protection Agency has been asked to issue an emergency permit allowing open-water tests…

    One tactic involves installing underwater UV-ray devices on pipelines. Mussels inside pipes respond to sudden, intense ultraviolet light by closing up, rendering them unable to attach. Testing of underwater cylinders that emit pulses of energy and discourage mussels from attaching is underway at Colorado’s Leadville Fish Hatchery. Teflon-like coatings also are being tested. And, while quagga and zebra mussels have no natural predator in the United States, researchers are exploring the possibility that a type of sunfish, if introduced, could devour mussels…

    This year, the mussels’ spread in Colorado has indeed slowed. A suspected colonization of Blue Mesa Reservoir, west of Gunnison, was not confirmed. Mussels in Pueblo Reservoir and others appear to be somewhat contained, perhaps due to periodic colder temperatures that inhibit breeding, Hosler said. “In Colorado, for right now,” she said, “it looks like we’re winning.”

    More Pseudomonas fluorescens coverage here. More invasive species coverage here.

    Summit County: Update on county efforts to thwart invasive species

    July 13, 2010

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    From the Summit Daily News (Julie Sutor):

    Aquatic nuisance species like zebra mussels, quagga mussels, New Zealand mudsnails and rusty crayfish have thus far not been detected in Summit County’s waters. But they’re practically banging on our door. Populations of the invasive mussels are already established in Pueblo Reservoir and in multiple reservoirs in Grand County. Stopping them from crossing the county border depends on the vigilance of boaters, anglers and others who enjoy the water…

    According to [Elizabeth Brown, state invasive species coordinator for the Colorado Division of Wildlife], people can get confused or intimidated by the topic of invasive species, but halting their spread is actually quite simple. “It’s very easy for an everyday person who knows nothing about natural resources biology to stop invasive species just by making sure their boat or ATV doesn’t have any biological material on it. Whether on land or water, it’s the same message: Keep your stuff clean, take nothing with you, and leave nothing behind,” Brown said.

    Taking nothing with you includes not picking up plants or animals from one body of water and move them to another. For that matter, don’t take water from one place and move it to another — some species are so small at juvenile stages of development that they’re invisible to the naked eye. And if you’ve become tired of tending your household aquarium, never release species into local habitats…

    Both [zebra and quagga] mussels are small barnacle-like mollusks with dark and light stripes. They smother aquatic organisms, such as crayfish and native clams and outcompete for food and aquatic habitat. They damage equipment by attaching to boat motors or hard surfaces and clog water treatment facilities. Once they’re in the water, there’s no way to control them, so prevention is the best — and only — cure. Each female mussel produces about one million eggs a year. From the time the mussels enter a water body, they can completely cover its bottom and begin creeping up the shoreline within a matter of five years…

    The rusty crayfish, native to the American Midwest, is Colorado’s newest invasive aquatic species. It was originally spread by anglers who used it as bait. The crustacean has been discovered in the headwaters of Colorado’s Yampa River. “They don’t create the high-dollar cost for water supplies like zebra mussels do, but from an ecological standpoint, they’re pretty horrendous. They have strong impacts to the food web and native fishes,” Brown said.

    The Eurasian watermilfoil, a submerged aquatic plant, also appeared recently in the Centennial State. It forms extensive, thick, dense mats that clog water bodies, disrupting fisheries, fostering mosquitos and impairing drinking water.

    The New Zealand mudsnail was first detected in Colorado rivers and streams in 2004. The mudsnail invades new habitat when it becomes attached to fishing gear, boats, trailers, fish or bait, and then it comes off in the next stream or river. Mudsnails consume aquatic vegetation, upsetting the balance of the aquatic environment.

    More invasive species coverage here.


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